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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nature: Francis Pérez’s image of a sea turtle entangled in a fishing net swimming off the coast of Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain.
People: Magnus Wennman (Aftonbladet) for an image a five-year-old girl, Maha, fleeing with her family from the village Hawija outside Mosul, Iraq.
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.
SpotNews: 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.