This year’s World Press Photo Contest global winners highlight the climate crisis, community, war’s impact on civilians, and the importance of press photography around the world
Ukrainian photographer Evgeniy Maloletka has won the prestigious World Press Photo with a photo that portrays the consequences of the war between Ukraine and Russia. The haunting photo shows an injured pregnant woman being carried away from a maternity hospital in Mariupol, which was damaged after a Russian airstrike. Her child is eventually stillborn and tragically she dies half an hour later as well.
The photo was unanimously chosen by the jury as the winner of the World Press Photo of the Year. “The decision came exactly one year after the start of the war in Ukraine and the jury recognized the power of the photo and the story behind it, as well as the atrocities it depicts,” said jury chairman Brent Lewis. “The deaths of both the pregnant woman and her child summed up so much of the war, as well as Russia's possible intentions. As one juror said, it's like they're trying to kill Ukraine's future.”
The Story of the Year award was won by Danish photographer Mads Nissen. In nine photos he shows the situation in Afghanistan under the leadership of the Taliban. After the withdrawal of US and allied forces from Afghanistan in August 2021, the Taliban returned to power. In response, other nations stopped providing foreign aid and froze billions of dollars of government reserves deposited abroad. Intense droughts in 2022 exacerbated the economic crisis; currently half of the country’s population do not have enough to eat and over a million children are severely malnourished according to the UN. The story captures the many difficulties Afghan people face in their daily lives.
Armenian photojournalist Anush Babajanyan won the Long-Term Project Award for her years of work in bringing to light a story not often told outside of Central Asia, namely about the water management problems in Central Asia, which were exacerbated by the climate crisis. It also shows the powerful spirit of people forced to adapt to new realities.
Four landlocked Central Asian countries are struggling with the climate crisis and lack of coordination over the water supplies they share. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, upstream on the Syr Darya and Amu Darya rivers, need extra energy in winter. Downstream, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan need water in summer for agriculture. Historically, the countries seasonally traded fossil-fuel energy for water released from upstream dams, but since the fall of the USSR and the rise of privatized industries, this system has become imbalanced. Unsustainable use of water and recent intense droughts compound the challenges.
The Open Format Award goes to the Egyptian Mohamed Mahdy. He teamed up with residents of the Al Max neighborhood in Alexandria, Egypt, “to preserve the memory of their rapidly disappearing fishing village”.
A web-based project, it explores the effects of rising seas on the local community in Al Max, a fishing village situated along the Mahmoudiyah canal in Alexandria, Egypt. For generations, its residents have lived and worked on the canal that leads to the Mediterranean Sea. In 2020, the Egyptian government began evicting parts of Al Max and relocating people to housing several kilometers away from the canals, not only demolishing homes, but also endangering the collective memories and local culture embedded in the neighborhood. The stories featured speak to the precarity of people everywhere striving for recognition amid global economic and environmental upheaval.
The four global winners were chosen from more than 60,000 entries. Joumana El Zein Khoury, Executive Director of the World Press Photo Foundation, explained that selecting these arresting winning images from tens of thousands of entries was a huge task for their independent jurors. “In a world where dozens of journalists are still killed in the line of duty every year, I could not stop thinking about the journeys and risks these photographers – and often, their subjects – take to bring us these images of our world,” she said.
“Millions of people around the world will look at these photos and see death, despair, loss, and crisis. My wish is that they also sew what I see. The hope that through documentation there is a chance of justice and a better future, through remembering we honor what is lost, and through the courage and dedication of these photographers we are inspired.”
The World Press Photo Foundation is a creative, independent, nonprofit organization, based in Amsterdam. It was founded in 1955 when a group of Dutch photographers organized a contest (“World Press Photo”) to expose their work to an international audience. The contest has since grown into one of the world’s most prestigious competitions, rewarding the best in photojournalism and documentary photography from around the world.
Every year, World Press Photo rewards photojournalists for the best photos and visual stories produced in the past year. The competition also includes an exhibition, which is shown in several places worldwide.
© Photo credits
Anush Babajanyan (VII Photo/National Geographic Society), Alessandro Cinque (Pulitzer Center/National Geographic), Jonathan Fontaine, Tomas Francisco Cuesta (Agence France-Presse), Ahmad Halabisaz, Nick Hannes (Panos Pictures), M'hammed Kilito, Jonas Kakó (Panos Pictures), Alkis Konstantinidis (Reuters), Maya Levin (Associated Press), Hans Lucas, Mohamed Mahdy, Evgeniy Maloletka (Associated Press), Mads Nissen (Politiken/Panos Pictures), Musuk Nolte (Bertha Foundation), Simone Tramonte, Nadia Shira Cohen (The New York Times)