World Press Photo – Photography for raising social awareness

Every year, there are hundreds of photography contests and competitions around the world that present the work of millions of photographers who are doing incredible work that, if it weren’t for these types of celebrations, few people would know about. These events bring photography closer to people and serve as a launching pad for the professionals who participate in them. At Freepik, we are inspired by these events, and they reaffirm our belief in photography as a powerful tool for communication and artistic expression.

What is the World Press Photo?

One of these contests is the World Press Photo, the most important photojournalism, and documentary photography contest in the world, which each year showcases the best photographs worldwide from the previous year. This year, World Press Photo celebrated its sixty-fifth anniversary by changing the rules and holding a competition divided over different continents and then choosing the overall world winner. In this edition of the contest, 65,000 photographs were submitted by more than 4,000 photographers from 130 different countries.

As far as the price is concerned, it’s not actually a significant amount of money, but there is a strong incentive to enter due to the professional prestige it represents. The winner from each continent receives a monetary prize of €1,000, the inclusion of his or her work in the annual world exhibition, inclusion in the catalog, publication of his or her work, and a personal profile on the World Press Photo website, as well as promotion on the organization’s platforms and an invitation to the winners’ conferences, etc. The global winners also receive an additional €5,000.

In addition, in Barcelona, there will be an exhibition of the winning works in the World Press Photo 2022 awards, organized for the eighteenth consecutive year by the Fundación Photographic, which can be visited from November 4 to December 11 at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB).

World Press Photo of the Year

Amber Bracken - World Press Photo Kamloops Residential School.png

The winner was the Canadian Amber Bracken, photographer at the prestigious New York Times, who became the 5th woman to win the contest in its history. Amber won the award after the presentation of her work Kamloops Residential School. The photograph shows dozens of red dresses hanging on crosses along a highway. The installation aims to make visible the history of the children who died in the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, an institution created to acculturate indigenous children, and in which up to 215 burials were recently discovered in mass graves.

The author of the photo stated that: “I wanted to photograph the line of these crosses with these little children’s clothes hanging on them to commemorate and to honor those kids and to make them visible in a way they hadn’t been for a long time. And just as we climbed to the top of that hill the sun broke out of the clouds. It appeared that the rainbow was landing there so the whole thing felt really symbolic and serendipitous, and I just am so grateful for the work of the community to commemorate their children in that way. It just felt like all of those things came together in just the right way at the moment.

You can dig deeper into the story here.

World Press Photo Story of the Year

Matthew Abbott - Saving Forests with Fire - World Press Photo Report of the year

In the Story of the Year section, Australian Matthew Abbott won the award for submitting “Saving Forests with Fire” for National Geographic magazine. In his work, Nawarddeken elder Conrad Maralngurra burns grass to protect the community from late-season bushfires in Mamadawerre, Arnhem Land, Australia. The nighttime fire will naturally die out once the temperature drops and humidity levels rise.

For the photographer: “To be able to do this story is something that I care very deeply about. I think the work the Nawarddeken people are doing is incredible and there is just so much we can learn when it comes to preventing destructive fires and when it comes to caring for the country.

While each image is strong in its own right, the intentionally edited, sequenced images illustrate how culture and environment are inseparable in indigenous cultures. In addition, the story offers a balance between humans and nature in a way that encourages a perspective of interconnectedness and the role of humans as stewards of the earth, according to the competition jury.

World Press Photo Long-Term Project Award

Amazon Dystopia by Lalo de Almeida - World Press Photo Long-Term Project Award

Regarding the Long-Term Project section, the jury decided to award the prize to Amazon Dystopia by Lalo de Almeida, a Brazilian reporter who trained in Italy before deciding to return to Brazil to tell the stories of his people.

The project portrays the social, political, and environmental reality of Brazil under the Bolsonaro presidency. Each image is intentional and impactful in the way the effects of the destruction of the land and the plundering of natural resources are exposed. The jury awarded this project the World Press Photo Long-Term Project Award because it powerfully demonstrates the effects of human abuse of the earth and links these realities to a globally understandable narrative about the climate crisis.

In the photos, Jasson Oliveira do Nascimento, a resident of the Arapixi Extractive Reserve in the Brazilian Amazon uses a chainsaw to clear a path for his canoe on his way to collect Brazil nuts. The reserve was established in 2006 as a protected area with sustainable use of natural resources, to safeguard the livelihoods and culture of the traditional extractive population. It is currently being invaded by land grabbers, who are deforesting the forest and threatening the livelihoods of the 300 families living there.

According to Lalo de Almeida: “The people are in survival mode. They need to work, to have some kind of income to keep their families because if you don’t provide an option for these people, they will become a cheap labor force. So, it’s not just an environmental problem, it’s a social environmental problem.

World Press Photo Open Format Award

The final award was to a video composed of digital and film photographs, some of which were shot on 35 mm film and then drawn by the author’s father.

The work Blood is a Seed, by Ecuadorian Isadora Romero, is about a journey to her village Une in Cundinamarca (Colombia) to learn about its history and explore the forgotten memories of the land and crops, and about her grandfather and great-grandmother, who were “guardians of the seeds”, and grew several varieties of potato of which only two varieties are still consumed in Une. Although the project is an exploration of the past, it uses contemporary techniques in order to preserve this ancient knowledge for the future.

As the jury commented, this is a very strong project that addresses a global issue from a personal angle by reflecting on personal loss. The video is well-paced and is a great example of how the Open Format category is a space where photographers can make use of various media in a coherent and imaginative way to advance a narrative of global relevance.

For her part, the artist stated: “Seeds keep cultural memory. When my father migrated, what happened to that memory? Blood is a Seed is a multimedia video that is narrated in two voices, my father’s and mine. And it talks about the loss of memory in relation to seeds and the loss of agrobiodiversity.

It seems to us that the works recognized in this edition share an important quality. The contest itself has published a book where you can see all the winning works, both global and regional winners. It can be purchased here.


World Press Photo Retrospective

The World Press Photo is a contest that has produced works that have gone on to mark the history of photography. We cannot close this article without highlighting examples such as Charlie Cole with Tank Man from Beijing, winner in 1990; Eddie Adams and his Saigon Execution, winner in 1968 or Manuel Pérez Barriopedro and his snapshot of Tejero’s Failed Coup d’Etat in the Spanish parliament, winner in 1982.

We’re sure that the quality of all the works reflected in this article, which are currently traveling around the planet, have at some point inspired our photographers, and that as a result of this influence, they have been able to produce photographs with all quality and diversity as this selection we’re sharing with you here. At Freepik we have collections of interesting photographs taken by prestigious professionals. And we’re so happy and proud of their work that we’re sure at some point in the future we’ll find their names in the future editions of important national and international contests.