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See the World's Best Photojournalism of 2015

The stories behind the photos are what make them truly unique.
Mads Nissen, Denmark, Scanpix/Panos Pictures, St. Petersburg, Russia. Caption: Jon and Alex, a gay couple, during an intimate moment. Life for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) people is becoming increasingly difficult in Russia. Sexual minorities face legal and social discrimination, harassment, and even violent hate-crime attacks from conservative religious and nationalistic groups.

The right photo in the right place at the right time can shake the world. From Steve McCurry's "Afghan Girl," to Richard Drew's "Falling Man" taken on 9/11, to Nilüfer Demir's photo of three-year-old refugee Aylan Kurdi, who drowned trying to escape Turkey, powerful images can have material influence on the state of public opinion, and occasionally international policy. The World Press Photo Competition is a celebration of this sort of excellence in storytelling with a single frame. This year, judges judged just shy of 100,000 entries from over 5,000 photojournalists from 131 countries, and the cream of the crop will go on display at the Southbank Centre in London starting Thursday, November 4th.


The photos on display will include this year's winning entry, which comes from Danish photographer Mads Nissen's series, Homophobia in Russia, and depicts a gay couple's passion in defiance of their country's condemnation of the LGBTQ community. Another photo by US photographer Anand Varma captures an ant's head being penetrated by an aggressive fungus. A third documents the trauma of a monkey being trained to ride a bicycle in a Chinese circus, captured by local photographer Yongzhi Chu. The winning entries are divided into the categories of News, Nature, Sports, Contemporary Issues, Long-Term Projects, and General, so no one should leave the exhibit without sore feels.

An interactive element will enable visitors to view background information and captions by tapping their phones agains the panel. If you make it to the Southbank Centre, you'll be able to see the complete sets each photo was taken from, hear the photographers talk about the image, and check out more of their work. If not, you can check out a selection of the images below.

Ami Vitale, USA Lewa Downs, Northern Kenya. Caption: A group of young Samburu warriors encounter a rhino for the first time in their lives. Most people in Kenya never get the opportunity to see the wildlife that exists literally in their own backyard. Story: organized by sophisticated, heavily armed criminal networks and fueled by heavy demand from newly minted millionaires in emerging markets, poaching is devastating the great animals of the African plains. Much needed attention has been focused on the plight of wildlife and the conflict between poachers and increasingly militarized wildlife rangers, but very little has been said about the indigenous communities on the frontlines of the poaching wars and the work that is being done to strengthen them. These communities hold the key to saving Africa’s great animals.

Raphaela Rosella, Australia, Oculi Moree, New South Wales, Australia. Caption: Laurinda waits in her purple dress for the bus that will take her to Sunday School. She is among the many socially isolated young women in disadvantaged communities in Australia facing entrenched poverty, racism, trans-generational trauma, violence, addiction, and a range of other barriers to health and well-being.

Åsa Sjöström, Sweden, Moment Agency / INSTITUTE for Socionomen / UNICEF Baroncea, Moldova. Caption: Igor hands out chocolates to a classmate to celebrate his ninth birthday. When he and his twin brother Arthur were two years old, their mother traveled to Moscow to work in the construction field and later died. They have no father. They are among thousands of children growing up without their parents in the Moldovan countryside. Young people have fled the country, leaving a dwindling elderly population and young children.

Sarker Protick, Bangladesh. Caption: John wears his grandson’s bowler hat. Story: It was in the afternoon. I was sitting on my grandpa’s couch. The door was slightly open, and I saw light coming through, washed out between the white door and white walls. All of a sudden it all started making sense. I could relate what I was seeing with what I felt. John and Prova, my grandparents. Growing up, I found much love and care from them. They were young and strong. As time went by, it shaped everything in its own way. Bodies took different forms and relations went distant. Grandma’s hair turned gray, the walls started peeling off and the objects were all that remained. Everything was contained into one single room. They always love the fact that I take pictures of them because then I spend more time with them, and they don’t feel lonely anymore. After Prova passed away, I try to visit more so John can talk. He tells me stories of their early life, and how they met. There are so many stories. Here, life is silent, suspended. Everything is on a wait; A wait for something that I don’t completely understand.

Sergei Ilnitsky, Russia, European Pressphoto Agency 26 August, Donetsk, Ukraine. Caption: Damaged goods lie in a kitchen in downtown Donetsk. Ordinary workers, miners, teachers, pensioners, children, and elderly women and men are in the midst of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Artillery fire killed three people and wounded 10 on 26 August 2014.

Ronghui Chen, China, "City Express," Yiwu, China. Caption: Wei, a 19-year-old Chinese worker, wearing a face mask and a Santa hat, stands next to Christmas decorations being dried in a factory as red powder used for coloring hovers in the air. He wears six masks a day and the hat protects his hair from the red dust, which covers workers from head to toe like soot after several hours of work.

Kacper Kowalski, Poland, Panos Pictures. Caption: 54°33’47.37”N 18°13’42.22”E Kacper Kowalski is a pilot and a photographer. Side Effects is a documentary project about the complex relationship between humans and nature. The photos were shot either from a paraglider or a gyroplane, some 150 meters above the ground, mainly in the area around Gdynia, in Poland, where Kowalski lives. In this work, Kowalski explores answers to questions that deeply interest him: What is the natural environment for humans? Is it an untouched, virgin landscape? Or is it a landscape that has changed, adapted to human needs? Kowalski sees his work as offering a graphic and sometimes abstract portrait of how civilization came into being. For Kowalski, the content of the photo is less important than the reactions, reflections, and ideas that arise when looking at it. He would like the project to be a starting point for discussion about what is good or bad, necessary or optional, in the relationship between humans and nature. The camera is never connected to a remote control, and Kowalski never uses a drone. He wants to be up there, camera in hand. And he flies alone. That means he doesn’t have to explain anything, or rely on another person’s spatial imagination. It means he can fly precisely. Side Effects is more a method of visual storytelling than a concrete set of pictures. It is an ongoing project that will continue to be modified.

Anand Varma, USA, for National Geographic Magazine. Caption: When spores of the fungus land on an ant, they penetrate its exoskeleton and enter its brain, compelling the host to leave its normal habitat on the forest floor and scale a nearby tree. Filled to bursting with fungus, the dying ant fastens itself to a leaf or another surface. Fungal stalks burst from the ant's husk and rain spores onto ants below to begin the process again.

Tomas van Houtryve, Belgium, VII for Harper’s Magazine. El Dorado County, California, United States. Caption: Students in a schoolyard. Story: Several thousand people have been killed by covert U.S. drone strikes since 2004. The photographer bought his own drone, mounted a camera and traveled across the US looking for similar situations as mentioned in strike reports from Pakistan and Yemen, including weddings, funerals, and groups of people praying or exercising. He also flew his camera over settings in which drones are used to less lethal effect, such as prisons, oil fields and the U.S.-Mexico border.

Darcy Padilla, USA, Agence Vu. "Family Love 1993-2014 – The Julie Project" 28 January 1993, San Francisco, California, USA. Caption: I first met Julie on January 28, 1993. Julie, 18, stood in the lobby of the Ambassador Hotel, barefoot, pants unzipped, and an 8 day-old infant in her arms. She lived in San Francisco’s SRO district, a neighborhood of soup kitchens and cheap rooms. Her room was piled with clothes, overfull ashtrays and trash. She lived with Jack, father of her first baby Rachel, and who had given her AIDS. Her first memory of her mother is getting drunk with her at 6 and then being sexually abused by her stepfather. She ran away at 14 and became drug addict at 15. Living in alleys, crack dens, and bunked with more dirty old men than she cared to count. “Rachel,” Julie said, “has given me a reason to live.” For the next 21 years I photographed Julie Baird and her family’s complex story of poverty, AIDS, drugs, multiple homes, relationships, births, deaths, loss and reunion.

Pete Muller, USA, Prime for National Geographic / The Washington Post Freetown, Sierra Leone. Caption: Medical staff at the Hastings Ebola Treatment Center work to escort a man in the throes of Ebola-induced delirium back into the isolation ward from which he escaped. In a state of confusion, he emerged from the isolation ward and attempted to escape over the back wall of the complex before collapsing in a convulsive state. A complete breakdown of mental facilities is a common stage of advanced Ebola. The man pictured here died shortly after this picture was taken.

Massimo Sestini, Italy, 7 June, off the coast of Libya. Caption: Shipwrecked people are rescued aboard a boat 20 miles north of Libya by a frigate of the Italian navy. After hundreds of men, women and children had drowned in 2013 off the coast of Sicily and Malta, the Italian government put its navy to work under a campaign called “Mare Nostrum” rescuing refugees at sea. Only in 2014, 170,081 people were rescued and taken to Italy.

Jérôme Sessini, France, Magnum Photos for De Standaard 19-21 February, Kiev, Ukraine. Caption: A protester calls for medical aid for a comrade shot dead. Story caption: After several months of violence, anti-government protesters remained mobilized by holding barricades in Kiev’s Independence Square, known simply as the Maidan. On Saturday, 20 February, unidentified snipers opened fire on unarmed protesters as they were advancing on Instituska Street. According to an official source, 70 protesters were shot dead. Ukrainian riot police claimed that several police officers were wounded or shot dead by snipers as well. An unofficial source said that snipers opened fire on the police and protesters at the same time in order to provoke both camps. 20 February was the bloodiest day of the Maidan protests, and two days after, President Viktor Yanukovych left the country.

Bulent Kilic, Turkey, Agence France-Presse, March 12, 2014, Istanbul. Caption: A young girl is pictured after she was wounded during clashes between riot-police and protestors after the funeral of Berkin Elvan, the 15-year-old boy who died from injuries suffered during last year's anti-government protests. Riot police fired tear gas and water cannon at protestors in the capital Ankara, while in Istanbul, crowds shouting anti-government slogans lit a huge fire as they made their way to a cemetery for the burial of Berkin Elvan.

Yongzhi Chu, China. Suzhou, Anhui Province, China. Caption: A monkey being trained for circus cowers as its trainer approaches. With more than 300 roupes, Suzhou is known as the home of the Chinese circus.

Learn more about the World Press Photo Exhibit on the Southbank Centre's website.


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