Results of the Contests

Representation in the 2021 World Press Photo Contests

The World Press Photo Contests recognize the best visual journalism and digital storytelling of the last year. The contests are free to enter and open to all professional visual storytellers around the world.

On 10 March 2021, we announced the nominees of the 64th edition of the annual World Press Photo Contest and the 11th edition of the annual Digital Storytelling Contest.

As a global organization, we want to showcase a diverse range of stories by professionals from around the globe, to produce a comprehensive view of our world that we can share with our audience. Our purpose is to connect the world with the stories that matter.

Photo Contest

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact on photographers around the world, in the 2021 Photo Contest, we saw a positive trend in the number of entries received. 4,315 photographers from 130 countries entered 74,470 images, an increase from 2020, when 4,282 photographers from 125 countries entered 73,996 images.

Of all entrants, 48% came from Europe, 22% came from Asia, 14% from North and Central America, 7% from South America, 5% came from Southeast Asia and Oceania, and 3% came from Africa. In total, 80% of the entrants identify as male, 19% identify as female, and 1% prefer not to say or identify with another gender. The number of female entrants is increasing over the past five years. In 2015, the percentage of female entrants was 15%.

The nominees of the 2021 Photo Contest are 45 photographers from 28 countries: Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Bangladesh, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Greece, India, Indonesia, Italy, Iran, Ireland, Mexico, Myanmar, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands and the United States. Of this year’s nominees, 11 photographers identify as women (24%), while 76% of photographers identify as male.

Digital Storytelling Contest

The majority of entries from the 2021 Digital Storytelling Contest came from Europe (32%) and North and Central America (32%). However, entries from Southeast Asia & Oceania increased in 2021 (10% compared to 1% in 2020), as well as entries from South America (10% compared to 6% in 2020). Amongst the main visual journalists, there are 54 different nationalities. Based on the main visual journalist, 62% identified as male, 36% identify as female, and 1.5% prefer not to say or identify with another gender.

Based on the main visual journalist, the 2021 Digital Storytelling Contest nominees are nine productions from seven countries: Australia, Chile, China, Lithuania, Spain, United States, and the Philippines. 67% of the nominees identify as female, while 37% of the nominees identify as male.

Outreach campaign

Over the last years, we have started several initiatives, programs, and campaigns to improve representation in our contests entries.

World Press Photo campaigns all year round to attract new visual storytellers to the contests. We know there are groups and voices that are underrepresented in the contests and are working hard to close the gap.

As part of our 2021 Contests outreach campaign, in 2020 we organized a series of exhibitions and online programs. Initiatives included a partnership with Market Photo Workshop in South Africa, featuring an exhibition and event program; a talk with Lekgetho Makola and NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati; an exhibition in Vietnam, accompanied by an online side program; an exhibition in Moldova supplemented with sessions on issues and solutions in photojournalism; a talk with Zoeann Murphy and Muyi Xiao; and an online information session organized together with Chennai Photo Biennale, Chobi Mela Photography Festival in Dhaka, Bangladesh, The Jakarta International Photo Festival and Photo Kathmandu, among others.

To attract a more diverse range of entrants, we also reached out to over 1000 photography organizations around the world and featured a series of organizations on our online channels, including FotoFeminas, Women Photograph, Photo Kathmandu, Native, Angkor Photo Festival, the Uganda Press Award, and Short of the Week.

In 2018, we formally adopted a policy to ensure gender and geographic diversity in all our activities. Our contest juries, selection panels, and masterclass participants include 50% women and members from all six global regions (where relevant). The 2021 Photo Contest jury comprised 28 professionals, 15 women and 13 men, from all six global regions.

The annual World Press Photo Contest is judged anonymously by an independent jury, and we recognize that the current contest rules raise questions and important issues. Whilst important steps to attract a diverse range of entrants have been made and the results are starting to slowly improve, the lack of representation of photographers from the African continent and the small number of female entrants and nominees in 2021 underline the need for further work.

However, 2021 is a year for change and reflection at the World Press Photo Foundation. Coinciding with the arrival of the new executive director Joumana El Zein Khoury and the appointment of the international advisory committee in 2021, the foundation will rethink its long-term strategy, including an evaluation of the contest rules. More information will be shared during the year.

Improving diversity is crucial to us, it will take time, and we are committed to it.