The international jury of the 56th annual World Press Photo Contest has selected a picture by Paul Hansen of the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter as the World Press Photo of the Year 2012. The picture shows a group of men carrying the bodies of two dead children through a street in Gaza City. They are being taken to a mosque for the burial ceremony while their father’s body is carried behind on a stretcher. Two-year-old Suhaib Hijazi and his older brother Muhammad were killed when their house was destroyed by an Israeli missile strike. Their mother was put in intensive care. The picture was made on 20 November 2012 in Gaza City.
World Press Photo is an independent, non-profit organization based in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Founded in 1955, the organization is known for holding the world’s largest and most prestigious annual press photography contest.
After the contest, the prizewinning photographs are assembled into a traveling exhibition that is visited by more than a million people in 40 countries.
Back in May of 2011, a World Press Photo exhibit in Beirut closed early after Lebanese authorities ordered the removal of an Israeli photographer’s prize-winning work. The Lebanese General Security Directorate ordered the organizers to remove the work of Amit Shaal because he is Israeli. Erik de Kruijf, a World Press project manager, said the organization preferred to close the exhibit 10 days early rather than face censorship.
In addition to selecting the World Press Photo of the Year, the contest determines winners in the following categories: Spot News, General News, People in the News, Sports Action, Sports Features, Contemporary Issues, Daily Life, Portraits, Arts and Entertainment, and Nature.
The award jury gave prizes in nine themed categories to 54 photographers of 32 nationalities from Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Jordan, Malaysia, Palestinian Territories, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, USA, and Vietnam.
The members of the jury announced the winners at a press conference held at the World Press Photo office in Amsterdam on 15 February.
Mayu Mohanna, jury member from Peru, said of Paul Hansen’s winning picture: “The strength of the pictures lies in the way it contrasts the anger and sorrow of the adults with the innocence of the children. It’s a picture I will not forget.”
Santiago Lyon, vice president and director of photography at The Associated Press, spoke of the selection of prize winners: “When I look at the results, as chair of the jury, I think that the World Press Photo of the Year, and all the other photos that were given prizes, were solid, stellar examples of first-rate photojournalism that is powerful, that is lasting, and that will reach whoever looks at them.”
The judging was conducted at the World Press Photo office in Amsterdam. All entries were anonymously presented to the jury, who discussed their merits over a two-week period. The jury operates independently and a secretary without voting rights safeguards the fairness of the procedure. The contest drew entries from professional press photographers, photojournalists and documentary photographers across the world. By the mid-January deadline, 103,481 images had been submitted by 5,666 photographers from 124 countries.
Paul Hansen is a photojournalist based in Stockholm, Sweden. As a staff photographer for the daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter, his assignments and self-initiated projects take him all over the world. He has covered Haiti, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and made more than a few visits to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. He was awarded the title “Photographer of the Year” six times in Sweden and the POY 2010 “Newspaper Photographer of the year.”