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News

October 2009

World Press Photo has launched a major new photojournalism resource by publishing its entire contest archive online featuring prize-winning images dating back to the foundation of the World Press Photo contest in 1955.

The site is intended as a tool for media historians and for students interested in the history of photography, as well as a facility for the photojournalism community, showing trends in the profession and developments in countries around the world.

The managing director of World Press Photo, Michiel Munneke, revealed: “Our aim is to provide a showcase that will promote top photography and its authors. Until now, the only way to view past winners has been in the contest yearbooks, but these do not cover the entire period and most of them are out of print.”

© Mogens von Haven, Denmark, 1955

World Press Photo of the Year 1955. Volk Mølle racecourse, Randers, Denmark. A competitor tumbles off his motorcycle during a motorcross championships.

The World Press Photo contest’s winning photos make up a unique collection that is a record of over 50 years of world events and the developments in photojournalism. The archive has been established to share this record with the profession.

Since 1955 the various World Press Photo juries have awarded around 2,100 prizes and, at present, the archive contains just under 10,000 photographs taken by 1,372 photographers of 79 different nationalities. The new archive website has been designed to be as intuitive and user-friendly with winning photographs arranged in chronological order and year-by-year. Images on the site can be viewed through an A to Z listing of photographers’ names or other search options such as photographer’s nationality, photo agency, the publication that commissioned the work, or specific awards.

Photos in the archive are further classified into 11 themed categories. The contest’s categories have changed over the years. Back in 1955, there were just three groupings - News, Sport and Stories - whereas nowadays the contest has 10 categories. Categories such as ‘Happy News’ and ‘Personality’ have been introduced and discontinued and at one time the phenomenon of ‘Colour Picture Stories’ was so novel as to warrant its own section. The archive website outlines these developments, and also offers further information on the contest, such as details of contest entry statistics, and a list of jury members for each year.

© Hocine, Algeria, 1997, Agence France-Presse

World Press Photo of the Year 1997. Algiers, Algeria, 23 September 1997. A woman cries outside the Zmirli Hospital, where the dead and wounded had been taken after a massacre in Bentalha.

The project has taken two years of work so far but isn’t complete. Munneke explained: “There are still gaps to be filled – pictures missing and, in isolated cases, even the photographer’s name unrecorded. We are appealing to the photography community to contribute additional information, which we can then use in regular updates. The archive is intended as a research resource rather than a source of photos, but we will be happy to mediate and put anyone interested in using the pictures in contact with the photographers or their representatives.”

The archive project has been backed by the Mondriaan Foundation and the VSB Foundation. Canon is one of the two worldwide sponsors of World Press Photo alongside TNT.