World Press Photo Contest has crowned Crying Girl on the Border, by US photojournalist John Moore, as 2019 Photo of the Year. Australian photographer, Chris McGrath, won the General News Singles category.
The winning photo, which also won the Spot News Singles category, illustrated US president Donald Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy toward illegal immigrants entering the USA.
‘Immigrant families had rafted across the Rio Grande from Mexico and were then detained by US authorities. Sandra Sanchez said that she and her daughter had been traveling for a month through Central America and Mexico before reaching the US to seek asylum. The Trump Administration had announced a ‘zero tolerance’ policy at the border under which immigrants caught entering the US could be criminally prosecuted. As a result, many apprehended parents were separated from their children, often sent to different detention facilities. After this picture was published worldwide, US Customs and Border Protection confirmed that Yanela and her mother had not been among the thousands who had been separated by US officials. Nevertheless, public outcry over the controversial practice resulted in President Donald Trump reversing the policy on 20 June. ‘
Crying Girl on the Border, which beat 78,801 other images by 4738 photographers, became controversial after accusations the image misrepresented the child as being separated from her mother when she was not.
Moore never explicitly said the child was separated from her mother, the closest he came were these quotes shortly after publishing the capture.
‘As a father myself, it was very difficult for me to see these families detained, knowing that they could soon be split up. I could see on their faces that they had no idea what could possibly happen,’ he said to Getty’s Foto blog.
And he told the Washington Post, ‘I don’t know what the truth is. I fear they were split up’.
The White House and political commentators argued that the image clearly suggested the family was being separated, with anti-Trump media weaponising the image to push an agenda. It was called ‘fake news’.
‘The image is a sad one, but it is of a rather standard occurrence at the border: A mother and her daughter attempted to immigrate illegally and were apprehended,’ wrote political reporter, Aaron Blake, for Washington Post. ‘The mother, in fact, had tried this before and was deported in 2013. The photo says virtually nothing about Trump’s now-aborted policy. In fact, it’s an example of how not all young children were separated from their parents.’
Commenting on the controversy, Moore said ‘our photographs sometimes take on a life of their own later on. As photojournalists, we can’t always control that narrative’.
Here’s what the World Press Photo judges said about the image:
‘It immediately tells you so much about the story. And at the same time, it really makes you feel so connected to it (…). This picture shows a different kind of violence that is psychological,’ said Alice Martins, WPP judge and photojournalist.
‘Ideally a [World Press Photo] Photo of the Year would be surprising, unique, relevant, memorable. The details in the picture are interesting. From the gloves that the border patrol officer is wearing to the fact that the shoelaces have been removed,’ said Whitney Johnson, jury chair.
Almost every year WPP runs into a criticism, whether it’s for providing a platform to terrorists, staged photos, or Photoshopped images. This year many online commenters felt the judges are making a political statement, rather than choosing a genuinely great press photo.
Getty photographer, Chris McGrath, took out the General News category with his image The Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, which was in the running for the top prize.
‘An unidentified man tries to hold back the press as Saudi investigators arrive at the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, amid a growing international backlash to the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
A critic of the Saudi regime, Khashoggi had been missing since entering the consulate on 2 October to obtain documents. After weeks of rumor and false information, Riyadh announced that Khashoggi had been killed accidentally during an altercation. Turkish authorities and the CIA claimed he had been murdered by Saudi intelligence operatives, working under high Saudi authority. ‘
Another Australia photographer, David Gray, came second in the Sports Singles category for his photo, Sunlight Serve.
Here’s a gallery of the Singles category winners.