World Press Photo Foundation 2020 wrap up

Connecting the world to the stories that matter

Believing in the power of showing and the importance of seeing high-quality visual stories, the World Press Photo Foundation has been working as an independent, non-profit organization for 65 years.

In 2020, a different world presented itself to us, bringing new challenges in the way we fulfil our mission to connect the world to the stories that matter. Like many organizations in the visual storytelling and cultural sectors, the World Press Photo Foundation was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic: more than half of our exhibitions planned for 2020 were cancelled, our talent programs were moved online, and the World Press Photo House in Amsterdam had to close.

More than ever, supporting the conditions that make visual journalism possible worldwide was a fundamental part of our work in 2020, and we will continue working hard on this. In this article, we look back and review what 2020 looked like for the World Press Photo Foundation and its activities. We want to thank you for being part of our community, for supporting us and our mission, to connect the world to the stories that matter. Here’s to 2021!

Exhibition 2020 in Sydney, Australia. © Gene Ramirez, State Library of New South Wales

Recognizing the best visual journalism of the past year with our annual Contests

Almost 74,000 photographs were entered by 4,282 photographers from 125 countries to our 2020 Photo Contest. 44 photographers from 24 countries, including 30 World Press Photo Contest first time nominees, were selected by the independent jury across the eight categories of the contest. Our annual Digital Storytelling Contest celebrated its 10th edition, drawing 287 submissions in 2020. The 2020 Digital Storytelling Contest nominees were nine productions from eight countries.

In previous years, the World Press Photo Awards Show and Festival, taking place in Amsterdam in April, had become pivotal occasions for the visual journalism community to come together. While we were saddened to cancel these events due to the global situation surrounding COVID-19, the winners of the 2020 Photo Contest and the 2020 Digital Storytelling Contest were nonetheless announced on the evening of 16 April 2020 and presented to our global audience through a range of online and media channels. 
The independent jury of the 2020 Photo Contest awarded Japanese photographer Yasuyoshi Chiba’s image Straight Voice as the World Press Photo of the Year.
The World Press Photo Interactive of the Year was awarded to the 360 degree production Battleground PolyU by DJ Clark/China Daily.

Kho, the Genesis of a Revolt, by Romain Laurendeau, France, was awarded the World Press Photo Story of the Year.

The jury of the 2020 Digital Storytelling Contest awarded Scenes From a Dry City by Francois Verster/Simon Wood/Field of Vision as the World Press Photo Online Video of the Year. 
Entries for the 2021 World Press Photo Contest and Digital Storytelling Contest closed on 13 January. The judging started on 16 January, and for the first time, is taking place entirely online. We are looking forward to the choices the international independent jury will make this year. Nominees will be announced on 10 March 2021. This year, the annual Festival will take place in April in an online format and will include the winners announcement, presentations and networking opportunities for the winners to connect to the industry.

Exhibitions showcasing stories that make people stop, feel, think and act

Flagship Exhibition 2020, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. © Evert Elzinga
Every year, we work with international partners on our exhibitions program as part of our mission to connect the world to the stories that matter. Since our first exhibition opened its doors in 1955, we have organized nearly 3,000 exhibitions around the world. In 2019, our annual exhibition travelled to more than 120 locations, including many countries reported to have ‘difficult’ to ‘very serious’ press freedom situations by the World Press Freedom 2019 Index.

While we aimed to extend and diversify our exhibition locations in 2020, the COVID-19 crisis impacted us and our partners, and more than half of the 125 exhibitions planned were cancelled. After some delay, the flagship exhibition opened in De Nieuwe Kerk in June, and went on to 61 other locations around the globe in 2020. We closely monitored health recommendations and safety measures together with our exhibition partners, and were heartened by the support and positivity from the places that were able to open.
This included locations showcasing our annual exhibition, but also specially curated exhibitions and projects such as Through the lens of - Photographers from the African Photojournalism Database, Our World 2018-2020, People, Power: Documenting protest since 1957 for the World Press Freedom Conference 2020 celebrations, and our exhibition and public programming initiative with Market Photo Workshop, Pan-African Photojournalism and Its Positions
Special Exhibition ‘Through the lens of - Photographers from the African Photojournalism Database’ in Berg-en-Dal, the Netherlands. © Studio38C

Special Exhibition ‘People, Power: Documenting protest since 1957,’ in collaboration with UNESCO and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. © LNDWstudio

Special Exhibition ‘Our World 2018-2020’ in Shanghai, China, marking the return of a World Press Photo Exhibition to the city of Shanghai after 20 years. © Ke Lin, Anchor
Exhibition 2020 in Johannesburg, South Africa, as part of the ‘Pan-African Photojournalism and Its Positions’ initiative with Market Photo Workshop. © Chama Mwanga
The World Press Photo Exhibition 2020 is now on the last dates of its worldwide tour. See our calendar and find out more about our exhibitions program.

See the Story
See the Story is a free educational resource that provides visitors to our exhibition and website with information about our visual world and the 2020 Contests awarded stories: how they were chosen, how the stories are made, and how they raise questions about important issues. Download it here.

Highlighting diverse stories with our Develop programs

© Deepti Asthana, 6x6 talent from Asia
Celebrating the second full cycle of the 6x6 Global Talent Program
The 6x6 Global Talent Program recognizes six visual storytellers from six global regions, to highlight talent from around the world and present stories with diverse perspectives.

The second cycle of the program, which began in 2019 with new talents from Southeast Asia and Oceania, South America and Europe announced, continued and came to a close in 2020, highlighting new talents from Africa, North and Central America, and Asia. Since its launch in 2017, the 6x6 Global Talent Program has spotlighted a total of 72 photographers.
© Jodi Windvogel, APJD member
Growing the African Photojournalism Database
The African Photojournalism Database (APJD) is a directory of +500 emerging and professional African visual journalists. Launched in August 2016, the APJD is a joint project of the World Press Photo Foundation and Everyday Africa, created to help photographers and visual journalists better connect to the international media economy.

In 2020, our online database was updated to include the complete list of members on our website, and more stories by the talented APJD members were featured in the ‘Four to Follow’ series on our online publication, Witness.
 24 participants were selected to participate to the 2020 Joop Swart Masterclass 
Helping develop emerging visual storytellers
Part of the World Press Photo Foundation mission is to develop emerging photographers and storytellers through education programs like the Joop Swart Masterclass, which started in 1994.

For the first time, the 27th Joop Swart Masterclass took place online over a period of four months, and 24 participants were selected instead of 12 in an effort to make the program more inclusive. Chosen from the 198 candidates nominated in March, the participants were: 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; and Yufan Lu, China.

On 29 October, they presented their projects on the theme 'Reset' done during the masterclass to a selected group of editors and industry professionals. Discover the 2020 Joop Swart Masterclass projects, focused on the theme ‘Reset.’ 
© Ilvy Njiokiktjien, Solutions Visual Journalism Initiative
© Dadi, West Africa Visual Journalism Fellow
Inaugurating the Solutions Visual Journalism Initiative
The Solutions Visual Journalism Initiative is a program by the World Press Photo Foundation and MIAP, the Message in a Photo foundation, to promote and produce visual journalism with a solutions focus. At the start of the year, we announced the six inaugural commissions by the Solutions Visual Journalism Initiative who will receive funding to create new work with a solution focus.The six stories commissioned in 2019-2020 will be published in 2021.

The West Africa Visual Journalism Fellowship
In 2019 we launched the West Africa Visual Journalism Fellowship (WAVJF) in collaboration with the Chocolonely Foundation. Supposed to run in 2020, this one-year fellowship for three emerging visual journalists and storytellers from Burkina Faso, Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire was delayed in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is however going ahead and the stories produced will be disseminated in 2021, both locally and globally, online and in exhibition spaces. Meet the three talents selected for the WAVJF.

The World Press Photo House

Following measures to manage the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the Netherlands, the World Press Photo Foundation closed the World Press Photo House in Amsterdam to the public. This includes the PhotoQ Bookshop and the exhibition ‘“Be Water!” The Strategy of Resistance in the Hong Kong Protests’ that was supposed to open in March 2020. Though we had to cancel the World Press Photo Festival 2020, we brought you some of its content in the World Press Photo House livecasts through a rich and diverse program of presentations, talks and discussions.

PhotoQ Bookshop

The PhotoQ Bookshop, part of World Press Photo since August 2019, specializes in documentary, journalism, and art photo books. The shop is run by Edie Peters, who gained his love for photography when he became chief photo editor at the Volkskrant in 1993. 

After the closure of the physical PhotoQ Bookshop, Edie has been sharing his top picks of photo books available on the bookshop's online store each month. Discover his monthly highlights.

Our partnerships and collaborations

We are thankful for the ongoing support of our global partner the Dutch Postcode Lottery and our partners Aegon and PwC who have continued to generously provide resources to the World Press Photo Foundation through these uncertain times, helping us to fulfill our mission and purpose in 2020.

As part of our commitment to press freedom, the World Press Photo Foundation was an official partner of the World Press Freedom Conference 2020, which was rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and took place digitally from 9-10 December 2020. In collaboration with UNESCO and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, World Press Photo curated a special exhibition showcasing protest and people power images from our annual Contests archive. The exhibition was displayed in public places across the Netherlands and in Tunis, Tunisia. In 2021, the exhibition ‘People, Power: Documenting protest since 1957’ will continue traveling to Beirut, Lebanon; Yangon, Myanmar; and Paris, Strasbourg and Lyon, France. Learn more.

We also want to thank our digital supplier Emakina with whom we won a 2020 Webby Award for our website, and the payment platform Adyen for partnering with the World Press Photo Foundation to set up a new support payment system and donation kiosks at De Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam.

Joumana El Zein Khoury appointed new executive director of the World Press Photo Foundation

The World Press Photo Foundation is entering a new phase in 2021.The first step was the appointment of a new executive director, Joumana El Zein Khoury who will start on 1 February 2021.

Like many organizations in the visual storytelling and cultural sectors, the COVID-19 pandemic and other global developments have affected World Press Photo. The organization has adapted to the challenges of 2020, a framework for an International Advisory Board has been developed, and structural changes to internal plans and processes have been made, to ensure the foundation’s continuity.
We are thankful to our community, our partners and sponsors for helping us connect the world to the stories that matter, and are looking forward to 2021!