With 78,801 photos submitted by 4,738 photographers, the 2019 World Press Photo of the Year Contest can only have winners of the very highest caliber. These hard-hitting images, taken by professional photo-journalists from all over the world, tell us the stories that matter, getting to the heart of the issues facing our world and opening our eyes to the often harsh reality.
This year's winner is a heartbreaking photo of 2-year-old Honduran toddler Yanela Sanchez, who is captured crying as she and her mother, Sandra Sanchez, are taken into custody by US border officials in McAllen, Texas. The photo, which went viral and sparked a major debate, was taken by Getty Images photographer John Moore, who described the experience in an interview with NPR. "I could see the fear on their faces, in their eyes," the award-winning photographer said. "As the Border Patrol took people's names down, I could see a mother holding a young child."
As Sandra and Yanela were being processed and searched, officers asked the mother to set the child aside. "At that moment, the young child broke into tears, and she started wailing," Moore said. "I took a knee and had very few frames of that moment before it was over."
It was an unhappy end to a long an emotional journey for mother and daughter, attempting to make a better life for themselves after their own country of Honduras has descended into poverty and violence, due in no small part to U.S. policies over the years. Moore knew that for the pair, some painful times could lie ahead. “Most of us here had heard the news that the Trump administration had planned to separate families. And these people really had no idea about this news. And it was hard to take these pictures, knowing what was coming next.”
As the immigration debate intensified, the image of the tearful girl was juxtaposed against a stern-looking Donald Trump on the cover of the July 2018 edition of TIME magazine, alongside the caption: Welcome to America. Later on, it emerged that mother and daughter weren't actually split up on this occasion, leading many to accuse the photo of promoting a false narrative. Moore confirmed to CBS News that the agents he observed that night acted professionally but says he’s still pleased with both the response to his photo and the TIME cover image.
“Oftentimes, immigration is talked about in terms of statistics, and when you put a human face and humanize an issue, you make people feel,” Moore says. “And when you make people feel, they have compassion. And if I’ve done just a little bit of that, then that’s OK.”
Despite the controversy surrounding it, the judges felt that the powerful image was symbolic of the wider issue at hand, and more than merited the award.
Scroll down to see other winners in the prestigious contest, which has been running since 1955, and let us know your favorites in the comments!
1 Contemporary Issues, Singles, 1st Prize, "The Cubanitas" By Diana Markosian
Pura rides around her neighborhood in a pink 1950s convertible, as the community gathers to celebrate her fifteenth birthday, in Havana, Cuba. A girl’s quinceañera (fifteenth birthday) is a Latino coming-of-age tradition marking transition into womanhood. It is a gender specific rite of passage, traditionally showcasing a girl’s purity and readiness for marriage. Families go to great expense, often celebrating with a lavish party. The girl dresses as a princess, living out a fantasy and perceived idea of femininity. In Cuba, the tradition has transformed into a performance involving photo and video shoots, often documented in a photobook. Pura’s quinceañera had a special poignancy, as some years earlier, having been diagnosed with a brain tumor, she was told she would not live beyond the age of 13.
2 Portraits, Singles, 1st Prize, "Dakar Fashion" By Finbarr O'reilly
Diarra Ndiaye, Ndeye Fatou Mbaye and Mariza Sakho model outfits by designer Adama Paris, in the Medina neighborhood of the Senegalese capital, Dakar, as curious residents look on. Dakar is a growing hub of Franco-African fashion, and is home to Fashion Africa TV, the first station entirely dedicated to fashion on the continent. The annual Dakar Fashion Week includes an extravagant street show that is open to all and attended by thousands from all corners of the capital. Adama Paris (who has a namesake brand) is a driving force behind the fashion week, and much else on the design sce
3 Environment, Singles, 1st Prize. "Akashinga - The Brave Ones" By Brent Stirton
Petronella Chigumbura (30), a member of an all-female anti-poaching unit called Akashinga, participates in stealth and concealment training in the Phundundu Wildlife Park, Zimbabwe. Akashinga (‘The Brave Ones’) is a ranger force established as an alternative conservation model. It aims to work with, rather than against local populations, for the long-term benefits of their communities and the environment. Akashinga comprises women from disadvantaged backgrounds, empowering them, offering jobs, and helping local people to benefit directly from the preservation of wildlife. Other strategies—such as using fees from trophy hunting to fund conservation—have been criticized for imposing solutions from the outside and excluding the needs of local people.
4 Contemporary Issues, Stories, 2nd Prize, "Colombia, (Re)birth" By Catalina Martin-Chico
Angelina was among the first former guerrillas to become pregnant in the FARC transition camp in San José del Guaviare, Colombia. She joined FARC at the age of 11, calling herself ‘Olga’, after her stepfather had attempted to abuse her. Since the signing of a peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC rebel movement in 2016, there has been a baby boom among former female guerrillas, many living in the demobilization camps set up to help FARC members in the transition back to everyday life. Pregnancy was thought incompatible with guerrilla life. Women were obliged to put war before children, leaving babies with relatives or, some say, undergoing forced abortions—a charge FARC denies.
5 Contemporary Issues, Singles, 3rd Prize, "Afghan Refugees Waiting To Cross The Iranian Border" By Enayat Asadi
An Afghan refugee comforts his companion while waiting for transport across the eastern border of Iran, on 27 July. UNHCR reports that Iran has almost one million registered refugees, the vast majority from Afghanistan. In addition, more than 1.5 million undocumented Afghans are estimated to be present in the country. Many people fleeing violence, insecurity and poverty in Afghanistan find no alternative but to use illegal traffickers, along routes where they are exposed to robbery, kidnapping and death. Their aim is to pass through Iran and Turkey or Greece to seek a better life elsewhere, but trafficked refugees are highly vulnerable to forced labor, debt bondage, forced marriage, or work in the sex trade.
6 Environment, Singles, 3rd Prize, "Living Among What's Left Behind" By Mário Cruz
A child who collects recyclable material lies on a mattress surrounded by garbage floating on the Pasig River, in Manila, Philippines. The Pasig River was declared biologically dead in the 1990s, due to a combination of industrial pollution and waste being dumped by nearby communities living without adequate sanitation infrastructure. A 2017 report by Nature Communications cites the Pasig as one of 20 most polluted rivers in the world, with up to 63,700 tons of plastic deposited into the ocean each year. Efforts are being made to clean up the Pasig, which were recognized by an international prize in 2018, but in parts of the river the waste is still so dense that it is possible to walk on top of the garbage.
7 Spot News, Stories, 2nd Prize, "Syria, No Exit" By Mohammed Badr
By February 2018, the people of Eastern Ghouta, a suburban district outside Damascus and one of the last rebel enclaves in the ongoing Syrian conflict, had been under siege by government forces for five years. During the final offensive, Eastern Ghouta came under rocket fire and air bombardment, including at least one alleged gas attack—on the village of al-Shifunieh, on 25 February. Figures are difficult to verify, but Médecins Sans Frontiѐres (MSF) reported 4,829 wounded and 1,005 killed between 18 February and 3 March, according to data from medical facilities they supported alone. MSF also reported 13 hospitals and clinics damaged or destroyed in just three days. Reports on the end of the siege in Eastern Ghouta are conflicting, though the Syrian army appear to have recaptured most of the south of the country by July. UNICEF reported the siege of Eastern Ghouta to have ended by late March, with limited humanitarian access becoming available.
8 Contemporary Issues, Stories, 1st Prize, Blessed Be The Fruit: Ireland's Struggle To Overturn Anti-Abortion Laws" By Olivia Harris
Graffiti artist Shirani Bolle paints a portrait of Savita Halappanavar, who died in 2012 after being refused an abortion, in Dublin, Ireland. On 25 May, Ireland voted by a large majority to overturn its abortion laws, which were among the most restrictive in the world. A 1983 referendum had resulted in an Eighth Amendment to the Irish constitution reinforcing a ban on terminations, even those resulting from rape and incest. Prior to the referendum, an estimated 3,000 women traveled to the UK annually for abortions. In 2012, the death of Savita Halappanavar from sepsis after doctors had denied her a termination, shocked Ireland and galvanized campaigners calling for an end to the ban. Her name became synonymous with the movement to repeal the Eighth Amendment. The campaign broadened, arguing that restrictions on women impact everyone in society, and that the support of men, too, was necessary to effect change. Campaigners used social media platforms to spread their message, and took the argument to the streets in the form of demonstrations and theatrical spectacle. Nearly two thirds of the Irish population turned out to participate in the referendum, with 66.4 percent voting to overturn the abortion prohibition. By the end of the year, the Irish president had signed a new bill into law, making abortion for any pregnancy less than 12 weeks available without cost.
9 General News, Stories, 1st Prize, "Yemen Crisis" By Lorenzo Tugnoli
After nearly four years of conflict in Yemen, at least 8.4 million people are at risk of starvation and 22 million people—75% of the population—are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the UN. In 2014, Houthi Shia Muslim rebels seized northern areas of the country, forcing the president, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, into exile. The conflict spread, and escalated when Saudi Arabia, in coalition with eight other mostly Sunni Arab states, began air strikes against the Houthis. By 2018, the war had led to what the UN termed the world’s worst man-made humanitarian disaster. Saudi Arabia said that Iran—a Shia-majority state and their rival regional power—was backing the Houthis with weapons and supplies, a charge Iran denied. The Saudi-led coalition implemented a blockade on Yemen, imposing import restrictions on food, medicines and fuel. Resulting shortages exacerbated the humanitarian crisis. In many cases, conditions of near-famine were caused not so much by the unavailability of food, but because it became unaffordable, priced out of reach to most Yemenis by import restrictions, soaring transport costs due to fuel scarcity, a collapsing currency and other man-made supply disruptions.
10 Nature, Singles, 2nd Prize, "Flamingo Socks" By V
Caribbean flamingo inspects the improvised socks created to help heal its severe foot lesions, at the Fundashon Dier en Onderwijs Cariben, Curaçao. The bird was brought by plane from neighboring island Bonaire, after spending a few weeks in a local rehabilitation facility. Such lesions are common among captive flamingos, as they have very sensitive feet and are used to walking on soft ground. After a few weeks of care the bird was transported back to Bonaire. There are around 3,000 breeding pairs of Caribbean flamingos on Bonaire, and a further 200 to 300 birds on Curaçao.