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Controversial Assassination Picture Wins 2017 World Press Photo Award [UPDATED]

This year’s World Press Photo winners were selected from 80,408 images submitted by 5,034 photographers from 125 countries

Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş shouts after shooting Andrey Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Turkey, at an art gallery in Ankara, Turkey. (all images courtesy World Press Photo 2017)

Update, February 14, 10pm EST: Russia has officially criticized the selection of the assassination image for the top World Press Photo prize. According to Radio Free Europe, the Russian embassy in Ankara called the selection “demoralizing” that showed “complete degradation of ethics and moral values.”

Turkish AP photographer Burhan Ozbilici’s shocking photograph of Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş, a 22-year-old off-duty police officer, standing over the dead body of Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, has won the top prize at this year’s World Press Photo competition. Altıntaş assassinated the ambassador at an art exhibition in Ankara, Turkey, on December 19, 2016. It was selected from 80,408 images submitted by 5,034 photographers from 125 countries.

The winning image is facing some controversy though, as jury chair Stuart Franklin has written a response to the selection indicating that he wasn’t in agreement with the selection. His piece in the Guardian outlines his reasoning, pointing out: “Placing the photograph on this high pedestal is an invitation to those contemplating such staged spectaculars: it reaffirms the compact between martyrdom and publicity.” He continues: “To be clear, my moral position is not that the well-intentioned photographer should be denied the credit he deserves; rather that I feared we’d be amplifying a terrorist’s message through the additional publicity that the top prize attracts.”

In December, Hyperallergic covered the infamous photo in an essay by Robert Archambeau, who wrote:

I think a large part of my inability to fully process the images from Turkey has to do with a kind of category error. They should, I tell myself, be documents of an atrocity, the kind of images we’re bombarded with all the time, and to which most of us have, perhaps at some cost to our humanity, developed antibodies. We see mediated atrocity every day. We tell ourselves we care, and perhaps we do. But generally we look at the wreckage, the carnage, the suffering faces, and we move on. This time, though, I’m having a hard time moving on, because I don’t just see the images as documents of atrocity. I also see them as aesthetic, and that doesn’t sit easily with the other way of seeing them. Indeed, it feels immoral. It feels wrong.

He discussed some of the discomfort many feel toward the image, which is simultaneously attractive and repulsive.

Other World Press Photo award winners include:

Contemporary Issues: Jonathan Bachman (Thomson Reuters) for an image of protester Ieshia Evans standing her ground against the Baton Rouge Police Department.

Lone activist Ieshia Evans stands her ground while offering her hands for arrest as she is charged by riot police during a protest against police brutality outside the Baton Rouge Police Department in Louisiana, USA, on 9 July 2016. Evans, a 28-year-old Pennsylvania nurse and mother of one, traveled to Baton Rouge to protest against the shooting of Alton Sterling. Sterling was a 37-year-old black man and father of five, who was shot at close range by two white police officers. The shooting, captured on a multitude of cell phone videos, aggravated the unrest coursing through the United States in previous years over the use of excessive force by police, particularly against black men.

Daily Life: Paula Bronstein (Time Lightbox / Pulitzer Center For Crisis Reporting) for an image a woman, Najiba, holding her two-year-old nephew Shabir who was injured from a bomb blast in Kabul on March 29, 2016.

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN -MARCH 29, 2016: A the Emergency hospital Najiba holds her nephew Shabir, age 2, who was injured from a bomb blast which killed his sister in Kabul on March 29, 2016. Najiba had to stay with the children as their mother buried her daughter.
In 2016 marked another milestone in its 15-year engagement in Afghanistan. Despite billions of dollars spent by the international community to stabilize the country, Afghanistan has seen little improvement in terms of overall stability and human security. The situation on the ground for Afghans continues to be grave. Security for the Afghan people has also deteriorated in large swaths of the country, further complicating humanitarian response. Afghan civilians are at greater risk today than at any time since Taliban rule. According to UN statistics, in the first half of 2016 at least 1,600 people had died, and more than 3,500 people were injured, a 4 per cent increase in overall civilian causalities compared to the same period last year. The upsurge in violence has had devastating consequences for civilians, with suicide bombings and targeted attacks by the Taliban and other insurgents causing 70 percent of all civilian casualties.

General News: Laurent Van der Stockt (Getty Reportage for Le Monde) for an image of Iraqi Special Operations Forces searching houses of Gogjali, an eastern district of Mosul, looking for ISIS members, equipment, and evidence on November 2, 2016.

Mosul, November 2, 2016: The Iraqis Special Operations Forces (Isof 1, Golden Division, ISF) are searching houses of Cogjali, a eastern district of Mosul, looking for Daesh members, equipment and evidences.
Young and adult men are quickly interviewed.
Most of the time, civilians feel insecure while fighters of isof, still under the threat of snipers and car bombs, feel being in hostile territory.

Long-Term Projects: Valery Melnikov (Rossiya Segodnya) for an image of civilians escaping a house destroyed by an air attack in the Ukrainian village of Luhanskaya.

Civilians escape from a fire at a house destroyed by the air attack in the Luhanskaya village

Nature: Francis Pérez’s image of a sea turtle entangled in a fishing net swimming off the coast of Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain.

A sea turtle entangled in a fishing net swims off the coast of Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain, on 8 June 2016. Sea turtles are considered a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Unattended fishing gear is responsible for many sea turtle deaths.

PeopleMagnus Wennman (Aftonbladet) for an image a five-year-old girl, Maha, fleeing with her family from the village Hawija outside Mosul, Iraq.

Maha, 5 and her family fled from the village Hawija outside Mosul, Iraq, seven days ago. The fear of Isis and the lack of food forced them to leave their home, her mother says. Now Maha lays on a dirty mattress in the overcrowded transit center in Debaga refugee camp.
I do not dream and I’m not afraid of anything anymore Maha says quietly, while her mother’s hand strokes her hair.

Sports: Tom Jenkins (The Guardian) for an image of jockey Nina Carberry flying off her horse, Sir Des Champs, during the Grand National steeplechase in Liverpool, UK.

Jockey Nina Carberry flies off her horse Sir Des Champs as they fall at The Chair fence during the Grand National steeplechase during day three of the Grand National Meeting at Aintree Racecourse on April 9th 2016 in Liverpool, England.

Spot News: Jamal Taraqai (European Pressphoto Agency) for an image of lawyers helping their injured colleagues after a bomb explosion in Quetta, Pakistan, on August 8, 2016, when 70 people were killed outside a civil hospital.

Lawyers help their injured colleagues after a bomb explosion in Quetta, Pakistan, on 8 August 2016. Seventy people were killed when a bomb exploded outside a civil hospital where a crowd of lawyers and journalists had gathered to mourn Bilal Anwar Kasi, a senior lawyer who had been assassinated hours earlier.

Visit the World Press Photo website for more information.

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