THE HAGUE – An emotion-charged photo of a young man illuminated by cellphone lights as he recites poetry amid a crowd of protesters calling for civilian rule in Sudan won the prestigious World Press Photo award on Thursday.
The image, titled “Straight Voice,” was captured by Japanese photographer Yasuyoshi Chiba, in Khartoum on June 19 last year. Chiba is Chief Photographer for East Africa and Indian Ocean for French news agency Agence France-Presse. The photo also won first prize in the General News Singles category.
The protesters were calling for a return to civilian rule in Sudan after the military toppled long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir in April.
“This moment was the only peaceful group protest I encountered during my stay,” Chiba said in a statement released by the Amsterdam-based World Press Photo Foundation as it announced this year’s winners. “I felt their undefeated solidarity like burning embers that remain to flare up again.”
Chris McGrath, a photographer for Getty Images and member of the 2020 jury, called the winning photo “just a really beautiful, quiet photograph that summed up all the unrest across the globe of people wanting change.”
Protests and grief in Africa were strongly represented among news winners, with a series of images by Associated Press photographer Mulugeta Ayene of grieving families and other people at the site of the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302 near Addis Ababa winning the Spot News Stories category. The series also was one of three nominations for Story of the Year and one of the images was among six nominations for the World Press Photo award.
The Boeing 737 MAX crashed into a field shortly after take-off, killing all 157 passengers and crew.
“It’s truly an honor to have Associated Press (AP) photographs included among the winners of this year’s World Press Photo contest,” said AP’s Director of Photography, J. David Ake. “And as a former Agence France-Presse (AFP) staff photographer, I would like to offer a tip o’ the hat to Yasuyoshi Chiba for his Photo of the Year”
The World Press Photo Story of the Year also came from Africa, with French photographer Romain Laurendeau winning for a series titled “Kho, the Genesis of a Revolt,” focusing on the roots of protests that erupted last year in Algeria. The series also won the Long-Term Projects category.
The closing date for entries was Jan. 14, before the coronavirus outbreak gripped the globe and began dominating news coverage. In all, 4,282 photographers submitted just under 74,000 photos. The 44 winners came from 24 different countries, organizers said.
Esther Horvath of Hungary won the Environment Singles category with a photo for The New York Times of a polar bear and her cub near equipment placed by scientists investigating the consequences of Arctic climate change. AP photographer Noah Berger won second prize with an aerial image of firefighters battling the Marsh Complex Fire, near the town of Brentwood, California.
Canadian Mark Blinch won the Sports Singles top prize with a dramatic image for NBAE of Toronto Raptors player Kawhi Leonard watching his match-winning, buzzer-beating shot drop into the net to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 7 of the NBA’s Eastern Conference Semifinals.
AP photographer Silvia Izquierdo won second prize with an image of fans of Brazilian soccer team Flamengo cheering a goal against River Plate of Argentina in the final of the Copa Libertadores. The fans were watching the match on giant screens at Rio de Janeiro's Maracanã Stadium.
Another AP photographer, Ramon Espinosa, won third prize in the Spot News Singles category for an image of people wading along a flooded road in Freeport, Grand Bahama, after Hurricane Dorian pummeled the island. First prize in the category went to Farouk Batiche of German news agency dpa for a photo of students scuffling with police during a demonstration in Algiers.