Photo of the Year and First Prize: Spot News, Singles
The World Press Photo organization's annual contest, now in its 56th year, recognizes the most outstanding journalistic and documentary photography of the previous year. In 2013, a global jury of 19 experts selected winners from more than 100,000 images submitted by 5,666 photographers from 124 countries.
For the most coveted prize—Photo of the Year—the jury chose this image by Swedish photojournalist Paul Hansen. It shows two Palestinian children being carried to their funeral after an Israeli missile struck their home in Gaza City. The children's father, whose body is on a stretcher in the background, was also killed in the blast; their mother survived but was in intensive care.
Hansen had mixed emotions about winning. "I felt very happy, honored, and sad. It is a horrible photograph, on many levels, and I feel for the family," he said. "I hope that the decision makers on all sides look at the photograph, read about this family, and feel ashamed for the political failures that lead to the suffering of all these innocent people."
—Linda Poon and Brett Line
Photograph courtesy Paul Hansen via WPP
First Prize: Nature, Singles
National Geographic contributing photographer Christian Ziegler shot this stunning close-up of a southern cassowary feeding on fallen fruit from a nearby blue quandong tree in northern Australia. The tall, flightless bird is an endangered species in Australia, where it plays a vital role in rain forest ecosystems by dispersing large seeds across very wide ranges.
Photograph by Christian Ziegler, National Geographic
First Prize: Sports Action, Singles
Photographer Wei Seng Chen's winning image captures the action of the Pacu Jawi, a traditional competition between villages in Indonesia's West Sumatra province. To celebrate the harvest, farmers harness bulls or cows and race across muddy rice fields while holding onto the animals' tails.
Contest jury member Bill Frakes commented on this shot: "It's right in your face. Boom! It's explosive action. It's sharp. It's crisp. I've been shooting sports for a long time and I would be very proud to have made that image."
Photograph courtesy Wei Seng Chen via WPP
First Prize: Staged Portraits, Stories
A mass protrudes from Makone Soumaoro's neck as she poses for a photograph taken by Stephan Vanfleteren. Soumaoro, 30, is a housewife with three children who worries that the mass could be a tumor. Guinea is considered one of the least developed countries in the world, with most of its citizens lacking access to affordable health care. Soumaoro, like many others in Guinea, hopes to be aided by the NGO Mercy Ships docked in Guinea's capital, Conakry (map).
Jury member Rena Effendi praised Vanfleteren's approach to the subject: "I can't help noticing the poignant, classic beauty of the people, in spite of all their imperfections. The way he approached the subject of health in Africa from the angle of a staged, studio-lit portrait is respectable. The photographer is being innovative but not exploitative, which is a very fine line."
Photograph courtesy Stephan Vanfleteren, Panos for Mercy Ships, via WPP
First Prize: Nature, Stories
National Geographic contributing photographer Paul Nicklen's award-winning shot helps illustrate scientific research about how emperor penguins can double or triple their speed underwater by releasing streams of tiny bubbles from their feathers. This image of a penguin using bubbles to launch itself toward the surface of the sea ice appeared in a November 2012 National Geographic magazine feature about emperor penguins. (Watch a video of Nicklen photographing the penguins.)
Photograph by Paul Nicklen, National Geographic
First Prize: General News, Singles
An injured woman cries after her home in the northern Syrian city of Idlib (map) was shelled by the Syrian Army during civil conflict in March 2012, killing her husband and two children.
Unlike a lot of the other photographs that won awards, this image, taken by Associated Press photographer Rodrigo Abd, includes a significant portion of the subject out of focus. Jury member Bill Frakes said the blurriness of the woman's hand bothered him at first, but then: "The more it was on the screen, the more it grew on me. The hand, after awhile, takes you to the eyes ... You want to know exactly what she's thinking."
Photograph courtesy Rodrigo Abd, Associated Press, via WPP
"The point that the photographer is making is that this story, while it's no longer a story for the rest of us, is still very much an ongoing story for the people in the villages," jury member Anne Wilkes Tucker said.
"He really covered the range of disruption that still exists."
Photograph courtesy Daniel Berehulak, Getty Images, via WPP
First Prize: Contemporary Issues Stories
Phan Thi Thuy and her partner of one year, Dang Thi Bich Bay, watch TV together after school in Da Nang, Vietnam—a country that has been historically hostile to same-sex relations but is now poised to become the first Asian country to recognize gay marriage.
The image is part of a photo series by Maika Elan titled "The Pink Choice" that took first prize in the contemporary issues category for Elan's ability to both stir the viewers' imagination and engage with her subjects.
"We were all enchanted by this series," jury member Anne Wilkes Tucker said. "They're tender portraits, but some are complicated ... You feel like you've been given access to people, and even a world, that you normally wouldn't have access to, but in a respectful way."
Photograph courtesy Maika Elan, Most, via WPP
First Prize: Spot News, Stories
Smoke clouds Gaza City after an Israeli air strike damages two buildings used by foreign media outlets and Hamas. This image by Associated Press photographer Bernat Armangue, who is based in the Middle East, is part of a series documenting the November 2012 escalation of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (See National Geographic magazine pictures: The underground world of Gaza's tunnel system.)
Photograph by Bernat Armangue, Associated Press
First Prize: Contemporary Issues Single
A woman who makes her living by picking through trash for recyclable goods at a 30-acre (12-hectare) dump near the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, pauses in the rain to peruse a book she found. (From our blog: "Saving Nairobi's Mothers and Babies.")
"It gives me something else to do in the day besides picking [trash]," she told photojournalist Micah Albert, a freelancer based in California.
Jury member Anne Wilkes Tucker said of Albert's image: "It's heartbreaking and yet it's hopeful. Here is someone whose life is very hard ... but she takes time to stop and read when she finds a book. [She has] that curiosity, that will to learn and to reach out to a wider world than this wasteland she is existing in."
Tucker added that the judges also appreciated the colors captured in the photo. "It looks like a Dutch painting, in terms of the muted but rich colors that are in it."
Photograph courtesy Micah Albert via WPP
Second Prize: People – Staged Portraits Single
Taking second prize in the "Staged Portraits Singles" category is Stefen Chow's portrait of artist and activist Ai Weiwei, who has become a symbol of the struggle for human rights in China. Despite being placed under house arrest, Ai continues to use the Internet and forums like Weibo, a microblogging site similar to Twitter, to voice his criticism against authoritarianism and censorship in his country.
"It's a very layered picture," commented jury member Anne Wilkes Tucker. "The Internet is implicit through that cellphone and there is a possibility that he might be taking our picture with the cellphone."
She added that Ai's expression intrigued the judges. "We discussed whether it's a confrontational, resigned, or stoic expression," she said. "He is a man of great courage who has paid a high price."
Photograph courtesy Stefen Chow for Smithsonian Magazine via WPP
Second Prize Spot: News Single
Syrian opposition fighters in Aleppo torture a suspected government informant in this July 31, 2012, photograph taken by Turkish photojournalist Emin Özmen. The captive was released after 48 hours.
Jury member Anne Wilkes Tucker praised Özmen's ability to gain access to a sensitive situation in order to illustrate the realities of the Syrian conflict. "Most people inflicting torture don't want to be photographed," she said, also noting the image's unique composition. The figures in the photo converge at a focal point—the feet—to form a cross.
Photograph courtesy Emin Ozmen via WPP
First Prize:Daily Life Stories
Photographer Fausto Podavini's series offers an intimate look at the challenges of caregiving through the lives of an Italian couple coping with dementia and Alzheimer's disease. In this image, Mirella, 71, helps her husband Luigi dry off after a shower. The couple has been together for 43 years, and Mirella's life is now devoted to assisting Luigi with daily activities.
"When Mirella started to dry her husband, the steam on the mirror started to disappear," Podavini said of the shot. "All of it lasted a moment. Only while I was editing did I understand in that shot, there was all my work."