The World Press Photo of the Year honours the photographer whose visual creativity and skills made a picture that captures or represents an event or issue of great journalistic importance in the last year.
Richardson’s picture–which also won first prize in the Spot News category–shows refugees crossing the border from Serbia into Hungary, near Horgoš (Serbia) and Röszke (Hungary). Taken at night on 28 August 2015, this man and child were part of the movement of people seeking to cross into Hungary before a secure fence on the border was completed.
Richardson is a freelance photographer, currently based in Budapest, Hungary. He explained how the picture was made:
I camped with the refugees for five days on the border. A group of about 200 people arrived, and they moved under the trees along the fence line. They sent women and children, then fathers and elderly men first. I must have been with this crew for about five hours and we played cat and mouse with the police the whole night. I was exhausted by the time I took the picture. It was around three o’clock in the morning and you can’t use a flash while the police are trying to find these people, because I would just give them away. So I had to use the moonlight alone.
Francis Kohn, chair of the general jury, and photo director of Agence France-Presse, said:
Early on we looked at this photo and we knew it was an important one. It had such power because of its simplicity, especially the symbolism of the barbed wire. We thought it had almost everything in there to give a strong visual of what’s happening with the refugees. I think it’s a very classical photo, and at the same time it’s timeless. It portrays a situation, but the way it’s done is classic in the greatest sense of the word.
Other members of the jury also spoke about the winning photograph.
Huang Wen, director of new media development at Xinhua News Agency, said:
It’s a haunting image. You see the anxiousness and the tension in such a mood which is pretty different from those in-your-face images. It’s subtle, and shows the emotion and the real feeling from the deep heart of a father just trying to hand over his baby to the world he was longing to be in. This is really something.
Vaughn Wallace, deputy photo editor Al Jazeera America, said:
This is an incredible image from the refugee crisis of 2015. It’s incredibly powerful visually, but it’s also very nuanced. We’ve seen thousands of images of migrants in every form of their journey, but this image really caught my eye. It causes you to stop and consider the man’s face, consider the child. You see the sharpness of the barbed wire and the hands reaching out from the darkness. This isn’t the end of a journey, but the completion of one stage of a very long future. And so, for me, this had to be the photo of the year.
Lars Boering, managing director of the World Press Photo Foundation, said this year’s contest went smoothly despite the volume of work being considered:
This year we had more photographers and more entries than ever in our contest and we see this as a great support of the industry. As an organization, we are delighted by the outcome this independent jury produced, and ready to present an exhibition of wonderful and powerful imagery to a global audience that can trust what they see. We see that the photographers are as committed as we are to providing accurate and fair images on the world’s most important events and issues. We had a new code of ethics for the photo contest and a transparent and rigorous verification process. This resulted in many more entries being checked, but fewer problems than last year being found. In 10 days we will be releasing a detailed technical report reviewing the verification process, and we will then lead the public conversation on these issues. Today, we celebrate the incredible and important work of all our prizewinners, especially Warren Richardson’s photograph.
To see all the prize winners, click here