Flames engulf a masked protestor fleeing a motorbike gas tank explosion in the startling image that has been named the 2018 World Press Photo of the Year. Venezuelan photographer Ronaldo Schemidt captured the photograph, titled Venezuela Crisis, in Caracas in May 2017. The 28-year-old subject of the reportage image survived the incident with first- and second-degree burns.
Judges praised the emotion captured in the photograph, which has also won Ronaldo – a staff photographer for Agence France-Presse – first prize in the Spot News Single category.
“It has an instantaneous energy. The colours, the movement… and it’s very well composed – it has strength,” said 2018 World Press Photo Contest Jury Chair and Director of Photography at Geo France, Magdalena Herrera.
Jury member and National Geographic Deputy Director of Photography Whitney C Johnson labelled the image “symbolic”, continuing: “The man has a mask on his face. He’s come to represent not just himself on fire, but this idea of Venezuela burning.”
The winners of the Canon-sponsored contest were announced at a ceremony in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, with the overall winner awarded a cash prize of €10,000 and Canon camera equipment, including a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.
This year’s contest drew more than 73,000 entries from around the world, from 4,548 photographers. From the 307 shortlisted photographs, 42 photographers were awarded 45 prizes across eight categories.
The nominated images chart some of the past year’s most compelling global events – from the European migrant crisis and liberation of Mosul, Iraq, to the rise in convenience food in China and the use of Japanese macaques in the entertainment industry. And among the first, second and third category prizes awarded were 17 Canon shooters, with five of these photographers awarded first prizes.
Dust, destruction and desolate faces define the emotive Battle for Mosul series by Canon shooter Ivor Prickett, who jurors awarded first prize to in the General News Stories category. Ivor’s images document the plight of the United Nations’ estimated 4,194 civilian casualties during the conflict to liberate Mosul from ISIS, which lasted from November 2016 to July 2017. A child rescued by Iraqi Special Forces (above) – also nominated for the Photo of the Year award – poignantly shows a boy who had been used as a human shield, which the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights pointed out was an extensive practice during the conflict.
In another of Ivor’s images nominated for the prestigious overall prize, a girl’s face turned squarely to the world represents the people in west Mosul left severely short of food and water. Those who chose to remain in the city after the Iraqi government declared it liberated initially relied on aid to survive, others went to camps for displaced people.
A devastating shot communicating the Rohingya crisis, by Patrick Brown for UNICEF, won first prize in the General News Singles category. It was also nominated for Photo of the Year. In his powerful shot, the bodies of refugees who drowned attempting to flee Myanmar are shrouded in thin, wet fabric – of 100 people who got onto this particular boat, only 17 survived.
Canon photographers dominated the Contemporary Issues Single category, with German photographer Jesco Denzel taking first prize for an image shining a spotlight on the struggles of a Nigerian fishing village community.
More than a Woman, a photograph showing gender reassignment surgery in Thailand, won Italian photographer and Canon Ambassador Giulio Di Sturco second prize in the Contemporary Issues Single category. In the image, Dr Suporn Watanyusakul speaks to his patient Olivia Thomas about her new body following surgery to become a woman at a hospital in Chonburi, near Bangkok.
Roger Turesson’s stark image of life inside North Korea, showing an official guarding an exit at the Kim Il-sung Stadium at the start of the Pyongyang Marathon, received third prize in the same category.
The USA’s George Steinmetz received second prize, with Heba Khamis taking first prize in the Contemporary Issues Stories category. George’s series Feeding China, shot for National Geographic, tells the story of China’s rapidly rising incomes, the consequential increased demand for meat, dairy and processed food, and balances it with the ageing farming communities on land increasingly contaminated by industry.
Norwegian photographer Espen Rasmussen travelled through Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland meeting a range of people, from extreme right activists to patriots and those angry at the way the US is governed, in an attempt to understand why white anger has risen to the surface. He received third prize in the Contemporary Issues Stories category for the resulting series White Rage, shot for Panos Pictures.
Wildlife photographer Neil Aldridge has been awarded first prize in the Environment Singles award – a new category for 2018. Waiting for Freedom shows a white rhino blindfolded by a striking red sash, lying against a wall shortly before being released into its new home in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. The endangered animal was relocated from South Africa as part of conservation efforts to save the species from poachers.
Other environmental issues highlighted this year include the surprising phenomenon of mice attacking young albatross on Marion Island, South African Antarctic Territory; declining numbers of penguins on Halifax Island, Namibia; and the different waste-management processes around the world attempting to tackle the 3.5 million tonnes of solid waste now generated per day, 10 times the amount of a century ago.
Spain’s Javier Arcenillas was awarded third prize in the Long Term Projects category for his story Latidoamerica, shot for Luz. Told in a series caught between 2010 and January 2016, Javier charts the armed conflict and socio-economic collapse of many Latin American countries.
This project describes the fear, anger and helplessness of victims living amid the daily terror of uncontrolled violence, as well as the social and political factors that aggressively reinforce that violence.
The Netherlands’ Jasper Doest was awarded second prize in the Nature Stories category with Sacred No More. Once considered revered mediators between gods and humans, macaques in Japan have become more tame, and taken to raiding crops. Jasper tells the story of the commercial entertainment industry involving monkeys that’s existed in Japan for over 1,000 years.
Swedish photojournalist and Canon Ambassador Magnus Wennman has been awarded first prize in the People Singles category for his image showing two bedridden and unresponsive Roma refugee sisters from Kosovo in Hordal, Sweden. They have been diagnosed with uppgivenhetssyndrom, or ‘resignation syndrome’.
Second prize in the People Singles category went to Alessio Mamo for his portrait of 11-year-old Manal, wearing a full face mask following plastic surgery to treat severe burns from a missile explosion in Kirkuk, Iraq.
Tatiana Vinogradova’s project, Girls, was awarded third prize in the People Stories category. The series artfully poses sex workers in their apartments in St Petersburg, Russia – official statistics say that there are one million sex workers nationwide, despite being illegal in Russia.
Through these tender portraits, Tatiana speaks of the decline of the Russian economy that has led to a growing number of women becoming sex workers after losing their jobs.
Third place in the Sports Singles category was Eric Sampers’ aerial image of the Marathon des Sables, a 250km race in the Sahara Desert in southern Morocco where participants carry their own food, sleeping gear and other materials. In the image, the runners appear as diminutive figures in the expansive desert.
Second prize in the Sports Stories category went to Juan D. Arredondo’s Peace Football Club series, which was also shot on Canon and sees members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), having laid down their weapons after more than 50 years of conflict, returning to civilian life… and the football pitch. Members of the Colombian army play friendly matches alongside victims of the conflict.
Second and third behind Ronaldo Schemidt’s World Press Photo Picture of the Year in the Spot News Singles category were Ryan Kelly with Car attack, shot for The Daily Progress, and Goran Tomasevic’s image called Mideast Crisis Iraq Mosul, shot for Reuters.
The winning photographs will go on tour around the globe in the World Press Photo exhibition, with the first opening in De Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, on 13 April 2018.