Angry protests in Sudan and Myanmar against the military rulers, Trump supporters storming the Capitol, wildfires, the Covid pandemic, wars and repression, these are all topics that have swayed the world’s press photographers in 2021. For the 65th time, “World Press Photo” has selected the best press photos.
4,066 photographers from 130 countries submitted 64,823 works and for the first time six regional juries and one global jury had to decide which were the best photos in four categories. By regionalizing the competition, a greater variety of positions was achieved and the dominance of the western world was broken. 24 winners are exhibited with their works in the Willy-Brandt-Haus. These are impressive photos of a troubled year.
But it is also the still photos that are touching and tell an outrageous story. Such is Amber Bracken’s global winning photo of the anonymously buried victims at Kamloops Residential School in Canada. In the red evening light, red clothes hanging from crosses along a road bear witness to the violent deaths of Canada’s indigenous children. At this school alone, where the identity of the indigenous children was to be broken, 215 graves were discovered.
The photo of Fatima Shbair is also impressive. It shows adults and children sitting under a tent made of blankets in the candlelight in Gaza. An idyllic scene at first glance, but people mourn the loss of loved ones in an Israeli bombardment in Gaza. Only at second glance do you recognize the ruins of the destroyed houses in the darkness.
With today’s knowledge, one also looks at the pictures of Guillaume Herbault, who has regularly photographed in the Ukraine since 2001, in a new way. His scenes from the war since 2008 are now familiar. Destroyed statues, corpses on the street, soldiers looking for unused ammunition, women sewing camouflage nets for Ukrainian snipers.
World Press Photo also draws attention to forgotten conflicts like the Zebu War in Madagascar. In impressive black and white photos, Rijasolo documents the fight of the rural population against the Dahalo, the robbers of the valuable humpback cattle. Wildfires across the globe were a big issue in 2021. Matthew Abbott documents the “cool burning” of the Nawarddeks of Western Australia.
They set fires in the undergrowth in a strategic and controlled manner to prevent large fire disasters. Now they get high-tech support from government rangers. Konstantinos Tsakalidis snapped an iconic photo of the fires on the Greek island of Evia. An elderly woman cries out as the conflagration in the background threatens her home.
The award-winning works of the photographers hold up a mirror to us, show us the world as it is, often fragile and threatened. Free media can enlighten, help and inform. Therein lies the value of this exhibition.