Obviously we have a lot of photos out there—maybe more than we need—but the great ones will remain and stand out…the power of still photography is very strong…There is a need, bigger than ever, for images.

—Francis Kohn, chair of the general jury, and photo director of Agence France-Presse


The results from the 59th Annual World Press Photo Contest have been announced! After considering over 80,000 images submitted by nearly 6,000 photographers hailing from 128 countries, this year’s jury was able to award prizes to 41 different photographers. The winner of the coveted “World Press Photo of the Year” went to the Australian freelance photographer Warren Richardson for his haunting black and white picture of migrants trying to cross the border into Hungary.

Richardson’s picture—which also won first prize in the Spot News category—captures in a single frame the plight of the countless refugees who streamed across Europe during 2015. Taken at night on August 28, 2015, this man and child were part of the movement of people seeking to cross into Hungary before a secure fence on the border was completed.

Richardson, currently based in Budapest, Hungary, explained how the picture was made:

I camped with the refugees for five days on the border. A group of about 200 people arrived, and they moved under the trees along the fence line. They sent women and children, then fathers and elderly men first. I must have been with this crew for about five hours and we played cat and mouse with the police the whole night. I was exhausted by the time I took the picture. It was around three o’clock in the morning and you can’t use a flash while the police are trying to find these people, because I would just give them away. So I had to use the moonlight alone.

Francis Kohn, chair of the general jury, and photo director of Agence France-Presse, said:

Early on, we looked at this photo and we knew it was an important one. It 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. I think it’s a very classical photo, and at the same time it’s timeless. It portrays a situation, but the way it’s done is classic in the greatest sense of the word.

Meanwhile, Vaughn Wallace, deputy photo editor Al Jazeera America, and another member of the jury said:

This is an incredible image from the refugee crisis of 2015. It’s incredibly powerful visually, but it’s also very nuanced. We’ve seen thousands of images of migrants in every form of their journey, but this image really caught my eye. It causes you to stop and consider the man’s face, consider the child. You see the sharpness of the barbed wire and the hands reaching out from the darkness. This isn’t the end of a journey, but the completion of one stage of a very long future. And so, for me, this had to be the photo of the year

You can hear Francis Kohn’s general remarks on judging the 2016 contest below:

This year’s awards marked the first year under a new, carefully crafted code of ethics. In the words of Lars Boering, the managing director of the World Press Photo Foundation, the new regulations were a great success:

This year we had more photographers and more entries than ever in our contest and we see this as a great support of the industry. As an organization, we are delighted by the outcome this independent jury produced, and ready to present an exhibition of wonderful and powerful imagery to a global audience that can trust what they see. We see that the photographers are as committed as we are to providing accurate and fair images on the world’s most important events and issues. We had a new code of ethics for the photo contest and a transparent and rigorous verification process. This resulted in many more entries being checked, but fewer problems than last year being found. In 10 days we will be releasing a detailed technical report reviewing the verification process, and we will then lead the public conversation on these issues. Today, we celebrate the incredible and important work of all our prizewinners, especially Warren Richardson’s photograph.

A big congratulations to all the worthy, prize-winning photographers. Look out in the coming weeks and months for many more features on their excellent work.

—LensCulture


Editors’ Notes:
For those curious in learning more about the judging process, the World Press Photo Foundation will release a technical report reviewing the contest, including the code of ethics, entry rules, and verification process on Monday, 29 February 2016. In the meantime, you can read more about the judging process.

For those interested in meeting the award-winning photographers, The World Press Photo Awards Days are a two-day gathering of industry participants and celebration of the prizewinners held in Amsterdam on 22-23 April 2016.

LensCulture is pleased to announce an important new collaboration and international photography event with World Press Photo. LensCulture / World Press Photo Portfolio Reviews will take place in Amsterdam 20-21 April 2016. Registration is open now for serious photographers who want to meet directly, one-to-one, with some of the most influential experts in international photography.

If you can’t make it to Amsterdam, the prize-winning pictures are presented in a traveling exhibition visiting around 100 cities in about 45 countries over the course of the year. They are seen by more than 3.5 million people worldwide. The first World Press Photo 16 exhibition opens in De Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, on 16 April 2016.