Representation in our Contests

2020 World Press Photo Contests results further highlight the need for a more inclusive and diverse visual journalism community

Diversity is one of the World Press Photo Foundation’s core values. As a global organisation we want to encourage a diverse range of professionals from around the world to produce a more comprehensive view of the world that we can connect to an international audience.

On 25 February 2020, we announced the nominees of the 63rd edition of the annual World Press Photo Contest and the 10th edition of the annual Digital Storytelling Contest. Whilst important steps have been made since 2015, when we first publicised contest entrant data to call attention to the need for greater diversity, the 2020 contests results underline that more work needs be done to do achieve an inclusive, diverse visual journalism industry, where all voices are equally heard.

Our managing director Lars Boering gave an interview to NRC on our approach to diversity, and in this article, we want to follow up with more information about what we have done and what we need to do.

2020 Contests results

This year, the contest saw 4,282 photographers from 125 countries enter 73,996 images. Of all entrants, 47.7% came from Europe, 23.1% from Asia, 6.6% from South America, 14.5 % from Central and North America, 2.7% from Africa, and 4.5% from Southeast Asia and Oceania. In total, 20% were women, an increase from 15% female entrants in 2015.

The nominees of the 2020 Photo Contest are 44 photographers from 24 countries: Algeria, Australia, Belarus, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Mexico, Poland, Peru, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, and United States. Of this year’s nominees, six photographers are women (13%).

In the case of the 2020 Digital Storytelling Contest, 287 productions were entered. Of all productions entered, based on the main visual journalist, 30% came from Europe, 19% from Asia, 17% from South America, 37% from Central and North America, 6% from Africa, and 1% from Southeast Asia and Oceania. Women accounted for 32% of main visual journalists, whilst men accounted for 65%.

Based on the main visual journalist, the 2020 Digital Storytelling Contest nominees are nine productions from eight countries: Canada, China, Germany, India, Ireland, South Africa, United Kingdom, and United States. Women accounted for 17% of main visual journalists, whilst men accounted for 83%. Team members from nominated productions came from sixteen countries: Canada, Chile, China Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong (S.A.R.), India, Ireland, Malaysia, Mexico, South Africa, Spain, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, United States. 28% of the team members were women, while 72% were men.

Our efforts to encourage a more diverse and inclusive representation of the world

Over the last years, we have taken initiatives and started programs to encourage a more diverse and inclusive representation of the world.

We formally adopted a policy to ensure gender and geographic diversity in all our programs. Our contest juries, selection panels, and masterclass participants include 50% women and members from all six continents (where relevant). We do not participate in external events where there are all-male panels.

World Press Photo campaigns all year round to attract new, more diverse photographers to the photo contest. In 2019, we organized meetups with photographers in Nairobi, Kenya; Dar es Salam, Tanzania; Siem Reap, Cambodia; Bangkok, Thailand; Hanoi, Vietnam; and Maputo, Mozambique.

For the 2020 Photo Contest, we also reached out to organizations and individuals as part of an extensive online outreach campaign focused on attracting female entrants and photographers from African and South American countries - previously underrepresented - to enter the contest.

Through our Develop programs and Witness online magazine, the World Press Photo Foundation encourages diverse accounts of the world that present stories with different perspectives. We showcase those stories to a worldwide audience, educate the profession and the public on their making, and encourage debate on their meaning.

The 6x6 Global Talent Program connects visual storytellers, who may not be well known outside of their region, to a global audience. Now on its second edition, the program has recognized a total of 54 photographers from six global regions: Southeast Asia and Oceania; South America; Europe; Africa; North and Central America; Asia. The talents have been featured in exhibitions in all of the six regions, and 6x6 talents have become Joop Swart Masterclass participants and World Press Photo Contest winners.

The African Photojournalism Database started in 2015 in partnership with Everyday Africa when we were organizing a meetup in Nairobi. Over 500 registered professionals are part of the database today. We’re looking at other regions, with plans underway for China Photographers Database.

The West Africa Visual Journalism Fellowship is a one-year fellowship for three emerging visual journalists and storytellers to contribute in 2020 to investigative journalism in and about West Africa. In collaboration with the Chocolonely Foundation, the program provides funding, mentorship, education, and support to three fellows to develop their projects and storytelling abilities.

Next to our renowned Joop Swart Masterclass held yearly in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in the past years we have organized global masterclasses in Mexico City, Mexico (2015), Nairobi, Kenya (2016) and Accra, Ghana (2017), where 36 participants in total received support and mentorship from industry professionals. In 2020-2021 we will be running two more global masterclasses, with local partners in Southern Africa and South Asia.

Our Solutions Visual Journalism Initiative has commissioned six stories with a new perspective, to be made by a diverse range of journalists reporting on issues in Bosnia, Indonesia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, and the US-Mexico border, and published later this year.

In addition, we regularly work with Women Photograph, Everyday Africa, Foto Feminas, the editors of Depth of Field, and other organizations taking up the task of bringing different representations of the world that are often overlooked to the audience, giving them a platform in our Witness online magazine and Instagram account.

In 2020 and the years to come we will be expanding this effort. Improving diversity is crucial to us, it will take time, and we are committed to it.