Yasuyoshi Chiba’s shot of a poetry recital amid Sudanese protests is named World Press Photo of the Year
The image pips photographs of anti-government scuffles in Algeria and shots from the Middle East’s biggest arms fair to the top spot.
- Laura Snoad
- 17 April 2020
The World Press Photo Foundation announced the winners of the annual World Press Photo Contest last night (16 April), naming Yasuyoshi Chiba’s photograph Straight Voice as World Press Photo of the Year. Shot in the Sudanese capital Khartum on 19 June 2019, Chiba’s image depicts a passionate poetry reading during a sit-in as part of protests calling for an end to the 30-year rule of dictator Omar al-Bashir.
Japanese photographer Chiba is Agence France-Presse’s chief photographer for East Africa and Indian Ocean and is currently based in Nairobi, Kenya. His image beat a strong batch of contenders, including Mulugeta Ayene’s shots of the mourning families of passengers lost in the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302 plane crash, students battling with riot police in Algeria by Farouk Batiche, Tomek Kaczor’s portrait of a 15-year-old Armenian sufferer of Resignation Syndrome (a condition that affects psychologically traumatised child refugees), a photograph of a hospitalised Syrian Democratic Forces fighter and his girlfriend by Ivor Prickett, and Nikita Teryoshin’s shot of a businessman locking away a pair of anti-tank grenade launchers at Abu Dhabi arms fair IDEX.
Talking about his winning image, which depicts the young Sudanese poet lit by smartphones, Chiba said in a statement: “This moment was the only peaceful group protest I encountered during my stay. I felt their undefeated solidarity like burning embers that remain to flare up again.” Juror Lekgetho Makola, who is the head of Market Photo Workshop, added: “We see this young person, who is not shooting, who is not throwing a stone, but reciting a poem. It’s acknowledging, but also voicing a sense of hope. Especially in the time that we’re living in when there’s a lot of violence and a lot of conflicts, it’s important that we have an image that inspires people.”
In addition to the overall winner, Romain Laurendeau’s Kho, the Genesis of a Revolt was revealed as the World Press Photo Story of the Year, a new prize introduced last year that honours excellent storytelling through a series rather than a single image. Laurendeau’s project captured the disaffected youth of Algeria, a country where 72% of people under 30 are unemployed, in the period leading up to monumental protests to topple long-time president Abdelaziz Bouteflika in February 2019.
Juror Makola said: “As a judge, I was looking for visual storytelling. Your decisions are done around how intimate and close you become, but also how far you step back to allow the viewers to make their own decisions.” Fellow juror Lucy Conticello, director of Photography of M magazine, added that connection and intimacy with the people depicted was an important part of Laurendeau’s win, with the photographer himself adding, “It was impossible for a part of me not to recognise myself in these young people. They are young but they are tired of this situation and they just want to live like everyone else.”
You can find out more about these projects and the winners of the Environment, Contemporary Issues, General News, Long-term Projects, Nature, Portraits, Sports and Spot News categories here.
Straight Voice, by Yasuyoshi Chiba, Japan, Agence France-Presse, World Press Photo of the Year winner