February 14th, 2013

Want to Guess What Will Win World Press Photo of the Year?

@ Samuel Aranda

@ Samuel Aranda

The announcement of the World Press Photo of the Year 2012 winner is now less than 24 hours away. Speculation is ripe: Which international news story will be depicted in the photo that wins the top prize?  The conflict in Mali, or Syria? Protests against austerity measures in Greece? Political unrest in Egypt? Hurricane Sandy?

The other question is: How will the news story be depicted? Since 1955, most of the World Press Photo winners have shown lone individuals who symbolize a larger story: a single grieving or injured or dead individual standing in for many who were left grieving, injured or dead by a conflict or natural disaster.  Only twice have the winning images shown groups of people in danger.   The number of winning images that depict  women in moments of grave danger, distress or overwhelming grief have far outnumbered the number of photos that show men in similar situations.  Women, alone or in groups, are usually shown as the passive bystanders to conflict or disaster.

© Jodi Bieber/Institute Management/Goodman Gallery for Time

© Jodi Bieber/Institute Management/Goodman Gallery for Time

That trend shifted in the past three years. The women subjects of the last three World Press Photo winners are depicted not as victims but as survivors. Take for example, photographer Jodi Bieber’s 2010 World Press Photo of the Year, the portrait of Bibi Aisha, the Afghan woman whose nose and ears were cut off as retribution for fleeing her husband’s home. Aisha looks calmly into the camera lens. In the 2009 World Press Photo of the Year, taken by Pietro Masturzo of AP,  a woman shouts from a rooftop in Tehran, Iran, after the results of her country’s disputed election results were announced. This defiant woman is a stand-in for the many citizens from all walks of life who took to the streets to protest the election. Last year’s winning image, by Samuel Aranda, shows a woman in a hospital – not an uncommon motif among World Press Photo winners – but the Pieta-like composition shows a woman, her face covered by a veil, giving comfort to a family member injured in the violence in Yemen.

So will the winner announced tomorrow depict conflict, disaster or triumph, through a single person – maybe a man? –or a group? What’s your guess for what story – and what kind of symbol – will win?

Related articles:
Samuel Aranda Wins 2011 World Press Photo of the Year

Jodi Bieber Wins 2010 World Press Photo of the Year

February 14th, 2012

Yemeni Woman in World Press Photo of the Year Speaks Out

© Samuel Aranda

In Samuel Aranda’s photo, named World Press Photo of the Year last week, she is an unidentified, veiled woman who symbolizes thousands who have suffered in the anti-government demonstrations that swept the Arab world this past year. Now the woman behind the veil has come forward, according to an article in the Yemen Times.

Fatima Al-Qawas, a resident of Sana’a, Yemen, tells the Yemen Times that she had gone to a field hospital on October 15 in search of her 18-year-old son, who had taken part in demonstrations against the Yemeni government. The photo shows her holding him as he was recovering from tear gas exposure.

“It was after an attack against demonstrators on Al-Zubairy Street,” she says. “I went to the field hospital and did not see my son among the dead or wounded protesters. I checked the place again and saw my son lying on the ground suffocated with tear gas,” she explained. “So I embraced him and [the photographer] must have taken the photo at that moment.” Al Qawas’s son, Zayed, says of the photo, “I did not expect this photo to win among thousands of pictures and it is a real support to the revolution,” he told the Yemen Times. “It demonstrates that Yemenis are not extremists.”

Related Story
Samuel Aranda Wins 2012 World Press Photo of the Year