At a time when the world seems to have elevated opinions over facts, where beliefs are confused with truth, the World Press Photo jury made a statement of position by highlighting an image of undisputed clarity. The Burhan Ozbilici image of an assassin pointing to the sky in fury after killing the Russian ambassador who lays dead on the floor is one of pure photojournalistic simplicity. No artifacts, no filters or artistic blurs, and no subjective interpretations. Even the surrounding is pure white, with little unnecessary distraction, almost as if shot in a studio with a white backdrop.
It is also an image widely seen all over the internet, already praised by the social media world and overwhelmingly celebrated as one of the best, long before the WWP jury ever assembled. It is also an image of a brief moment that has not captivated the world’s attention for a long time, quickly replaced with other news.
In other words, this year’s jury has gone in full opposition of the trends of the last WPP editions. A return to the roots of photojournalism, one where luck, experience, and journalistic integrity conspired to create an image which hit everyone’s sensitive nerves. An image that we know was not altered (there is a video of the event, also widely circulated). The simple truth of the event, perfectly composed up to the crude raw emotions.
Was it the best of the year? Probably not, and we covered this topic at length before, it doesn’t matter. The Word Press Photo of the Year should be selected just as a calling card, a bait to attract curious onlookers to discover all the other winners and in turn make them think:”Which one would I have picked to be the best? And why?”. Because photojournalism, to be effective, and to be alive, should always make viewers asks questions.
There are some amazing images in this year’s crop, some to be revisited and some to be discovered. The hope is that this will entice not only others to pick up their cameras and do as well, if not better, but more importantly for publications around the world to give them the place that they truly deserve. Now more than ever, photojournalism needs to escape its self-gratifying silo and become the weapon of mass disruption of popularism. It needs to shed its skin of introspective subjectivism to raise hard facts against opportunistic opinions. And publications need to counter fake and biased news with undisputable truth, one photo at a time, every time.
– World Press 2017 winning image by BURHAN OZBILICI/AP