Letter from the executive director, Joumana El Zein Khoury

A running start to the new year

When I last wrote in September, I explained where an extensive reflection process had led us and what the World Press Photo Foundation had set as its goals for the future. It was summarized in the last line I wrote: "We want the world in World Press Photo to be truly representative, with voices that come from everywhere and are heard and respected everywhere.” We had identified weaknesses in our reach, representation and selection processes and were determined to rectify them. It has been an intense few months and I’d like to give you an update on how far we’ve come.

To be honest, arriving at our new vision was a mere fraction of the work that had to be done. The hard part came with defining the steps that were needed to get there. Each potential change to our organization raised many questions and puzzles that had to be worked out. We’re still working on it. We realize that it will take time to make World Press Photo “truly representative of voices that come from everywhere.” We expect there will be stumbles but we’ll find help along the way. We have initiated some important changes and made a good running start, and it’s exhilarating!

We are now in the most intense period for the World Press Photo Foundation, in full flow of our yearly cycle. Between September and November 2021, with the help of the International Advisory Committee and focus groups, the team managed (among other things) to define regions and categories, to redefine what we understand as a professional photographer both regionally and locally, to update the entry rules, expand the code of ethics, select and invite jury members, and work out how and when to take aspects of representation into the judging process. And still meet our deadlines! We have been working on new exhibition concepts, and how they can reflect our new vision and are in the process of selecting new regional partners who can help us address imbalances in representation as well as develop more context-sensitive programs.

As it was for many people, this second year of Covid was a year of uncertainty and transition, but for World Press Photo Foundation it also meant some radical changes. Changes we believe in and are excited about. And we couldn’t have made them without the trust and support of our partners, funders, board, staff and many others. You have all given us advice and feedback and help in many ways.

We are particularly thankful to the National Postcode Lottery for its understanding and support through difficult times, and to PwC for its guidance and help in developing a long-term strategy. All our donors - new and old - who give despite hard times. The people, museums and venues who, sometimes against all odds, show our exhibitions around the world. Everyone who comes to our exhibits, or follows us on social media and shares the stories - you are all helping us bring attention to the work of photojournalists and documentary photographers across the globe. Together we are all engaged in supporting freedom of speech.
To the photojournalists and documentary photographers who collaborated with us this year and let us share their work, we are especially thankful. Many are working under difficult and dangerous conditions. All are bringing out stories that need to be told.

This is the first year implementing our whole new judging structure, with six regional juries sending in a selection of their best entries for final judging by the Global Jury. Quality and news relevance remain key, but after extensive consultations about how to expand the scope of representation, we have asked the jury to consider where the photographer is based, their nationality and gender when looking at the context behind the photograph.

The deadline for entries this year was 13 January. We anticipated that the change of rules and the elimination of thematic categories might discourage a number of people from applying. But speaking with each of our regional juries following the deadline we found that they were, without exception, very enthusiastic, both about the new approach and with this year's results. Although the number of entries was slightly lower this year, the number of entrants (photographers who entered - 4066) remained roughly the same as in 2021, as did the number of countries they come from (130). We welcome the 2% increase in female photographers and the 6% increase in entrants from Southeast Asia and Oceania and we were especially pleased with the 20% increase in entrants from Africa. There is still work to do before we feel truly representative, but we are definitely gaining momentum! Photojournalists and documentary photographers have shown us their trust.

We look forward to sharing this year's winners with you once the judging process is complete. We are also looking forward to the learning curve ahead. We feel well on our way to implementing our new vision, a vision for these exciting and unsettling times. Whatever 2022 brings, World Press Photo promises to be there, to connect the world with the stories of the year, told from the many perspectives of people from all around the world. We count on your support, and wish you all a very good 2022.

Executive director
World Press Photo Foundation