Each year, the World Press Photo Foundation highlights the best photojournalism that captures and conveys important stories and remarkable moments from the preceding year. Many winners in several categories are selected, as well as one single image that is awarded the honor of “Photo of the Year.” LensCulture is pleased to present a selection of 93 winning photos this year, including the Photo of the Year.

In today’s fragmented media age, rare is the image that can wholly capture the world’s attention. Of course, there are ongoing stories that occupy people’s thoughts around the globe—an unforeseen election or referendum result, a shocking terrorist attack—but even these can be represented in different ways, from a plethora of perspectives.

Still, there are occasional pictures that race around the globe and manage to draw our collective eye, at least for a moment. One such example from last year was Burhan Ozbilici’s picture of the 22-year-old Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş, who assassinated the Russian ambassador to Turkey on December 19, 2016. The picture, in all of its unbridled aggression and iconic simplicity, captivated the world just a few days before the often grim and awful 2016 drew to a close. This photo was awarded Photo of the Year by the international jury at the World Press Photo Foundation in February 2017. The selection of that image has already generated some controversy.

An Assassination in Turkey. Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş shouts after shooting Andrey Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Turkey, at an art gallery in Ankara, Turkey. Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş, a 22-year-old off-duty police officer, assassinated the Russian ambassador on December 19, 2016. He wounded three other people before being killed by officers in a shootout. © Burhan Ozbilici, The Associated Press. World Press Photo of the Year & Spot News, First Prize, Stories

In the words of Mary F. Calvert, a decorated photojournalist herself, and one of the members of the jury:

“It was a very, very difficult decision, but in the end we felt that the Picture of the Year was an explosive image that really spoke to the hatred of our times. Every time it came on the screen you almost had to move back because it’s such an explosive image and we really felt that it epitomizes the definition of what the World Press Photo of the Year is and means.”

Or in the words of another prize-winning photographer who sat on this year’s jury, João Silva,

“Right now I see the world marching towards the edge of an abyss. This is a man who has clearly reached a breaking point and his statement is to assassinate someone who he really blames, a country that he blames, for what is going on elsewhere in the region…[this] is the face of hatred.”

Meanwhile, jury chairman Stuart Franklin had this to say, by way of a counter-argument. The below quote was recorded shortly after the formal announcement by the World Press Photo Foundation in Amsterdam:

“It was quite a debate within the jury. Some jury members selected this image, and others decided that it wasn’t appropriate to be Picture of the Year. It wasn’t a unanimous thing.

“I mean, I think it’s a terrific news picture. But I think there are some moral concerns about it being Photo of the Year, surrounding the fact that there are possibilities that we are amplifying the message of the terrorist who committed a premeditated murder at a press conference in order to get his message out. So we are now redoubling this. Some members of the jury thought it was rather sensationalist, and others thought it was terrific. But that’s the nature of juries.

“Let’s be honest, the Photo of the Year isn’t a bravery award; it’s an award for photography. So you have to separate out the extraordinary courage of the photographer from the picture itself… It’s a complex thing. We were quite conflicted about this. Not [that it won the] Spot News Story Award—that seemed quite obvious. And that’s not to take away from the fact that it’s an extremely hard-hitting news picture, and the guy did an extraordinary job.

“It’s a heroic piece of photojournalism, but it is, at the same time, a controversial picture. This was a murder. I can see a similarity between this picture and the beheading of a journalist, because that’s the sort of moral power [it has].

“I think it is a significant news event. [But], did it have political repercussions? Was it like the assassinations in Sarajevo? No, it wasn’t. It had limited political consequences. But at the same time, it is a striking photograph in its way.”


Evocative (or controversial) as this year’s winner is, the 60th edition’s other top pictures remind us of the many other aspects of life on our planet. From the bravery shown by the Standing Rock protesters in North Dakota (Amber Bracken) to the shocking brutality of the anti-drug crusade in the Philippines (Daniel Berehulak) or otherworldly, remote-control captured portraits of animals against the night sky (Bence Máté), these gathered photographs offer a collective snapshot of the overwhelming forces of creation and destruction that mark our contemporary moment.

Besides the still photographs, this year also offered a new take on the Multimedia category, now dubbed “Digital Storytelling.” With categories such as Immersive Storytelling, Innovative Storytelling, Short and Long Form, the competition attempts to keep up with the pace of changing media practices. As DJ Clark, Chair of the Short Form category noted:

“This is a rapidly evolving media format in its early stages. We need people to push the boundaries and experiment. It won’t always work, but when it does it stands out.”

We’d like to offer our congratulations to all the worthy, prize-winning photographers and storytellers from this year’s edition. Keep an eye out in the coming weeks and months for many more features on their excellent work.


Editors’ Note: The prize-winning photographs (and digital storytelling projects) will be assembled into an exhibition that travels to 45 countries and is seen by more than 4 million people each year. The first World Press Photo exhibition opens in Amsterdam on April 14, 2017, followed by the World Press Photo Festival which will run from April 20-22.