John Stanmeyer wins World Press Photo 2013


John Stanmeyer // VII Photo // Signal

One of the most arduous & contentious tasks of the photographic calendar is over. The 57th World Press Photo of the Year 2013 has been chosen from a staggering 98,671 images submitted by 5754 photographers from 132 countries.

John Stanmeyer, the acclaimed American photojournalist’s inimitable single image of African migrants on the shore of Djibouti city at night, raising their phones in an attempt to capture an inexpensive signal from neighboring Somalia, was selected as the overall winner. Djibouti is a common stop-off point for migrants in transit from such countries as Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, seeking a better life in Europe and the Middle East. Stanmeyer, who was on commission for the National Geographic said of the image “it felt as if I was photographing all of us — you, me, our brothers and sisters — all desperately trying to connect to our loved ones. This photograph of Somalis trying to “catch” a signal is an image of all of us as we stand at the crossroads of humanity, where we must ask ourselves what is truly important, demanding our collective attention in a global society where the issues of migration, borders, war, poverty, technology and communication intersect”

The reactionary nature of photojournalism has long been noted as one of its greatest weaknesses, the Achilles heal of an already wounded beast. But what the genre lacks in preventative purpose, it makes up for still in its ability communicate great swathes about the human condition.

This year’s choice of winner is refreshing from bygone years in so far as the reflective and strangely optimistic nature of the image.

Jillian Edelstein, jury member of this year’s World Press Photo. “It’s a photo that is connected to so many other stories – it opens up discussions about technology, globalization, migration, poverty, desperation, alienation, humanity. It’s a very sophisticated, powerfully nuanced image. It is so subtly done, so poetic, yet instilled with meaning, conveying issues of great gravity and concern in the world today.”

The nine categories of the competition showcase the diverse nature of editorialised photography today. Striking submissions include Brent Stirton’s portrait of blind Indian Albino boys from Vivekananda mission school for the bind in West Bengal, which won 1st prize in the staged portraits category. Philippe Lopez’s epic cinematic shot of Haiyan typhoon survivors during a religious procession in Tolosa, on the eastern island of Leyte won 1st prize in Spot News. Meanwhile, Goran Tomasevic of Serbia won 1st Prize Spot News Stories for his powerful black and white image of Syrian rebel fighters taking cover amid flying debris and shrapnel after being hit by a tank shell fired towards them by the Syrian Army in the Ain Tarma neighborhood of Damascus.

The award carries a significant prize of €10,000 & all the winning pictures are presented as a touring exhibition, which visits 100 cities in over 45 countries. The first 2014 World Press Photo exhibition opens in Amsterdam in De Nieuwe Kerk on 18 April 2014