2020 Joop Swart Masterclass

Meet the 24 visual storytellers selected for the 2020 Joop Swart Masterclass

We’re pleased to announce the selected participants for the 27th edition of the Joop Swart Masterclass, the World Press Photo Foundation’s prestigious education program. For the first time, due to the current global health crisis, the masterclass will be held online, and 24 participants and eight masters have been selected to make the program more inclusive.

Chosen from the 198 candidates nominated in March, the participants - 11 men and 13 women from 20 different countries - are:
  • Alejandra Aragón, Mexico
  • Cécile Smetana Baudier, Denmark
  • Elias Williams, United States
  • Felipe Romero Beltrán, Colombia
  • Fethi Sahraoui, Algeria
  • Gulshan Khan, South Africa
  • Isadora Romero, Ecuador
  • Johanna Alarcón, Ecuador
  • Lindokuhle Sobekwa, South Africa
  • Marcos Zegers, Chile
  • Mary Gelman, Russia
  • Mien-Thuy Tran, Vietnam
  • Miti Ruangkritya, Thailand
  • Muhammad Salah, Sudan
  • Nanna Heitmann, Germany
  • Pat Kane, Canada
  • Rohit Saha, India
  • Sagar Chhetri, Nepal
  • Salma Abedin Prithi, Bangladesh
  • September Dawn Bottoms, United States
  • Shwe Wutt Hmon, Myanmar
  • Sinead Kennedy, Australia
  • Thembinkosi Hlatshwayo, South Africa
  • Yufan Lu, China

Esther Ruth Mbabazi, Uganda, was initially selected but is not able to participate.

The Joop Swart Masterclass is an intensive, intimate, and reflective learning experience with the aim to foster conceptual growth and strengthen participants’ visual storytelling skills. The program is tailored to the participants’ specific learning needs. During the masterclass, industry experts mentor the participants, sharing their personal experience and knowledge. By engaging in dialogue with the masters, as well as with their fellow participants, the program builds relationships that will help develop the participants’ work in the future.

A more inclusive masterclass

This year, the selection committee selected 24 participants, compared to 12 participants in previous editions, and there will be eight masters instead of five. “Given the circumstances and the online nature of the program, we want to take this opportunity to make the masterclass more inclusive. The selection committee unanimously came together and pushed for this, and we wholeheartedly agreed with their proposal,” says Juliette Garms, programs and outreach projects manager at World Press Photo.

On the decision of the jury to expand the masterclass to 24 participants, Rahima Gambo, visual artist, photographer, and member of the selection committee, explained, “the masterclass, this year in its digital online format, can be a beacon of hope, leadership, and forward-thinking, offering mentorship and a feeling of togetherness and connection in these troubling times.”

“This is an important opportunity to unite and empower as many visual storytellers worldwide as we can, and together elevate representation in photography,” said Adriana Teresa Letorney, founder and CEO at Visura and member of the selection committee.

Online learning

Traditionally, the Joop Swart Masterclass brings together masters and participants at the World Press Photo Foundation in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, during an intense five-day program in September. Because of the global pandemic, this year the masterclass will be held exclusively online over a period of five months, from July to November 2020.

“We regret not being able to offer a physical learning environment, but we are working to provide a stimulating online learning experience and sense of togetherness. The components of the masterclass will be similar to the traditional one. There will be master presentations, individual mentoring sessions, group discussions, guest lectures, editing sessions, and small working groups,” added Garms.

There will be two intensive online weeks. The first one, for introductions, presentations, and brainstorming, will take place in mid-July. The second and final intensive week, for editing, output, and reflection, will take place in mid-October. In between, the program of presentations, discussions, and individual mentoring will take place online.

The theme for 2020: Reset

The educational experience of the Joop Swart Masterclass is based on an assignment to produce a photo essay around a given theme. This year the theme is ‘Reset’.

“2020 has been one of the most unsettling and challenging years in modern history. However, this also means that 2020 holds possibilities for change, deep reflection, and hopefully a better future. ‘Reset’ is about renewal, hope, the unknown, speculation, adjustment. Participants are invited to express their own vision of the theme and encouraged to explore a wide variety of subjects and angles,” explained Garms.

Selection committee

This year, the Joop Swart Masterclass selection committee was composed of: Adriana Teresa Letorney, Puerto Rico, founder and CEO of Visura; Ihiro Hayami, Japan, founder of T3 Photo Festival Tokyo; Jenny Smets, the Netherlands, curator, and educator; Mikhael Subotzky, South Africa, artist; and Rahima Gambo, Nigeria, visual artist, and photographer.

On the selection process, Mikhael Subotzky said: “Being part of this year's Joop Swart Masterclass selection committee was truly inspiring and memorable. I was astounded by the quality of the applicants - not just in terms of their visual submissions but also with regard to the dynamism of these young voices from all around the world. Their engagement with pressing issues of identity, social justice, and locality in a globalized world was truly interesting to me. In a tough year where every industry has been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is very reassuring to see that the future of photography is in good hands.”

“This year’s selection of the Joop Swart Masterclass participants was a very special process. I am very happy that after long debates and discussions we all agreed upon our choices and made a group effort to turn it into an even more inclusive edition. Because of the online edition, we were able to double the number of participants, all of them with a high level and very motivated,” said Jenny Smets.

Ihiro Hayami added: “We were fortunate to meet so many high-caliber photographers, but that also meant that it was quite a difficult judging process, especially at the final round. After much deliberation and thoughtful judging, we have come to one accomplishment: to have the most inclusive Joop Swart Masterclass in the history of World Press Photo, which I am incredibly grateful for.”


Launched in 1994, the Joop Swart Masterclass has contributed to the development of generations of visual storytellers. Learn more about the masterclass here and see the photo essays from 2019 Joop Swart Masterclass here.

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