The infamous winning photo of the World Press Photo Award 2017


Burhan Ozbilici /AP /World Press Photo

Every year the Press Photo of the Year receives the World Press Photo Award. It’s not unusual that this particular award has stirred up some controversy.

Press photography takes place where events, achievements but also tragedies and catastrophes happen. It’s a fact and logical that not only beautiful things can be seen in the photos.

Last year, for example, Warren Richardson’s photo was awarded. It showed a desperately looking man passing a baby through a barbed wire fence. It is a scene that has probably occurred thousands of times in the past few years. People escaping from war areas to Europe.

This year, however, the winning image upsets quite a lot of people. A photo taken by Burhan Ozbilici was awarded.  It shows a man in a victory pose, stretching his left hand up in the air and standing in a gallery. In his right hand he holds a weapon and on his left side there’s a person in a suit lying on the ground.

The man in the photo was Melvüt Mert Altıntaş, who some time ago shot Russian ambassador Andrey Karlov in this Art Gallery in Ankara. The assassin himself died a little later, shot by security forces right on the spot. You can’t deny that his photo shows something incredibly dramatic, but that’s always been the case with the winning images of the World Photo Award. So why do so many people consider it wrong to make this particular photo the winning image?

The jury explained their decision, saying that the image was “explosive” and “incredibly ruthless”, thus “expressing the hatred of our times”.

 “It was a very very difficult decision, but in the end we felt that the picture of the Year was an explosive image that really spoke to the hatred of our times. Every time it came on the screen you almost had to move back because it’s such an explosive image and we really felt that it epitomizes the definition of what the World Press Photo of the Year is and means.” (Mary F. Calvert, jury member)

Critics, on the other hand, don’t think it’s right to award such an image as you risk giving too much attention to the murderer. They opine that this will make the victim a faceless character on the ground while the culprit in his victory pose and with his strong presence is almost portrayed as a hero in the photo.

What do you think? Do you also agree that awarding this image sends out the wrong message? Could it really make the culprit “a hero”? Could it motivate future assassins to commit similar acts of violence in order to become “famous” and be remembered this way?

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