They are the defining images of the world in 2012, each one reflecting a single, fleeting moment of a year gone by.
Whether it is of the misery of a loved one killed by an enemy missile attack, the overwhelming joy at winning Olympic gold, or the intimate devotion of an elderly wife to her dying husband, each photograph provides a fascinating snapshot of life on Earth.
The winners of the World Press Photo Awards, one of photojournalism’s most prestigious contests, were announced today, issuing awards in nine categories to 54 photographers of 32 nationalities.
The overall winner was Swedish photographer Paul Hansen for his picture of two Palestinian children killed in an Israeli missile strike being carried to their funeral.
The photo shows a group of men marching the dead bodies through a narrow street in Gaza City. The victims, a brother and sister, are wrapped in white cloth with only their faces showing.
‘The strength of the pictures lies in the way it contrasts the anger and sorrow of the adults with the innocence of the children,’ said jury member Mayu Mohanna of Peru. ‘It’s a picture I will not forget.’
Hansen’s November 20 shot won top prize in both the spot news single photograph category and the overall competition. It portrays two-year-old Suhaib Hijazi and her three-year-old brother Muhammad, who were killed when their house was destroyed by the Israeli attack. They are being carried by grieving uncles, as their father Fouad was also killed, and his body can be seen in the background of the picture.
The children’s mother, whose name was not provided, was in intensive care.
‘This prize is the highest honour you can get in the profession,’ Hansen said. ‘I’m very happy, but also very sad. The family lost two children and the mother is unconscious in a hospital.’
‘These situations are so visually complex,’ he added. ‘It’s difficult to convey the emotions, to translate what is happening. The light is harsh and there are a lot of people.
‘But in the alley the light bounced off the walls, so I thought this is a place where you can see that it’s a procession. … You get the depth in the image, and the bouncing light.’
Violence in the Middle East, and its effect upon civilians, was the dominant theme in the hard news categories.
The Associated Press won eight awards in all, including top prizes for a spot news series for Bernat Armangue of Spain for photos he took in Gaza during November; and for Rodrigo Abd of Argentina for general news single photograph, with a picture of a woman with a bloodstained face weeping in Idib, Syria, on March 10.
She was identified as Aida, and her photo of silent grief is in some ways a reverse image of Hansen’s winning shot. She received severe injuries when her house was shelled by the Syrian Army, killing her husband and two children.
The photos were submitted anonymously to a panel of 19 jury members, chaired by AP Director of Photography Santiago Lyon, and judged in multiple rounds.
The winners were all ‘stellar examples of first-rate photojournalism,’ Lyon said.
Other judges came from Germany, Iraq, Peru, France, Sweden, China, Britain, Spain, Azerbaijan, South Africa, The Netherlands, Switzerland and the U.S.