Venezuelan crisis wins World Press Photo contest

A picture by Ronaldo Schemidt of a Venezuelan protester who caught fire during a violent clash with riot police photographer has won the prestigious World Press Photo of the Year Award.

Venezuelan Crisis, Ronald Schemidt, AFP. World Press Photo of the Year.

Two Australian photographers, Patrick Brown and Adam Ferguson, were in the six finalists nominated for the top prize, and they each scored a category win.

(Head’s up: even more graphic photos below)

The Venezuelan Agence France-Presse (AFP) photographer, who also won first prize in the Spot News category, captured the image in May 2017 at Caracas during a violent protest against President Nicolas Maduro.

According to Schemidt, the gas tank of a smouldering police motorbike exploded, covering the man in the photo, José Víctor Salazar Balza, in flames.

‘I just took the camera to catch whatever just happened and then I realised there was a man on fire running next to me,’ Schemidt told Time. ‘He was wrapped in flames, running desperately to those who could help him: demonstrators and emergency medics. I remember his screams and the screams of people around.’

The man survived, suffering first and second-degree burns.

‘The photo of the year has to tell an event, that is important enough, it also has to bring questions… it has to engage and has to show a point of view on what happened in the world this year,’ said WPP chair of jury, Magdalena Herrera. ‘It’s a classical photo, but it has an instantaneous energy and dynamic. The colours, the movement, and it’s very well composed, it has strength. I got an instantaneous emotion.’

Jury member, Bulent Kiliç, chief photographer at Turkey AFK, added: ‘And there is one small detail in the picture. There was a gun on the wall. It reads “paz’. It means peace. That also makes this picture strong.’

The photo was shot with a 1/800 shutter speed, 24mm focal length, 7.1 f-stop, and ISO 400.

Whitney C Johnson, jury member and National Geographic deputy director of photography, said the photo was symbolic – the masked man ‘sort of’ represents not just himself on fire, but this ‘sort of’ idea of Venezuela burning.

Australians win
Panos Pictures photographer, Patrick Brown, won the General News Singles category for his photo Rohingya Crisis.

‘The bodies of Rohingya refugees are laid out after the boat in which they were attempting to flee Myanmar capsized about eight kilometers off Inani Beach, near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Around 100 people were on the boat before it capsized. There were 17 survivors.’

Patrick Brown, Panos Pictures & Unicef.

The photo was commissioned by UNICEF through Panos Pictures.

Brown used a 1/50 shutter speed, 35mm focal length, 2.8 f-stop, and ISO 1600.

New York Times photographer, Adam Ferguson, won the People Stories first prize for his series of young girls kidnapped by Nigerian Boko Haram militants, strapped with explosives but managed to escape before detonating the bombs.

This image was also a contender for Photo of the Year. Adam Ferguson, NY Times.

‘Boko Haram—a Nigeria-based militant Islamist group whose name translates roughly to ‘Western education is forbidden’—expressly targets schools and has abducted more than 2,000 women and girls since 2014. Female suicide bombers are seen by the militants as a new weapon of war. In 2016, The New York Times reported at least one in every five suicide bombers deployed by Boko Haram over the previous two years had been a child, usually a girl. The group used 27 children in suicide attacks in the first quarter of 2017, compared to nine during the same period the previous year.’

Adam Ferguson, NY Times.

The contest is free to enter and drew entries from 4548 photographers from 125 countries, submitting 73,044 images. A total of 42 photographers from 22 countries were awarded in eight categories.

Here’s some other winning photos:

Environment Singles first prize

Waiting for Freedom. South African photographer, Neil Aldridge.
A young southern white rhinoceros, drugged and blindfolded, is about to be released into the wild in Okavango Delta, Botswana, after its relocation from South Africa for protection from poachers.


Sports Singles first prize

Royal Shrovetide Football. UK photographer, Oliver Scarff
Members of opposing teams, the Up’ards and Down’ards, grapple for the ball during the historic, annual Royal Shrovetide Football Match in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, UK.


Nature Singles first prize

Waiting for Freedom. South African photographer, Neil Aldridge.
A young southern white rhinoceros, drugged and blindfolded, is about to be released into the wild in Okavango Delta, Botswana, after its relocation from South Africa for protection from poachers.


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