AMSTERDAM (AFP) – A haunting black-and-white image of a refugee passing a baby under a barbed wire fence won the prestigious World Press Photo Award yesterday, highlighting Europe’s worst migrant crisis since World War II.
Snapped by Australian freelance photographer Warren Richardson, the picture titled “Hope for a New Life” captures the drama of one border crossing between Serbia and Hungary, as more than a million people made their way to Europe’s shores in 2015 – nearly half of them fleeing Syria’s brutal civil war.
Agence France-Presse scooped up four awards including first prize for Syrian-based Sameer Al-Doumy in the Spot News stories category, for his images taken just after air strikes ravaged the city of Douma near Damascus.
“I am very happy to have won this prize through which I hope I’m able to portray the truth of what’s happening in my country, Syria, to the outside world,” Mr. Al-Doumy said in reaction to the award.
His AFP Syrian colleague Abd Doumany won second prize in the General News stories category for his harrowing depiction of children killed and wounded in similar strikes over Douma.
Syria’s nearly five-year war has claimed more than 260,000 lives, and al-Doumy added he hoped he would soon not have to take “such painful photos” and that they would help “to encourage the world to really move towards ending this conflict.”
AFP’s veteran lensman Roberto Schmidt won second prize, Spot News stories, for his dramatic shots of the deadly avalanche on Mount Everest triggered by last April’s Nepal earthquake. Turkey-based Bulent Kilic won third prize in the same category for his pictures of Syrian refugees on the Turkish border.
Judges in this year’s competition – which drew some 82,951 entries from 5,775 photographers from 128 countries – called Mr. Richardson’s grainy picture, taken in the dead of night without a flash “incredibly powerful visually” and a “haunting image.”
Budapest-based Mr. Richardson had camped with a group of migrants for five days on the border near Roszke in Hungary when he snapped the group as they slipped through the boundary fence.
“We played cat-and-mouse with the police the whole night,” Mr. Richardson said in a statement from the World Press Photo Awards. “I was exhausted by the time I took the picture,” he added. “It was around three o’clock in the morning and you can’t use a flash while police are trying to find these people, because I would just given them away,” he said, adding he shot his picture using just the light of the moon.
AFP photo director Francis Kohn, who chaired this year’s jury in Amsterdam, said Mr. Richardson’s picture “had such power because of its simplicity, especially the symbolism of the barbed wire.”
“We thought it had almost everything in there to give a strong visual of what’s happening with the refugees,” Mr. Kohn said.
Huang Wen, new media development director at Xinhua News Agency, said “it’s a haunting image. You see the anxiousness and the tension in such a mood which is pretty different from those in-your-face images.”
The New York Times took three first prizes. Mauricio Lima won in the General News singles category for his picture of a doctor treating a teenage Islamic State fighter in a Kurdish hospital. Sergey Ponomarev won the General News stories category for migrants arriving by boat at the village of Skala on Greece’s Lesbos Island, while Daniel Berehulak won the Daily Life stories category with his account of Chilean, Chinese and Russian research looking for commercial opportunities in Antarctica.
Organizers said meanwhile they had introduced a “new code of ethics and a transparent and rigorous verification process.”
This follows a controversy last year when one of the major prizes was withdrawn after a photographer was accused of staging pictures portraying the gritty Belgian industrial town of Charleroi.
“This resulted in many more entries being checked, but fewer problems than last year being found,” said Lars Boering, the World Press Photo Foundation’s managing director.
Australian Budapest-based freelance photographer Warren Richardson poses in front of his picture “Hope for a New Life” yesterday in Amsterdam after his picture was announced winner of the World Press Photo 2015 yesterday. ANP/AFP/ Koen van Weel/ Matic Zorman
A sunbather is oblivious to the ominous shelf cloud approaching on Bondi beach, Sydney on November 6 last year. The photo by Reuters photographer Rohan Kelly won first prize in the Nature category (single photo) at the World Press Photo Awards yesterday. Reuters/Rohan Kelly