Rescue workers evacuate a woman in the aftermath of a Russian attack in Mariupol, Ukraine.
Photo by Evgeniy Maloletka/AP
Associated Press photographer Evgeniy Maloletka‘s image of the aftermath of a Russian attack on a hospital in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol in March 2022 was given the top honor in the 2023 World Press Awards.
Maloletka was documenting daily life under conflict in Mariupol when he captured this scene of workers rushing Iryna Kalinina, injured and pregnant, away from a maternity hospital that was damaged during a Russian airstrike on March 9, 2022.
Iryna’s baby, named Miron after the word for ‘peace,’ was stillborn. Iryna died half an hour later. She was 33. In an interview before the award announcement, Maloletka told the AP, “For me, it is a moment that all the time I want to forget, but I cannot. The story will always stay with me.”
The contest jury said they ‘felt that this image captures the absurdity and horror of war. It is an accurate representation of the year’s events and evidence of the war crimes being committed against Ukrainian civilians by Russian forces. The image rises as a deeply painful historical fact and highlights the murder of future generations of Ukrainians. By giving the image a platform, the jury hopes that the world will stop and acknowledge the intolerable realities of this war and consider the future of Ukraine.’
Three other global winners were also selected Thursday.
Mads Nissen won Photo Story of the Year for his series of images documenting daily life in Afghanistan. Anush Babajanyan won the Long-Term Project award about water rights access in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Mohamed Mahdy won the Open Format award for his multimedia project examining rising sea levels and the impact on communities in Alexandria, Egypt.
The final winners were selected from more than 60,000 entries submitted by 3,752 entrants from 127 countries.
‘The four global winners represent the best photos and stories from the most important and urgent stories of 2022,’ jury chair Brent Lewis wrote. ‘They also help to continue the tradition of what it is possible to do with photography, and how photography helps us to see the universality of the human condition.’
Nissen’s worked in Afghanistan in 2022, witnessing the aftermath of the August 2021 withdrawal of US and allied forces after 20 years.
‘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,’ Nissen said in a statement provided by World Press Photo.
Nissen’s story covers the return of the Taliban to power in the nation, the impacts of the halting of international resources and economic programs, domestic export of goods and services, changes to daily life for women and ultimately the effective collapse of an already fragile Afghan economy.
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.
The jury found the work to be a relevant and valuable look at the Taliban takeover of the country and the changing economic and culture norms that came in their wake.
‘The project demonstrates an airtight, traditional approach that elucidates the failures of the American adventure in Afghanistan to give us a well rounded look at how these failures have impacted the people,’ the jury said.
The awards also recognized Babajanyan for her project about water access in Central Asia where four landlocked countries compete over a limited supply of water that grows smaller due to climate change.
For years the four nations of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan had cooperated to manage access to the Syr Darya and Amu Darya rivers with upstream countries. Dependent on a supply of hydroelectric power that was not sufficient to meet winter needs, they received fossil-fuel energy from downstream countries at prices subsidized 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.
Visitors photograph the Rogun Dam, being built in eastern Tajikistan to provide hydroelectric power. The 335-meter-high dam is due for completion in 2028-2029.
Photo by Anush Babajanyan VII Photo/National Geographic Society
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.
Recent droughts have only intensified the situation.
‘Water intertwines with their lives. People’s lives are also changing because the climate is changing, and they have to adapt to that, too,’ Babajanyan said. ‘I wanted to capture this powerful spirit. One of the reasons I’m happy that this project was a winner is that it means I can share the story with a wider audience. Stories from Central Asia are not covered enough.’
The jury said it appreciated that ‘the photographer stayed clear of regional clichés and instead, thoughtfully represents water struggles/scarcity by depicting people’s diverse relationships to and uses of water in its various forms. There is a smooth connection of images across countries that are all united by the same struggles.’
Finally, Mahdy’s immersive project combines sound, photos, text and micro animations to create a journal-like experience of collected stories and dispatches from a fishing community living along a canal in Egypt.
Mahdy’s interactive website blends audio with visuals to take viewers to Egypt.
Photo by Mohamed Mahdy
Generations of people had lived in and around Al Max, making their living on the waters of the Mahmoudiyah canal, which connected their fishing boats to the Mediterranean. Mahdy combined original photography with found images to piece together the history and community of Al Max, which is at risk of being lost to rising sea levels and a government plan to forcefully relocate people from the area.
In his research, Mahdy learned of the love letters or last words found in bottles that would wash on to the shores, and for his project he 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 outside world.
Collected letters, both found by an written by residents around the Mahmoudiyah canal.
Photo by Mohamed Mahdy
The jury said it was impressed by the photographer’s ‘thorough research and engagement with the images, which resulted in a holistic story and gave the audience the opportunity to visualize and interact with the issue at hand.’
|Photo by Mohamed Mahdy|
These images and more winning images from the 66th annual World Press Photo Contest will be on display in De Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam.