The World Press Photo Contest has announced its global winners for 2023 which highlight the importance of photojournalism and documentary photography.
The four global winners follow last month’s reveal of the competition’s regional winners, an impressive group that included 24 winners and six honorable mentions.
Each global winner receives €5,000 (around $5,500), and regional winners get €1,000 (just under $1,100). Winners are also invited to the Winners’ Program in Amsterdam and receive a physical award to commemorate their achievements. All winners and honorable mentions are published in an annual yearbook.
This year’s competition, the 66th annual Photo Contest, received 60,448 entered photographs from 3,752 photographers. The 30 photographers who won regional awards and received honorable mentions hail from 23 countries, representing significant diversity.
Photo of the Year — Evgeniy Maloletka, ‘Mariupol Maternity Hospital Airstrike’
Ukrainian photographer Evgeniy Maloletka’s startling and riveting photo Mariupol Maternity Hospital Airstrike, shown above, has won the 2023 World Press Photo of the Year award.
Maloletka’s image shows an injured pregnant woman, Iryna Kalinina (32), being carried away from a maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, it was damaged during a Russian airstrike on March 9, 2022. Kalinina’s baby, named Miron after the word for “peace,” was stillborn. Iryna died half an hour later. According to the UN Human Rights Office, Russian attacks on Ukrainian cities have resulted in the deaths of at least 21,000 civilians.
Maloletka was one of the very few photographers in Mariupol in early March 2022. “We came to Mariupol just one before the invasion. For 20 days, we lived with paramedics in the basement of the hospital, and in shelters with ordinary citizens, trying to show the fear Ukrainians were living in,” says Evgeniy Maloletka.
“This is the image that I wanted to forget, but I couldn’t,” he explains.
Story of the Year — Mads Nissen, ‘The Price of Peace in Afghanistan’
Mads Nissen’s nine haunting images from Afghanistan show the daily lives of people in Afghanistan as they live under a new reality following the Taliban’s return to power after the United States and its allies withdrew from the troubled Middle Eastern nation.
“My hope with this work is more than anything to create not just awareness, but engagement with the millions of Afghans who are desperately in need of food and humanitarian aid right now,” Nissen says. Mads Nissen is a Danish photographer who previously won the World Press Photo of the Year in 2015 and 2021.
Long-Term Project Award — Anush Babajanyan, ‘Battered Waters’
For her project about water supplies in Central Asia, photographer Anush Babajanyan earned this year’s “Long-Term Project Award.” Babajanyan has spent years documenting the water resource interdependence of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. After years of peaceful cooperation between the four landlocked nations, the Syr Darya and Amu Darya rivers have recently become a source of conflict in the face of drought, changing needs, and water mismanagement.
“Water intertwines with people’s lives. I wanted to capture the powerful spirit of people whose lives are changing because the climate is changing,” explains Babajanyan.
Open Format Award — Mohamed Mahdy, ‘Here, The Doors Don’t Know Me’
Egyptian photographer Mohamed Mahdy’s web-based project explores how rising sea levels affect Al Max, a fishing village along the Mahmoudiyah canal in Alexandria, Egypt. The residents of Al Max have lived and worked along the canal for generations. However, in 2020, the Egyptian government began forcibly relocating people living in parts of Al Max and demolishing homes.
“My project talks about loss of memory, our culture, and identity fading away,” says Mahdy.
Amazing Winners Highlight the Importance of Photojournalism in a Rapidly Changing World
The four global winners were selected from the 24 regional winners. The more than 60,000 entries submitted by 3,752 entrants from 127 countries were first judged by regional juries. All regional winners were selected by a global jury consisting of the regional jury chairs plus the global jury chair, The New York Times photo editor and co-founder of Diversify Photo, Brent Lewis.
“Our four global winners represent the best photos and stories from the most important and urgent topics of 2022. They also help to continue the tradition of what it is possible to do with photography, and how photography helps us to see the universality of the human condition,” Lewis says.
Of Maloletka’s “Photo of the Year,” Lewis says, “The haunting image from the siege of Mariupol was unanimously chosen as the winner of the World Press Photo of the Year. With the vote being decided on the first anniversary of the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the jury mentioned the power of the image and the story behind it, as well as the atrocities it shows. The death of both the pregnant woman and her child summarized so much of the war, as well as the possible intent of Russia. As one juror put it: ‘It’s like they are trying to kill the future of Ukraine.”
“Millions of people around the world will see these photos and see death, despair, loss, and crisis. My wish is that they also see what I see. The hope that through documentation there is a chance of justice and a better future, through remembering we honor what is lost, and through the courage and dedication of these photographers we are inspired,” says Joumana El Zein Khoury, Executive Director of the World Press Photo Foundation.
“I find myself thinking about how the people in these photos are not so much different from myself, bringing me to care more about what is happening to them. That is the indispensable benefit of photojournalism and documentary photography that I hope everyone who views these stories will also appreciate,” Joumana El Zein Khoury continues.
Exhibition and Winner’s Program
All winning images will be shown to millions of people through the foundation’s annual exhibition in over 60 cities around the world, including Amsterdam (opening April 22), Rome, Berlin, Barcelona, Zurich, Tel Aviv, Taipei, Singapore, Mexico City, Jakarta, Sydney, and Toronto.
The 24 Regional Winners are invited to an event in Amsterdam from May 9-13. The event will include an awards celebration, networking events, workshops, presentations, and a gallery exhibit.
Image credits: All photos are individually credited and provided courtesy of the 2023 World Press Photo Contest