A dramatic image of the murder of the Russian ambassador to Turkey was named the Photo of the Year of the World Press Photo 2017 contest. The photograph was taken in December during routine cover-up of a sample in a gallery to which Burhan Ozbilici, an Associated Press photographer AP), came last minute, just because he was on his way home. He arrived during the speech of Ambassador Andrei Karlov and, minutes later, a policeman outside his working hours, Mevlut Mert Altintas, opened fire. Ozbilici was less than five meters from the attacker, but he did not run.
“I was afraid, but I did not panic,” Ozbilici, 59, said during a telephone interview. “I am a journalist and I had to stay and do my work even if I was injured or died. At that time I tried not only to represent AP, but all good independent journalists. “
The contest year photo is usually the subject of passionate debates among photojournalists, and this year is no exception. Lars Boering, director of World Press Photo, said some photos that have been honored in recent years “were more poetic and lent themselves to interpretation.” Ozbilici’s image was part of the organization’s 63-year tradition.
“It’s a strong Photo Visual representation,” he said, “of a very brutal event by a brave photographer.”
Even so, the jury members were divided about the winner, said Stuart Franklin, body director and member of the international cooperative Magnum Photos. Franklin did not vote for Ozbilici’s image. He explained that it was difficult to reveal much about the deliberations because all jurors signed a confidentiality agreement. The image, he said, is a news photograph that was “extraordinarily well captured” by a photographer who has all his respect. But Franklin worried that giving him the biggest prize could amplify “somehow a terrorist message.”
“He had a moral concern,” he said. “I do not think we can forget that this murder was premeditated and orchestrated during a press conference. It seems to me that it reaffirms the whole between martyrdom and publicity. “
Although another juror, Mary Calvert, emphasized that the organization was “recognizing the photographer and not the crime”. In any case, he said, the image “embodies the hatred and despair of our world today” and that will give it a historical value.
“It’s our job as photographers to be witnesses, sometimes showing things that are not nice to people,” Calvert said. “It’s up to spectators to choose how they respond.”
The New York Times received three awards. Daniel Berehulak took first place in the general news category presented as stories for his documentation of the murders of 57 people during 35 days in the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drug campaign. Sergey Ponomarev took second place in that same category for his coverage of the battle to regain control of Mosul , Iraq, of the Islamic State, and Tomas Munita was awarded first place in the category of daily life stories for his photographs Of a Cuba on the verge of change .
Laurent Van der Stock of Getty won the first place in simple general news images for a photo of the offensive in Mosul taken for Le Monde. Paula Bronstein won first place in a unique photo of everyday life thanks to a Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting coverage that was published in the Time magazine Lightbox section. Russian Valery Melnikov was awarded in the category of long-term projects for his coverage of the war in Ukraine. Hossein Fatemi was second in the same category for the essay “An Iranian Crossing”, published in Lens.
In contemporary affairs, Jonathan Bachman was rewarded for his image of a woman who remains defiant, and peaceful, during a protest after the death of a black man at the hands of the police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Amber Bracken won first place in the story category for her coverage of Sioux protests in Standing Rock against the construction of a pipeline in North Dakota.
Here you can review all winning images.
The manipulation of digital images, which caused several controversies and disqualifications in past years, led World Press to establish a code of ethics with detailed guidelines. All photographers arriving in the penultimate round had to submit the intact files of their photographs for inspection. Despite the publicity that was made of these changes, about 18 percent of those who reached the penultimate round at the end of 2015 were disqualified, Boering said. Statistics for this year are not available, but the director of Word Press estimates that the figure will be similar.
The jury included Aïda Muluneh, founder of Addis Photo Fest of Ethiopia; Goran Tomasevic, Reuters chief photographer for East Africa; Joao Silva, a photographer for The New York Times; Kelli Reed Grant, Area Director at Yahoo News; Wim van Sinderen, curator of the The Hague Photography Museum; Tanya Habjouqa of NOOR Images and photographer Christian Ziegler, in addition to Calvert and Franklin.
More than 5000 photographers from 125 countries submitted 80,408 images in the contest this year. As chief of the jury, Franklin saw each one of them. Choosing a single to represent the whole year is an extremely difficult task, he said, but contests are always subjective and sometimes work almost like lotteries.
“You can set ten juries of nine people each, put them all side by side, and they will have completely different selections.”