The World Press Photo Foundation has finally unveiled the results of its esteemed competitions, the 61st annual World Press Photo Contest and the 8th annual World Press Photo Digital Storytelling Contest. During the Awards Show held in Amsterdam, the compelling shot by Ronaldo Schemidt of Venezuela was declared the World Press Photo of the Year and garnered the first prize in the Spot News Single category. The World Press Photo of the Year commends 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.”
“Venezuela Crisis”, Schemidt’s winning shot, shows José Víctor Salazar Balza on fire during a violent protest against President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas. According to the story behind the image, the Agence France-Presse photographer captured the moment Salazar caught fire when the gas tank of a motorbike exploded. He survived with first and second-degree burns.
The competition’s jury best described the elements that make “Venezuela Crisis” worthy of the awards and acclaim. “The photo of the year has to tell an event, that is important enough, it also has to bring questions…it has to engage and has to show a point of view on what happened in the world this year,” said Jury chair Magdalena Herrera.
“It’s quite symbolic, actually. The man, he has a mask on his face. He’s come to sort of represent not just himself and himself on fire, but sort of this idea of Venezuela burning,” added jury member and National Geographic deputy director of photography Whitney C. Johnson.
“And there is one small detail in the picture. There was a gun on the wall. It reads “paz’. It means peace. That also makes this picture strong,” noted jury member and Turkey Agence France-Presse chief photographer Bulent Kiliç.
Schemidt bested 4,548 photographers from 125 countries, his photo selected out of 73,044 images. He was also awarded a cash prize of €10,000, as well as a selection of camera equipment from Canon.