The World Press Photo Contest has announced that Ukrainian photographer, Evgeniy Maloletka, has won the coveted Photo of the Year award for his photo, The Siege of Mariupol.
The picture ‘perfectly’ captured the human suffering caused by Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine.
New York Times photo editor and World Press Photo Contest global jury chair described Maloletka’s image, unanimously chosen as the winner, as ‘haunting’.
‘With the vote being decided on the first anniversary of the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the jury mentioned the power of the image and the story behind it, as well as the atrocities it shows,’ he said. ‘The death of both the pregnant woman and her child summarized so much of the war, as well as the possible intent of Russia. As one juror put it: “It’s like they are trying to kill the future of Ukraine”.’
The picture is from a photo series by Maloletka. Here is the project description:
The port of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov was the first city struck when Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, on 24 February 2022. Civilians were hit hard.
The strategically important port is one of the largest Russian-speaking cities in Ukraine, a major industrial hub, and vital for the country’s steel exports. The territory was also of symbolic value to invading forces, as it represented a large step towards building a land bridge between the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and Crimea, which Russia had illegally annexed in 2014.
By early March, Russian forces had completely surrounded the city, restricting water, power and food supplies. Some 200,000 citizens were trapped in Mariupol, as attempts to evacuate them failed. Russian bombardment devastated the city, and included civilian targets such as a maternity hospital and a theater where people were sheltering. Evgeniy Maloletka, who is Ukrainian, was one of the very few photographers documenting events in Mariupol at that time.
On 21 April, President Vladimir Putin announced that Russian forces had taken Mariupol, but the city council said that 1,000 civilians alongside thousands of Ukrainian soldiers were holding out in the giant Azovstal steelworks. By 20 May, the soldiers defending the steelworks had surrendered, and the UN and Red Cross were able to evacuate the civilians. The UN Human Rights Office confirmed 1,348 civilian deaths during the siege of Mariupol, stating that the actual death toll was likely thousands higher; Ukraine says that figure is more than 25,000.
At the time of writing in April 2023, Mariupol remained under Russian occupation. Russia has begun rebuilding the city and scrubbing it of its Ukrainian identity by renaming streets and changing school curriculums.
See the other images here.
World Press Photo executive director, Joumana El Zein Khoury, has launched a pre-emptive strike against the ‘millions of people’ who will ‘see death, despair, loss, and crisis’ in these photos.
‘My wish is that they also see what I see. The hope that through documentation there is a chance of justice and a better future, through remembering we honor what is lost, and through the courage and dedication of these photographers we are inspired.’
The World Press Photo Story of the Year has been won by Danish photographer, Mads Nissen, for The Price of Peace in Afghanistan.
The project explores the daily life on people living across Afghanistan in 2022.
Here’s the series description:
In August 2021, the withdrawal of US and allied forces from Afghanistan marked the end of a 20-year long attempt at nation-building. Taliban forces, having sustained an insurgency across the country, returned to power shortly after the collapse of the Afghan state. Consequently, all international aid, which in 2019 accounted for an estimated 80 percent of the country’s expenditures, was halted, and 7 to 9 billion dollars of assets belonging to the Afghan state were frozen. Without these two sources of government income, the already fragile Afghan economy effectively collapsed.
National gross domestic product of Afghanistan dropped to around 25 percent of its peak in early 2021. Estimates for 2022 suggest that 97 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and 95 percent of people do not have enough to eat. Nine million people are at risk of famine and, according to the UN, over a million children are severely malnourished. COVID-19, intense droughts, and the inability of aid organizations to bring relief to those in need have all exacerbated the crisis, which is only expected to worsen in 2023.
Mads Nissen photographed this story on assignment for Politiken. He said: “My hope with this work is more than anything to create not just awareness, but engagement to the millions of Afghans who are desperately in need of food and humanitarian aid right now.”
The Long-Term Project Award goes to Armenian photographer, Battered Waters, a story exploring Post-Soviet Central Asian water management.
The series features 30 pictures – five can be seen in the gallery below.
Here is an excerpt of the project description:
Access to water is one of the most contentious local issues in Central Asia today. Four landlocked countries compete over the water supplies they share – a situation intensified by the climate crisis.
For decades, interdependence between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, upstream on the Syr Darya and Amu Darya rivers, and Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan downstream, encouraged peaceful interaction over use of this resource – but drought, conflicting needs, and water mismanagement are disrupting this long-standing cooperation. Post-Soviet independence of the four countries, the subsequent growth of national identities, and the rise of privatized industries all contribute further to this imbalance.
In the past, upstream countries, dependent on a supply of hydroelectric power that was not sufficient to meet winter needs, received fossil-fuel energy from downstream countries at prices subsidised by the Soviet government. This arrangement allowed upstream countries to conserve water in winter, which they would release in summer when it was needed for irrigation in important agricultural areas downstream. The breakdown of the Soviet subsidy system has led upstream countries to release more water to generate power in winter, which results in downstream flooding and less water for summer irrigation. Downstream countries have resisted Kyrgyzstan’s attempts to extract payment for water.
Lastly, the Open Format Award has been won by Egyptian photographer, Mohamed Mahdy, for his project, Here, The Doors Don’t Know Me.
This web-based project explores the effects of rising seas on the local community in Al Max, a fishing village situated along the Mahmoudiyah canal in Alexandria, Egypt. For generations, its residents have lived and worked on the canal that leads to the Mediterranean Sea. In 2020, the Egyptian government began evicting parts of Al Max and relocating people to housing several kilometers away from the canals, not only demolishing homes, but also endangering the collective memories and local culture embedded in the neighborhood. The stories featured here speak to the precarity of people everywhere striving for recognition amid global economic and environmental upheaval.
People of the Al Max community speak of love letters or last words found in bottles that would wash on to their shores. For this project, Mohamed Mahdy encouraged residents to write their own letters, building an archive of private memories for future generations. Visitors to the website are also encouraged to send their letters to the residents of Al Max, opening a channel of communication to the world. Utilizing found imagery and the artist’s own photography, Mahdy’s project presents an elegy to a communal way of life on the cusp of disappearing.
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