World Press Photos of Year 2011

Yasuyoshi Chiba won the first prize for the People in the News category for his “Aftermath of the Tsunami” series, which you can see here. The last photo in Chiba’s series was the starting point for this column, which I wrote earlier this year. Chiba winning this prize has me deeply thrilled. Not because I know him but because it’s strangely heartening to know that work that moves you moves those who give out respected prizes as well. This is not to suggest that I’d like Chiba’s work any less if he hadn’t won the award. Rather, I’m giving myself a little gold star for me for having spotted a good one while trawling through all the images that we’re bombarded with on an everyday basis. (Yes, of course it’s all about *me*.)

Predictably, a lot of the winning photographs are beautiful as well as poignant. I love this one, by Damir Sagolj, which won first prize in Daily Life Singles.

The precision and the geometry of it is spectacular. Add to that the colours whose brightness seems to have faded off, and you can almost feel the claustrophobia.  You can see Sagolj’s entire Pyongyang series here.

The winner of World Press Photo of 2011 is Samuel Aranda. He won it for this photograph:

It was taken in Yemen. I was reminded of brief Twitter conversation I had with @polgrim, after he posted this article on Christian imagery in photographs taken of the Arab Spring. The resemblance between the Pieta and this photograph by Aranda is obvious. Would the sight of a woman holding an injured relative in her arms feel any less poignant if we didn’t have a wealth of Church-commissioned paintings and sculptures to drive home the pathos of a man fighting the system and giving up his life without knowing that he has necessarily effected any change? I’d like to believe we’d still find it moving, but perhaps we wouldn’t see it from as similar an angle (Bowed woman’s head with covering? Check. Hands visible? Check. Skeletal male body? Check. Cradling? Check. Shot from the front? Check). But my nitpickiness aside, it’s still a powerful photo.

You can see all the winners here.

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