In mid-February 2011, the World Press Photo jury announced their choices for the best press photos published in 2010. Lens Culture is pleased to present a selection of the winning photographs. A record number of 108,059 images was submitted to the contest, and the number of participating photographers was 5,847, representing 125 different nationalities.

At first glance, almost all of the winning images portray doom and gloom — and lots of it. The year 2010, as depicted by the award winners, was filled with tragedy, horror, natural disaster, inhumanity, outrage and despair.

The international jury of the 54th annual World Press Photo Contest selected a picture by Jodi Bieber from South Africa as the World Press Photo of the Year 2010.

The portrait of Bibi Aisha was also awarded First prize in the category Portraits Singles in this year's contest. It was shot for Time and was featured on the cover of the 9 August issue of the magazine.

Her winning picture shows Bibi Aisha, an 18-year-old woman from Oruzgan province in Afghanistan, who fled back to her family home from her husband's house, complaining of violent treatment. The Taliban arrived one night, demanding Bibi be handed over to face justice. After a Taliban commander pronounced his verdict, Bibi's brother-in-law held her down and her husband sliced off her ears and then cut off her nose. Bibi was abandoned, but later rescued by aid workers and the American military. After time in a women's refuge in Kabul, she was taken to America, where she received counseling and reconstructive surgery. Bibi Aisha now lives in the US.

Jodi Bieber has previously won eight World Press Photo awards and is only the second South African photographer to win the highest honor in the contest. She is a former participant of the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass where she returned as a master in 2010. Bieber is represented by Institute for Artist Management and Goodman Gallery.

The conclusion of the jury

Jury chair David Burnett said: "This could become one of those pictures – and we have maybe just ten in our lifetime – where if somebody says 'you know, that picture of a girl ...', you know exactly which one they're talking about."

Juror Ruth Eichhorn commented: "It's an incredibly strong image. It sends out an enormously powerful message to the world, about the 50% of the population that are women, so many of whom still live in miserable conditions, suffering violence. It is strong because the woman looks so dignified, iconic."

Juror Vince Aletti said: "It's a terrific picture, a different picture, a frightening picture. It's so much about not just this particular woman, but the state of women in the world."

Juror Aidan Sullivan said: "Part of what the World Press Photo contest does is to take pictures to a wider audience, an audience that is going to ask why? And this photo makes people ask 'What on earth ...?' 'What's going on ...?' 'What has happened ...?' For me, this was the picture that asked the most important questions."

The 2011 jury

The two-week judging period brought together 19 picture editors, curators, photographers and representatives of press agencies from around the world. The members of the 2011 jury were:

• David Burnett, USA, photojournalist and founding member Contact Press Images

• Abir Abdullah, Bangladesh, photographer EPA and vice principal Pathshala South Asian Media Academy
• Vince Aletti, USA, freelance critic
• Marizilda Cruppe, Brazil, photographer O Globo / Eve Photographers
• Ruth Eichhorn, Germany, director of photography Geo
• Renata Ferri, Italy, photo editor Io Donna - Corriere della Sera
• Heinz Kluetmeier, USA, photographer Sports Illustrated
• Wim Melis, The Netherlands, curator Noorderlicht
• Aidan Sullivan, UK, vice president photo assignments Getty Images

• Daphné Anglès, France/USA, European picture coordinator The New York Times
• Stephen Mayes, UK, managing director VII Photo Agency

For the second year, specialized juries took part in the initial rounds of judging for the categories Sports, Nature and Portraits. The members of the specialized juries were:

• Koji Aoki, Japan, chief photographer Aflo Sport / Aflo Dite and president Aflo Co., Ltd.
• Giovanna Calvenzi, Italy, picture editor Sportweek / La Gazzetta dello Sport
• Heinz Kluetmeier, USA, photographer Sports Illustrated

• Ruth Eichhorn, Germany, director of photography Geo
• Mattias Klum, Sweden, photographer and filmmaker
• Sophie Stafford, UK, editor BBC Wildlife Magazine
• Vince Aletti, USA, freelance critic
• Harry Borden, UK, photographer
• Terence Pepper, UK, curator of photographs National Portrait Gallery

News & documentary
• Peter Bialobrzeski, Germany, artist
• David Burnett, USA, photojournalist and founding member Contact Press Images
• Héric Libong, Cameroon, head of photo department Panapress
• Enric Martí, Spain, regional editor AP for Latin America and Caribbean
• Sujong Song, South Korea, independent curator and photo editor

Special Mention

Following the judging of the contest, the jury decided to name a Special Mention to a 12-picture series of photographs made by the miners trapped for 69 days inside the San José mine in Chile, 700 meters underground, before they were rescued on 13 October.

The pictures show the difficult conditions inside the mine and feature one of the men, Edison Peña, a keen runner who kept up his exercises underground. Writer Dan McDougall and photographer Adam Patterson spent weeks with the Peñas family before he was rescued and began corresponding with him by letter. McDougall and Patterson were able to send Peña a pair of running shoes and a small digital camera down into the mine shaft where he was trapped. Panos Pictures is distributing the pictures on behalf of Edison Peña.

Jury member Abir Abdullah said: "This recognition opens up the possibility of showing citizen journalism, when professional photographers have not had the opportunity to be some place, but because of technological development, someone can record it ... it brings us into a new era that challenges professionals, and this is a good example of a photo from a place where a photojournalist could not possibly have been."

Jury member Vince Aletti said: "We are able to see the conditions ... the images respond to our curiosity in a vivid way."

The jury considers a visual document for a Special Mention when it has played an essential role in the news reporting of the year worldwide and could not have been made by a professional photographer.