Brandishing a gun, his face contorted with rage, the shocking image of a Turkish policeman just after he had assassinated the Russian envoy to Turkey won the prestigious 2017 World Press Photo Award on Feb 13.
Judges praised the courage and bravery of Burhan Ozbilici, 59, a photographer for the Associated Press (AP) news service, who stood his ground as 22-year-old policeman Mevlut Mert Altintas pumped nine bullets into ambassador Andrei Karlov at the opening of an art exhibition in Ankara.
Explaining how the shot came about after the awards ceremony, Ozbilici said, “It was extremely hot, like I had boiled water on my head, then very cold, very cold. Extremely dangerous,” Ozbilici said. “But at the same time I understood that this was big history, it was history, (a) very, very important incident.”
So the veteran AP photographer did what he has learned to do over some 30 years: “I immediately decided to do my job because I could be wounded, maybe die, but at least I have to represent good journalism,” he said.
The vivid photo went viral around the world, and has been viewed some 18 million times.
The judges from the World Press Photo Foundation in Amsterdam had to choose from more than 80,400 images submitted by 5,034 photographers from 125 countries.
The decision was made even harder by dissension among jury members, with president Stuart Franklin, a British photographer, saying: “I voted against. Sorry, Burhan.”
“It’s a photograph of a murder, the killer and the slain, both seen in the same picture, and morally as problematic to publish as a terrorist beheading,” he wrote in the British daily The Guardian.
He argued that “placing the photograph on this high pedestal is an invitation to those contemplating such staged spectaculars”.
“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,” said jury member Mary Calvert.
The main award, the World Press Photo of the Year, carries a cash prize of €10,000 (RM47,000) and a selection of camera equipment from Canon. All the prize-winning pictures will be presented in an exhibition visiting 45 countries over the course of this year. The first exhibition opens in De Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, on April 14. For more information about the exhibition, go to worldpressphoto.org/exhibitions/2017-exhibition/amsterdam.
Here is a selection of photographs from the competition. For more information on the World Press Photo Foundation and to see all the winning images, go to worldpressphoto.org. – Agencies