Thoughts On The Nominees For The World Press Photo Awards 2019


We are close to one of the biggest photography events of the year, and we are not talking about gear. This is, of course, the one and only, World Press Photo. Since 1955 the World Press Photo Contest has recognized professional photojournalists for their important labor. This year they have decided to include the Digital Storytelling Contest which splits itself in other forms of visual journalism. Since my passion and expertise is related to photography, I'll keep my scope reduced to the classic awards.

This is my very own and personal selection of the photos that moved me the most since the nominations were announced several weeks ago. I must be very clear, this is a highly subjective point of view, and is not aimed to predict in any form which works will be awarded. All of these stories are important and their seriousness shouldn't be measured or scaled.

Photo by Yanny Mishchuk

Photo Story of the Year

Lorenzo Tugnoli – Yemen Crisis

The Saudi-led coalition has resulted in food, medicines, and fuel have been restricted in the country of Yemen. More than 8 million people are facing starvation nearly 75% of Yemen's population is in need of humanitarian assistance. These are some of the largest effects of nearly four years of conflict in Yemen. Tugnoli's photographic essay is a highly objective visual approximation to this reality. Perhaps the most striking common feature among these photos are all the struggling women and children scattered all over the region.

Contemporary Issues

Mary F. Calvert – Male Rape

Mary Calvert is convinced that journalism has the power of shining light inside the deepest and darkest horrors of humanity. She has been working on a very specific theme revolving around the harshness of sexual assaults within America's Military. The World Press Photo board has nominated one single photograph that has the power of summarizing all those terrors in a subtle yet shocking photograph. Her photo shows a former US marine called Ethan Hanson bathing in a tub after experiencing sexual trauma during his military service. The episode was so shocking that he can no longer take regular showers.


Mário Cruz – Living Among What's Left Behind

As an independent photographer, Mário Cruz is currently focused on social injustice and human rights issues. This year he presented a photograph that should awake awareness all over the globe since it depicts one of humanity's biggest problems, waste disposition. The photograph shows a boy lying in a mattress that appears to be floating on an endless ocean of garbage and waste. The image's seriousness escalates when we noticed that this filth is floating on top of the Pasig River. The mere fact of knowing that this is happening to our planet is devastating…

General News

Daniele Volpe – Still Life Volcano

I still remember this incident as if it just happened yesterday due to being based so close to Guatemala myself. Last year the Volcán de Fuego (Fire Volcano) erupted without any warnings and it was just devastating. Here we can see a photograph of an abandoned home's interior covered in ash after the eruption. This catastrophic natural event was one of the deadliest eruptions in more than a century in Guatemala. The official reports said that rescue teams recovered 318 bodies, and over a third of them came unidentified.

Long-Term Projects

Yael Martínez – The House that Bleeds

Are the close ones to disappear the ones who suffer the most, and the endless anguishment makes this state to be even worse than death. More than 37,400 people have been categorized as “missing” by the Mexican official sources in recent years. In 2013 Yael Martínez was a victim of this anguish after one of his brothers-in-law was killed and two others disappeared. After these tragic events, he was determined to document the psychological and emotional fractures in his own family. This led him to document the same phenomena within other families. The result is “The House that Bleeds”, a personal approach towards violence as a psychological victim of this social anomie.


Jasper Doest – Meet Bob

The first time I saw Bob, the Caribbean flamingo that Jasper Doest documented was in this photograph, which is also a nominee for the same category but in the single image format. Honestly, I think this could be presented in a single essay. The essay revolves around Bob, a flamingo that for now lives among humans after being badly injured. Bob crashed through a hotel window and was taken care of by a wildlife rehab center. Personally speaking, I can say that this essay works as an aesthetic awareness for us humans, a highly invasive species.


Alyona Kochetkova – When I Was Ill

Even favorite dishes result as victims of cancer. Alonya Kochetkova shot a self-portrait that speaks for itself. In the photograph, we can see a compelling composition of herself in front of a bowl of борщ (borscht), her favorite dish. During this stage, she was unable to eat it due to her treatment.


Terrell Groggins – Shields Strikes Back

Sports are in most cases all about the action, and this photograph by Groggins is a great example of how dynamic sports can get. The monochrome decision makes it even more striking because we can focus entirely on the moment without any distractions. The light and the point of view are also delightful ingredients of this brutal photograph.

Spot News

Ezra Acayan – The Death of Michael Nadayo

Many reaction-guided security measures result in even more violence. According to Amnesty International, this has happened in the Philippines since 2016 due to an anti-drug offensive promoted by their current president. Death after death could be a simple yet dull way of describing this shocking photograph made by Ezra Acayan. Here the body of a man lies in the street after being shot dead by unidentified men in front of mourners at a wake.

Photo of the Year

Catalina Martin-Chico – Being Pregnant After FARC Child-Bearing Ban

All of the previous categories have the same rank in terms of the WPP awards, but there is one that stands out from the crowd, the photo of the year. For this year's edition, I want to refer to Martin-Chico's photo. Since the nominations became public, this image struck me a lot. The woman's belly is for sure the main element that grabbed my attention since day 1, and there is something odd about the whole scene. Here we can see a couple in a regular everyday situation (perhaps watching TV) inside a room covered with kitsch childish paraphernalia. There is something in the adults' gestures and piercing stare that makes me feel both uncomfortable and intrigued about the story behind the photograph.

The woman we are seeing in the photograph is Yorladis, who is pregnant for the sixth time but this will be her first time actually giving birth. The past terminated pregnancies happened during her years with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC*). Catalina Martin-Chico focuses on humanistic photography and investigative photojournalism.

* Active from 1964 to 2017, although there are still dissidents that continue to practice former FARC related activities.

Final Thoughts

As I said before, this is not intended to be a prediction nor a qualification, this is just my personal opinion around the images that moved me the most. I'm sure that the jurors are having some serious struggles trying to decide which photographers they will award. The important thing here is to recognize that their determination for showing us reality in the best way they can is extremely solid, and it should be promoted with efforts like this.

Please share your thoughts on the nominees with us, it will be a pleasure to know more points of view around this important event in the photography world.

About Author

Federico has a decade of experience in documentary photography, and is a University Professor in photography and research methodology. He's a scientist studying the social uses of photography in contemporary culture who writes about photography and develops documentary projects. Other activities Federico is involved in photography are curation, critique, education, mentoring, outreach and reviews. Get to know him better here.

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