The story behind the World Press Photo of the Year 2017 taken by Burhan Ozbilici.

The story behind the
World Press Photo of the Year

On 19 December 2016, in Ankara, Turkey, AP photographer Burhan Ozbilici was returning home from his office when he decided to stop off at a local art gallery. Nothing could have prepared him for the horror that was about to unfold – the assassination of Russian ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov, who was there to open an exhibition, by off-duty police officer Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş.

Despite the obvious risk to his own life, Ozbilici captured the incident on camera, with the image going on win the World Press Photo of the Year award in 2017. Here he reflects on some of what he felt during that terrifying ordeal.


“They announced that Russian ambassador Andrey Karlov would address the audience so I moved closer to take his picture. Suddenly gunfire broke out and everyone threw themselves to the ground, trying to hide. There was nobody between the gunman and me and I saw Ambassador Karlov lying on the floor.”

“This is not a beautiful picture. When I look at the photos I feel a deep sorrow for Andrey Karlov. I will never forget his eyes, his face, his soft-spoken voice; he was a good man. I’m sorry that you see him and the horrible gunman in the same picture.”

“I was scared but an inner voice told me I had a responsibility to document this historical moment. That overode my fear, and I was able to accept that whatever happened to me at that moment was my fate.”

“If you panic, you lose your way. I decided to do one thing; concentrate on the gunman’s movements. I stood calmly and watched his gestures. I controlled my focus as he moved, always trying to keep him sharp.”

“For me, journalistic bravery has to tie into documenting things that the world needs to know about, and doing so in a sensitive way. Sure, I could have been killed while shooting this but I would not have been killed for nothing.”

Burhan Ozbilici captures police officer Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş shouting after shooting Andrey Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Turkey.

© Burhan Ozbilici, The Associated Press
22-year-old off-duty police officer Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş shouts after shooting Andrey Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Turkey, at an art gallery in Ankara, Turkey.

Ozbilici shot this image on a EOS 5D Mark III with a EF24 105mm f/4L IS USM lens.

Further information about World Press Photo is available at