Some 5,754 photographers from 132 countries submitted nearly 100,000 photos, but in the end, it was American John Stanmeyer who emerged from the pack as the grand prize winner of the 2014 World Press Photo Awards for his ethereal shot of African migrants searching for a cell signal on the shores of Djibouti.
“It’s a photo that is connected to so many other stories -- it opens up discussions about technology, globalization, migration, poverty, desperation, alienation, humanity,” World Press Photo jury member Jillian Edelstein explained. “It’s a very sophisticated, powerfully nuanced image. It is so subtly done, so poetic, yet instilled with meaning, conveying issues of great gravity and concern in the world today.”
Djibouti is a common stop-off point for migrants in transit from places like Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, who are seeking a better life in Europe and the Middle East. Stanmeyer’s photo, captured for National Geographic magazine, also won first prize in the contemporary issues category.
Jury member Susan Linfield noted that photos of migrants often show them as bedraggled and pathetic, “but this photo is not so much romantic, as dignified.”
“What we’re looking for in the winning image is the same quality you would look for in a great film or in literature -- the impression that it exists on more than one level, that it makes you think about things you haven’t thought about. You begin to explore the layers not only of what’s there, but of what isn’t there.”
Edelstein, Linfield and 17 other professionals in the fields of photojournalism and documentary photography gathered in Amsterdam earlier this month to judge the official entries from photographers the world over. They announced the results at a press conference in Amsterdam on Friday, including first, second and third prizes across nine categories.
First prize winners received a cash reward of 1,500 euros ($2,055), while Stanmeyer took home 10,000 euros ($13,700) and a DSLR camera and lens kit from Canon for his grand prize shot. In all, the jury awarded prizes to 53 photographers of 25 nationalities.
The winning photos go on display in Amsterdam on April 18 and will travel the world thereafter on a tour of 100 cities spread across 45 countries. But before they grace a gallery wall near you, World Press Photo offered International Business Times a sneak peek at some of the pictures that have just won photojournalism’s most-prestigious award.
World Press Photo of the Year 2013: African migrants on the shore of Djibouti city at night, raising their phones in an attempt to capture an inexpensive signal from neighboring Somalia -- a tenuous link to relatives abroad. Djibouti is a common stop-off point for migrants in transit from such countries as Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, seeking a better life in Europe and the Middle East. John Stanmeyer, USA, VII for National Geographic
1st Prize General News Single: Military Ramp, an emergency refugee center, was opened in September 2013 in an abandoned school in Sofia, Bulgaria. The center provides housing for about 800 Syrian refugees, including 390 children. Bulgaria, already hard hit by the economic crisis and heightened political instability, is confronting a refugee crisis that appears to coincide with increased efforts by Greece to close off its border with Turkey. Bulgaria, however, is totally unprepared to face a refugee crisis. Alessandro Penso, Italy, OnOff Picture
2nd Prize General News Stories: Demonstrators gather on a street in Bangui to call for the resignation of interim President Michel Djotodia following the murder of Judge Modeste Martineau Bria by members of Seleka. Bangui, Central African Republic.
The Central African Republic has seen more than its fair share of coups and unrest over the five and a half decades since its independence from France. The current crisis, however, triggered by yet another coup, is starting to set in position a well armed, mainly Muslim militia that is refusing to disarm against Anti-balaka, Christian vigilante groups defending the country's majority Christian population. The UN has warned of a potential slide into genocide and France has sent 1,600 troops to protect civilians and disarm the different militia. Bordering on other highly volatile regions in central Africa, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Chad, the conflict is ringing alarm bells across the continent and beyond. William Daniels, France, Panos Pictures for Time
1st Prize Spot News Single: Survivors of typhoon Haiyan march during a religious procession in Tolosa, on the eastern island of Leyte. One of the strongest cyclones ever recorded, Haiyan left 8,000 people dead and missing and more than four million homeless after it hit the central Philippines. Phillipe Lopez, France, Agence France-Presse
1st Prize Spot News Stories: Syrian rebel fighters take cover amid flying debris and shrapnel after being hit by a tank shell fired toward them by the Syrian Army in the Ain Tarma neighborhood of Damascus. Goran Tomasevic, Serbia, Reuters
2nd Prize Spot News Stories: A woman and children hiding in the Westgate mall. They escaped unharmed after gunmen had opened fire at the upscale Nairobi mall on 21 September 2013. At least 39 people were killed in one of the worst terrorist attacks in Kenya’s history. Tyler Hicks, USA, The New York Times
3rd Prize Contemporary Issues Single: Police arrive at a crime scene where two bodies hang from a bridge; another three are on the floor. They had been killed by organized crime in Saltillo, Coahuila, in retaliation against other criminal groups. Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico. Christopher Vanegas, Mexico, La Vanguardia / El Guardían
1st Prize Contemporary Issues Stories: As the fight continued to rage, Shane told Maggie that she could choose between getting beaten in the kitchen, or going with him to the basement so they could talk privately. Lancaster, US. Sara Naomi Lewkowicz, USA, for Time
1st Prize Daily Life Single: Kachin Independence Army fighters are drinking and celebrating at a funeral of one of their commanders who died the day before. The city is under siege by the Burmese army. Julius Schrank, Germany, De Volkskrant
1st Prize Daily Life Stories: Date found: 1 February 2013. Time 3:45 P.M. Location: a sugar plantation in Apopa, San Salvador, El Salvador. Sex: Female. Age: Between 17 and 18 years old. Time of disappearance: not available.
The North Central American Triangle (Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador) is one of the most violent regions in the world. In many cases, clothes that are found become the only means to identify victims. Fred Ramos, El Salvador, El Faro
2nd Prize Sports Action Single: Competitor at a slalom contest in Szczyrk, Poland. Andrzej Grygiel, Poland, for PAP-Polska Agencja Prasowa
3rd Prize Sports Action Stories: Daniel Arnamnart of Australia competes in the men's 100-meter backstroke during day two of the Australian Swimming Championships on 27 April 2013 at SA Aquatic and Leisure Centre in Adelaide, Australia. Quinn Rooney, Australia, Getty Images
1st Prize Sports Feature Stories: Nadja feeling better just before her last treatment. Lidingö, Sweden.
Swedish athlete Nadja Casadei has participated in the World and European Championships in heptathlon. In autumn 2013, she was diagnosed with cancer and by January 2014 she completed her chemotherapy. She has continued to train throughout her illness, hoping to be healthy and ready by the summer for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Peter Holgersson, Sweden
1st Prize People – Observed Portraits Single: A woman reacts in disappointment after access to see former South Africa President Nelson Mandela was closed on the third and final day of his casket lying in state, outside Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa. Markus Schreiber, Germany, The Associated Press
1st Prize People – Observed Portraits Stories: Hannah and Alena, two sisters living in the rural village of Merkenbrechts, Austria. Carla Kogelman, the Netherlands
1st Prize People – Staged Portraits Single: A group of blind albino boys photographed in their boarding room at the Vivekananda mission school for the blind in West Bengal, India. This is one of the very few schools for the blind in India today. Brent Stirton, South Africa, Reportage by Getty Images
2nd Prize People – Staged Portraits Stories: Ali, a young Egyptian bodybuilder, poses with his mother. Denis Dailleux, France, Agence Vu
3rd Prize Nature Stories: A five-year-old bonobo turns out to be the most curious individual of a wild group of bonobos near the Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Despite being humans’ closest living relatives, little is known about Bonobos and their behavior in the wild in remote parts of the Congo basin. Bonobos are threatened by habitat loss and bush meat trade. Christian Ziegler, Germany, for National Geographic Magazine
1st Prize Nature Stories: A cougar walking a trail in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park is captured by a camera trap. To reach the park, which has been the cougar’s home for the last two years it had to cross two of the busiest highways in the US.
Cougars are among the most adaptable and widespread terrestrial mammals in the Western Hemisphere, with a range that extends from the tip of Chile to the Canadian Yukon. They are increasingly being seen in and around towns and cities, including Los Angeles and in the Hollywood Hills. Fear of these secretive cats, combined with a lack of adequate public knowledge, tends to justify the thousands of cougars killed every year. Scientists in Wyoming’s Teton National Forest are outfitting them with GPS collars and camera trapping to learn more about basic behaviors and to lift the veil of mystery surrounding them. Steve Winter, USA, for National Geographic