The images that shaped the world in 2001

Story by Jack Foley

2001 will largely be remembered for one thing - the devastating events of September 11, as captured by hundreds of photographers - both amateur and professional - as well as the numerous video images of the planes flying into the World Trade Center.

Yet a new exhibition at the Royal Festival Hall reflects on some of the other events which occurred throughout the world last year. World Press Photo 2002, which runs from September 13 to October 13, is an extraordinarily moving and emotive collection of images which capture the pain and tragedy, as well as the joy and successes, that occurred during the past 12 months.

Primary among them is this year's winner of the World Press Photo 2002, as selected by the international jury of the 45th annual contest - a black and white photograph by the Danish photographer, Erik Refner, for the daily newspaper, Berlingske Tidende (main picture).

The picture was taken in June at a refugee camp in Pakistan and depicts the body of a one-year-old boy being washed and wrapped in a white cloth in preparation for burial.

The child’s family, originally from North Afghanistan, had sought refuge from the political situation and the consequences of the drought in their country. The picture is also part of a story awarded 2nd Prize in the category People in the News Stories.

The picture is made all the more remarkable because it could so easily portray a family looking after a peaceful, sleeping child. It is only when you realise what is happening that the true tragedy of the image sets in, making this an incredibly moving photograph - that of a young life, cruelly robbed.

It was one of nearly 200 overall winners, chosen from some 49,235 pictures submitted by photo journalists from 123 countries. Other categories included general news, sports, science and technology and the arts, while some of the topics include the attacks on New York, the foot-and-mouth outbreak (as depicted in Jeff Mitchell's hell on earth image of slaughtered cows, sheep and pigs) and the battered streets of Ramallah in the Middle East.

Not all of the entries on view are depressing, however, for some taken from the arts and sports categories can be funny and even inspiring, such as a Finnish entry depicting sports fans scrambling for seats, or Jia Guorong's breathtaking shot of a young gymnast who appears to be in flight.

World Press Photo is generally regarded as the most prestigious international contest in professional press photography and this year's judging took place in Amsterdam between February 3 and 14.

In total, the jury gave prizes in nine theme categories to photographers of 18 nationalities from: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Norway, People’s Republic of China, South Africa, Spain, United Kingdom and the USA.

The overall winner, Erik Refner, received his award and a cash prize of 10,000 euros from the Mayor of Amsterdam, Mr Job Cohen, at an awards ceremony in the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, in April. The presentation ceremony was preceded by a two-day program of lectures, discussions and screenings of photography.

The World Press Photo Foundation is worldwide sponsored by Canon, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Kodak Professional, a division of Eastman Kodak Company. The exhibition at the Royal Festival Hall is sponsored by Canon and TIME magazine.

Entrance to the exhibition is free and the Royal Festival Hall is open from 10am to 10.30pm, daily.

The main photograph on this page features Erik Refner's winning entry, while the second picture, taken on September 11, is entitled Shattered and was submitted by James Nachtwey.

World Press Photo 2002, Until October 13, Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX. Box Office telephone number: 020 7960 4242

RELATED LINKS: Click here for the Royal Festival Hall website...
Click here for the World Press Photo website...