Climate Change and Activism: The World’s Best Photographers Capture the Spirit of the Past Year

Auteurs: Olivia Kestin et Leah Rodriguez

© Yasuyoshi Chiba, Agence France-Presse

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Environmental issues and youth activism captivated the attention of many of the world’s best photographers in 2019. Now, many of their images are under consideration for the 63rd World Press Photo Contest for contributing to the past year of visual journalism. 

World Press Photo announced 44 nominees from 24 countries out of the 73,996 submissions it received from 4,282 photographers across 125 countries on Feb. 25. The photographers’ work highlights the most pressing world issues and will be judged in eight categories — contemporary issues, environment, general news, nature, portraits, sports, and spot news.

Winners will be announced at an awards show hosted by World Press Photo in Amsterdam in April and will receive a cash prize of 10,000 euros. The winners’ work will then be showcased in a year-long traveling exhibition that makes stops in 120 cities and 50 countries. 

“Especially in the times we’re living in, when we have a lot of violence, a lot of conflict, it’s important that we have an image that inspires people,” said the 2020 World Press Photo contest judge Lekgetho Makola, according to Peta Pixel.

Photographers shined a spotlight on dire crises in Venezuela, Iran, Syria, and Guatemala. Others showcased the resilience of displaced Yazidi women and women in Belarus faced with tough reproductive health decisions.

Nominees also captured movements for change including Sudan’s pro-democracy protests, as well as anti-government demonstrations in Algeria and Hong Kong. The urgency to address climate change is felt in images that depict how Australia’s bushfires affected wildlife, the impact of natural disaster in the Bahamas, pollution in Uganda, the current state of the Arctic, and what circular economy solutions look like.

Read More: 32 Stunning Photos That Show the Depth of Humanity Around the World

Other submissions celebrated activists fighting LGBTQ discrimination in South Africa, and young women who are finding empowerment through soccer in Benin.

“Every single image that made it to that level is a good image technically, so it’s no longer about just judging around the technique. It’s about the potential impact of the image to a society,” Makola said.


Nominees for the World Press Photo of the Year: 

Relative Mourns Flight ET 302 Crash Victim:

001_World Press Photo of the Year Nominee_Mulugeta Ayene_Associated Press.jpgA relative of a victim of the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302 throws dirt in her face as she grieves at the scene where the Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed shortly after takeoff on Sunday killing all 157 outside Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on March 14, 2019.
Image: © Mulugeta Ayene, Associated Press

Clash with the Police During an Anti-Government Demonstration:

002_World Press Photo of the Year Nominee_Farouk Batiche_Deutsche Presse-Agentur.jpgStudents scuffle with riot police during an anti-government demonstration in Algiers, Algeria, on May 21, 2019. Algeria has been embroiled in protests since last year, with protests initally aimed at ousting long-time president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
Image: © Farouk Batiche, Deutsche Presse-Agentur

Straight Voice: 

003_World Press Photo of the Year Nominee_Yasuyoshi Chiba_Agence France-Presse.jpgA young man, illuminated by mobile phones during a blackout, recites protest poetry while demonstrators chant slogans calling for civilian rule, in Khartoum, Sudan, on June 19, 2019.
Image: © Yasuyoshi Chiba, Agence France-Presse

Awakening:

004_World Press Photo of the Year Nominee_Tomek Kaczor_for Duży Format, Gazeta Wyborcza-Edited.jpgEwa, 15-year-old Armenian girl who has recently woken from catatonic state brought on by Resignation Syndrome (RS), sits in a wheelchair next to her parents, in a refugee reception center in Poland. RS affects psychologically traumatized children.
Image: © Tomek Kaczor, for Duży Format, Gazeta Wyborcza

Injured Kurdish Fighter Receives Hospital Visit:

005_World Press Photo of the Year Nominee_Ivor Prickett_for The New York Times.jpgAhmed Ibrahim, an 18-year-old SDF fighter badly burned in conflict with Turkish forces, is visited by his girlfriend at a hospital in Syria, on Oct. 20, 2019. She had been too horrified by his injuries to see him, but a nurse encouraged her to go in.
Image: © Ivor Prickett, for The New York Times

Nothing Personal - the Back Office of War:

006_World Press Photo of the Year Nominee_Nikita Teryoshin.jpgA man locks away a pair of anti-tank grenade launchers at the end of the day, at the International Defense Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) in Abu Dhabi, UAE, on Feb. 18, 2019. IDEX is the biggest defense exhibition and conference in the Middle East.
Image: © Nikita Teryoshin

Nominees for the World Press Photo Story of the Year: 

Hong Kong Unrest:

At the end of March 2019, protests kicked off in Hong Kong in response to government proposals to amend existing legislation and allow extradition to mainland China. 

Anti-government demonstrations gathered momentum over the following weeks as pro-democracy groups united, with students playing a large role in protests and in human-chain rallies.

On June 12, 2019, tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered around the Legislative Council building ahead of a debate on the extradition laws, and were met with violent opposition from police. Protests continued to escalate, both in frequency and size, as did police counter-measures.

Face masks were banned by authorities, and at a demonstration on Oct. 1, 2019 — which marked the 70th anniversary of the declaration of the People's Republic of China — police fired live ammunition at protesters for the first time.

After initially proposing postponements and amendments to legislation, Chief Executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam eventually announced that she would withdraw the bill.

This was done in October, 2019, but protesters’ demands had broadened to include implementation of genuine universal suffrage and release of arrested protestors, and unrest continued into 2020.

Hong Kong Unrest

Hong Kong Unrest
A man holds a poster in Shatin, Hong Kong, as people gather to sing a protest song, on Sept. 11, 2019.
© Nicolas Asfouri, Agence France-Presse

Hong Kong Unrest

Hong Kong Unrest
Students cross a road to school after participating in a human-chain rally, in Hong Kong, on Sept. 12, 2019.
© Nicolas Asfouri, Agence France-Presse

Hong Kong Unrest

Hong Kong Unrest
Riot police run towards protesters on Nathan Road in Hong Kong, on Dec. 1, 2019.
© Nicolas Asfouri, Agence France-Presse

Hong Kong Unrest

Hong Kong Unrest
A woman holds up an umbrella (a symbol of protest) during protests in the Causeway Bay district of Hong Kong, on Oct. 1, 2019.
© Nicolas Asfouri, Agence France-Presse

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 Crash Site

Just six minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa airport, on March 10, 2019, Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 — a Boeing 737 MAX — disappeared from the radar and crashed into a field, killing all 157 people on board. 

On Nov. 14, eight months after the crash, the site of the impact was covered and the unidentified remains of victims buried in rows of identical coffins. 

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 Crash Site

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 Crash Site
Relatives grieve at the crash site of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302, south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on March 13, 2019.
© Mulugeta Ayene, Associated Press

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 Crash Site

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 Crash Site
Relatives hold a photograph of a victim of the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302 at a mass funeral at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on March 17, 2019.
© Mulugeta Ayene, Associated Press

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 Crash Site

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 Crash Site
A relative of a victim of the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302 throws dirt in her face as she grieves at the crash site of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302, outside Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on March 14, 2019.
© Mulugeta Ayene, Associated Press

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 Crash Site

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 Crash Site
Onlookers inspect debris at the crash site of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302, outside Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on March 11, 2019.
© Mulugeta Ayene, Associated Press

Kho, the Genesis of a Revolt

Young people make up more than half of Algeria’s population and, according to a UNESCO report, 72% of people under 30 in Algeria are unemployed.

Pivotal moments in Algerian history, such as the "Black October" revolt of 1988, have had youth at their core. Black October was harshly suppressed, with more than 500 people killed in five days, and was followed by a "black decade" of violence and unrest.

Now, 30 years on, the effects of that decade are still present. In a traumatized country, high unemployment leads to boredom and frustration in everyday life and many young people feel disassociated from the state and its institutions.

In February 2019, thousands of young people from working-class neighborhoods again took to the streets in what became a nationwide challenge to the reign of long-time president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Kho, a word that means "brother" in colloquial North-African Arabic, is about the genesis of a revolt.

It is the story of the deep unease of youth, who, by daring to challenge authority, inspired the rest of the population to join their action, giving birth to the largest protest movement in Algeria in decades.

Kho, the Genesis of a Revolt

Kho, the Genesis of a Revolt
An old man sits on a staircase in Bab el-Oued, Algiers, Algeria, on May 31, 2014.
© Romain Laurendeau

Kho, the Genesis of a Revolt

Kho, the Genesis of a Revolt
Young people relax in a diki in Algiers, Algeria, on Dec. 6, 2016. In neglected working-class neighborhoods, young people often seek refuge in diki, a private place that provide freedom away from the gaze of society and from conservative social values.
© Romain Laurendeau

Kho, the Genesis of a Revolt

Kho, the Genesis of a Revolt
A young man carries a trumpet in Bab el-Oued, Algiers, Algeria, with a crowd around him. Nobody knows how to play the instrument, so he causes widespread enthusiasm.
© Romain Laurendeau

Kho, the Genesis of a Revolt

Kho, the Genesis of a Revolt
Young people watch a soccer match at the Olympia Cinema in Algiers, Algeria, on March 16, 2016.
© Romain Laurendeau

Kho, the Genesis of a Revolt

Kho, the Genesis of a Revolt
Soccer fans sing during a match in Algiers, Algeria, on Nov. 22, 2014.
© Romain Laurendeau

Nominees in the categories of general news, environment, contemporary issues, nature, portrait, sports, spot news, and long-term projects.

108_Lee-Ann Olwage.jpgBlack Drag Magic - Portrait of a Drag Artist & Activist: Belinda Qaqamba Ka-Fassie at a shisanyama, a community space where women cook and sell meat, in Khayelitsha, a township near Cape Town, South Africa. Nominated in the portrait singles category.
Image: © Lee-Ann Olwage

064_Ivor Prickett_for The New York Times.jpgISIS and its Aftermath in Syria: As ISIS retreated, tens of thousands of people emerged, many of them wives and children, or captured, IS fighters. The Kurds had to decide what to do with so many prisoners. Nominated in the general news stories category.
Image: © Ivor Prickett, for The New York Times

052_Katie Orlinsky_for National Geographic.jpgThe Carbon Threat: The Arctic permafrost is thawing at a faster rate than predicted, releasing carbon gases that could speed up global heating. This particularly impacts indigenous communities in the region. Nominated in the environment stories category.
Image: © Katie Orlinsky, for National Geographic

023_Sean Davey_for Agence France-Presse.jpgBushfire Evacuation Center: Abigail Ferris, center, plays with friends at a temporary evacuation center in New South Wales, Australia, Dec. 31, 2019. Nominated in the contemporary issues singles category.
Image: © Sean Davey, for Agence France-Presse

130_Olivier Papegnies.jpgThe Gouandé Gazelles: The Gazelles de Gouandé in northern Benin is one of 16 football teams set up across the country with the goal of giving young women more control over their futures through sport. Nominated in the sports stories category.
Image: © Olivier Papegnies

109_Alon Skuy_ Sunday Times-edit.jpgMusa’s Struggle and Search for the Stage: Professional dancer Musa Motha, who dances on crutches, poses after a practice session in Newtown, Johannesburg, South Africa. Nominated in the portrait singles category.
Image: © Alon Skuy, Sunday Times

040_Frederic Noy_Panos Pictures.jpgLake Victoria Dying: A fisherman, who works illegally on Lake Victoria, refloats the boat that he keeps hidden all day before going fishing with a colleague, in Murchison Bay, Uganda. Nominated in the environment singles category.
Image: © Frédéric Noy, Panos Pictures

027_Nicolò Filippo Rosso.jpgExodus: The political and socio-economic crisis in Venezuela led to an outflow of migrants, due to insecurity, violence, lack of access to food, medicine, and loss of income due to the situation. Nominated in the contemporary issues stories category.
Image: © Nicolò Filippo Rosso

039_Esther Horvath_for The New York Times.jpgPolar Bear and Her Cub: A polar bear and her cub look at equipment placed by scientists from a ship that is part of an expedition investigating the consequences of Arctic climate change, on Oct. 10, 2019. Nominated in the environment singles category.
Image: © Esther Horvath, for The New York Times

138_Ramon Espinosa_Associated Press.jpgDorian’s Devastation: Volunteers wade along a flooded road in Freeport, Grand Bahama, on Sept. 3, 2019, after Hurricane Dorian hit the island. Nominated in the spot news singles category.
Image: © Ramon Espinosa, Associated Press

110_Adam Ferguson_for The New York Times Magazine-edit.jpgThe Haunted: Displaced Yazidi people and other minorities were liberated when the Islamic State retreated from territory around Mosul and Northern Iraq, but many former prisoners were in severe states of trauma. Nominated in the portraits stories category
Image: © Adam Ferguson, for The New York Times Magazine

104_Brent Stirton_Getty Images_for National Geographic.jpgPangolins in Crisis: A 2017 report states that pangolins are currently the most illegally traded animals in the world, with at least one million estimated to have been poached in the last ten years. Nominated in the nature stories category.
Image: © Brent Stirton, Getty Images, for National Geographic

141_Matthew Abbott_Panos Pictures_for The New York Times.jpgAustralia’s Bushfire Crisis: This past annual fire season in Australia was exceptionally severe. By the end of Jan. 2020, over 30 people were killed, 3,000 homes lost, and around 12M hectares of land burned. Nominated in the spot news stories category.
Image: © Matthew Abbott, Panos Pictures, for The New York Times

050_Katie Orlinsky_for National Geographic.jpgThe Carbon Threat: The Arctic permafrost is thawing at a faster rate than predicted, releasing carbon gases that could speed up global heating. As it thaws, this material rots, releasing CO2 and shorter-lived methane. Nominated in the environment stories.
Image: © Katie Orlinsky, for National Geographic

041_Luca Locatelli_for National Geographic.jpgThe End of Trash - Circular Economy Solutions: A circular economy s based on designing waste and pollution out of the system, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems. Nominated in the environment stories category.
Image: © Luca Locatelli, for National Geographic

093_Alejandro Prieto.jpgRoadrunner Approaching the Border Wall: A greater roadrunner approaches the border wall at Naco, Arizona, April 28, 2019. Nominated in the nature singles category.
Image: © Alejandro Prieto

131_Olivier Papegnies.jpgThe Gouandé Gazelles: The Gazelles de Gouandé in northern Benin is one of 16 football teams set up across the country with the goal of giving young women more control over their futures through sport. Nominated in the sports stories category.
Image: © Olivier Papegnies

101_Alain Schroeder_for National Geographic.jpgSaving Orangutans: Indonesia’s orangutans are under severe threat from the ongoing depletion of the rainforest. The Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme cares for lost, injured and captive orangutans. Nominated in the nature stories category.
Image: © Alain Schroeder, for National Geographic

143_Matthew Abbott_Panos Pictures_for The New York Times.jpgAustralia’s Bushfire Crisis: The annual fire season in Australia began early and was exceptionally severe—following months of record-breaking drought and fanned by strong winds. Nominated in the spot news stories category.
Image: © Matthew Abbott, Panos Pictures, for The New York Times