Warren Richardson has just won the World Press Photo of the Year 2015 award with his haunting photograph of a man passing a baby under barbed wire on the Serbian/Hungarian border during last year’s refugee crisis. The crisis saw thousands of refugees and displaced people flood into Europe to escape the war and turmoil still going in the Middle East.
Richardson, an Australian freelance photographer, captured this incredible photograph in the early morning hours near Horgoš (Serbia) and Röszke (Hungary). The photograph, which also won the Spot News category, is of a Syrian refugee passing a baby under barbed wire before Hungary could construct a secure fence.
In Warren Richardson’s own words, this was his experience on the border for 5 days:
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.
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.
This moving photograph was shot by moonlight because Richardson said using a flash would alert the police to their location. The image was shot at 3 a.m. August 28, 2015, and isn’t technically perfect, but the grainy, and charcoal-like quality is a haunting view of the great lengths refugees must go through in order to find safety.
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.
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.
The 2015 World Press Photo of The Year Contest Draws Big Numbers
The 2016 contest drew entries from around the world: 5,775 photographers from 128 countries submitted 82,951 images. The jury gave prizes in eight categories to 41 photographers from 21 countries: Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Portugal, Russia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Turkey, and the USA. Discover all of the winners and the awarded photos in an image gallery here.
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 prize winners, especially Warren Richardson’s photograph.
To read about the controversy over last year’s World Press Photo of the Year Award, and my chat with the Lars Boering the managing director of World Press Photo, on the 20% of photographers disqualified for image editing too much, click here.