The grand prize in the latest World Press Photo contest went to Paul Hansen of the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, for his dramatic image of men carrying two dead children, aged two and three, down an alley in Gaza City.
The children were killed last November when their house was destroyed by an Israeli air strike, which took an estimated 103 civilian lives including 30 children. In Hansen’s photograph, each man’s face is animated by a subtly different emotion.
“The strength of the picture lies in the way it contrasts the anger and sorrow of the adults with the innocence of the children. It’s a picture I will not forget,” said jury member Mayu Mohanna in a statement released by World Press Photo.
At Taipei’s Studio 94, that’s the first image visitors see. The gallery is hosting other prizewinners from the 2013 World Press Photo contest until Nov. 10.
Founded in 1955, World Press Photo is a nonprofit organization based in the Netherlands. It runs workshops and a publishing house, though is best known for its annual international photography contest, the largest of its kind.
For the latest contest, 5,666 photographers from 124 countries submitted images taken last year. An international jury gave prizes to 54, whose works have been compiled into a traveling exhibition.
Placed near Hansen’s Gaza Burial at Studio 94 are more records of conflict: in Jerusalem, Sudan, Barcelona and particularly in Syria, where over 60,000 people have been killed since war began two years ago, according to the UN.
The photos also document quieter strife, like that of Italy’s Mirella, wife and caretaker of Luigi, who is degenerating from Alzheimer’s.
“After five years of the disease, Luigi no longer recognized his wife,” writes photographer Fausto Podavini in the gallery notes.
BEST OF 2012
There are images of triumph, too. Studio 94 is laid out like a house, a majestic establishment with a kitchen, a playroom and several small verandas. In one den are Maika Elan’s portraits of long-term same-sex couples in Vietnam, where the stigma against homosexuality is strong.
In the sports category, best feature went to a series of four photos of women in Somalia who play basketball in the face of shelling and other threats from radical Islamists. In Jan Grarup’s black-and-white portfolio, the women are disarmingly unguarded.
The winning photos were hard to shoot, said Bill Frakes, jury chair of the sports category, in an interview provided by World Press Photo.
“You have to earn trust, you always have to gain trust, but especially in a situation like this,” Frakes said.
“He looked past the obvious sports photograph and went deeper into it. It was the intersection of culture and sport and life and art and he got it. He was there, he understood it, he captured it and he brought it back,” Frakes said.
Of the nine prizes in the sports category, three went to entries about the London Olympics. Australia’s Chris McGrath took third place in sports action for wide-range birds-eye series on a mix of events, while Sergei Ilnitsky from Russia won for a crisp series on fencing. Jurors also recognized Chinese photographer Wei Zheng (魏征) for his single on synchronized swimming.
Another prize went to a portrait of Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei (艾未未) by Malaysia’s Stefan Chow. It’s a shot of Ai staring straight ahead with fingers awkwardly curled over a smartphone, looking like a cool dad.
The Thermos Foundation has organized the World Press Photo exhibition for 15 years, housing it first in Eslite Bookstore in Dunhua and then at the Shilin Paper Factory.
Two years ago, they moved the show to Studio 94, a refurbished luxury home on a mountain. It’s remote, but the upside is additional space and a calmer neighborhood, said Thermos Foundation gallerist Kay Chuang (莊秀隆).
The show’s new location has also thinned its crowd, Chuang said.
“Back when we were at Eslite, the exhibition was easy to get to and there were so many visitors. Now we’re seeing fewer people, but they tend to stay for a long time,” she said.