From the disturbing image of a drugs-addicted prostitute smoking a cigarette, to a haunting picture of a desperate mother standing alone amidst the devastation of the Japanese Tsunami – the World Press Photo contest offers a vivid reflection of the world we live in.
An exhibition of the winning entries, which went on show at the Southbank Centre in London today showcases the best in photojournalism from across the globe and features startling pictures from the world in 2011.
This year’s top prize was awarded to Spanish photographer Samuel Aranda for his image of a mother cradling her son in her hands after he has been overcome by tear gas during an anti-government demonstration in Yemen.
The stunning collection will be on display at the Southbank Centre, Royal Festival Hall, until November 27.
Categories included in the exhibition include ‘Spot News,’ ‘General News,’ ‘People in the News,’ ‘Contemporary Issues’ and ‘Daily Life.’
Among the startling images was a photo of rebel fighters scattering during a battle against the forces of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in Libya in February 2011, a picture of a new recruit to the Afghan police force and guards protecting a rare white rhino in Kenya.
The pictures also captured the colourful side of life on Earth, with a shot of a model resplendent in red being prepared to take part in last year’s Dakar Fashion Week, and a singer performing in a Russian resort on the Black Sea coast.
The sporting world was also shown, with a dramatic scene from a rain-lashed rugby match in Ireland to the elegant sight of divers taking part in the World Aquatics Championships in Shanghai, China.
Haunting profiles: ‘Afghan police recruits’ (top) shows a new recruit at a police training center run by Germany, in Kunduz, Afghanistan in September 2011. The picture, by Ton Koene, won 2nd prize in the Portraits Stories section. ‘Danish and Iranian culture’: (bottom) shows actress Mellica Mehraban, who was born in Iran but grew up in Denmark. She played a lead role in the Iranian spy thriller ‘Fox Hunting.’ The picture, by Laerke Posselt won first prize in the Portraits Singles category
Ordinary life was also featured, with an image of an elderly couple living in Buenos Aires after 65 years of marriage and an illuminated portrait of North Korea’s first president Kim Il-Sung among a backdrop of grey buildings.
The political world is documented with a dramatic shot of protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, while a tragic image of clothes left on the shore of the island of Utoya by youngsters desperately fleeing from gunman Anders Behring Breivik.
The force of nature is shown in a photo by Paolo Pellegrin which shows a large ship stranded on dry land, surrounded by debris left by the huge tsunami which swept part of Japan in April 2011.
The first World Press Photo award was held in 1955 when members of the Dutch photojournalists’ union turned their national competition into an international one.
The competition has been held almost every year since then with winning pictures being put together into an exhibition.
In 1955, 42 photographers from 11 countries submitted just over 300 photographs for judging. Today the annual contest attracts well over 5,000 participants from around 125 countries, who together send in tens of thousands of images.