A devastating image of an injured pregnant woman being carried to safety after a bomb hit the maternity hospital in Ukraine is named World Press Photo, Photo of the Year 2023. The image taken by Evgeniy Maloletka shows the immediate aftermath of the Russian airstrike in Mariupol, Ukraine.
The winning images from 2023 show the cost of war and peace. This year’s World Press Photo Contest global winners, chosen from thousands of entrants, highlight the climate crisis, community, war’s impact on civilians, and the importance of press photography around the world.
Photo of the Year
Title: Mariupol Maternity Hospital Airstrike
© Evgeniy Maloletka, Associated Press
When Russian forces invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022, they immediately targeted the strategically important port of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov. By 20 May, Russia gained full control of the city, which had been devastated by shelling, and tens of thousands of civilians had fled or been killed. Maloletka was one of the very few photographers documenting events in Mariupol at that time. The jury felt his story communicated the horror of the war for civilians; they praised the photographer’s resilience while working under immense pressure and imminent threat.
Iryna Kalinina (32), an injured pregnant woman, is carried from a maternity hospital that was damaged during a Russian airstrike in Mariupol, Ukraine, on 9 March 2022. Her baby, named Miron (after the word for ‘peace’) was stillborn, and half an hour later Iryna died as well. An OSCE report concluded the hospital was deliberately targeted by Russia, resulting in three deaths and some 17 injuries.
World Press Photo Story of the Year
Title: The Price of Peace in Afghanistan
© Mads Nissen, Politiken/Panos Pictures
After the withdrawal of US and allied forces from Afghanistan in August 2021, the Taliban returned to power. In response, other nations stopped providing foreign aid and froze billions of dollars of government reserves deposited abroad. Intense droughts in 2022 exacerbated the economic crisis; currently half of the country’s population do not have enough to eat and over a million children are severely malnourished according to the UN. This story captures the many difficulties Afghan people face in their daily lives.
Unable to afford food for the family, the parents of Khalil Ahmad (15) decided to sell his kidney for US$3,500. The lack of jobs and the threat of starvation has led to a dramatic increase in the illegal organ trade. Herat, Afghanistan, 19 January 2022.
Women and children beg for bread outside a bakery in central Kabul, Afghanistan, on 14 January 2022.
The Islamic declaration of faith, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger”, covers the wall of the former US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.
A heavily armed Taliban checkpoint outside Bamiyan. For years, the Taliban waged guerilla warfare against foreign troops and the Afghan army; now they must guard against attacks by the Islamic State. 12 January 2022.
World Press Photo Long Term Project Award
Four landlocked Central Asian countries are struggling with the climate crisis and lack of coordination over the water supplies they share. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, upstream on the Syr Darya and Amu Darya rivers, need extra energy in winter. Downstream, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan need water in summer for agriculture. Historically, the countries seasonally traded fossil-fuel energy for water released from upstream dams, but since the fall of the USSR and the rise of privatized industries, this system has become imbalanced. Unsustainable use of water and recent intense droughts compound the challenges.
Jaynagul Brjieva and her family enjoy an outing to a hot spring in Kaji-Say, Kyrgyzstan, on 9 March 2021. The waters are thought by some to have healing properties.
Sonunbek Kadyrov pilots his water taxi, serving the village of Kyzyl-Beyit, Kyrgyzstan, on 16 March 2021. Local access to the main road was blocked by flooding during construction of the Toktogul Dam in the 1960s.
Women visit a hot spring that has emerged from the dried bed of the Aral Sea, near Akespe village, Kazakhstan, on 27 August 2019. Once the world’s fourth-largest lake, the Aral Sea has lost 90 percent of its content since river water has been diverted.
Visitors photograph the Rogun Dam, being built in eastern Tajikistan to provide hydroelectric power, on 22 March 2022. The 335-meter-high dam is due for completion in 2028-2029.
Girls cross a street in Norak, Tajikistan, on 21 March 2022. The Norak Hydroelectric Station provides 70 percent of the country’s electricity. Dam water levels fell by four meters in 2021.
An inhabitant of the village Istiqlol, Tajikistan rests beside her greenhouse on the River Vakhsh, a tributary of the Amu Darya, on 23 March 2022. She uses river water to irrigate her cucumbers.
Dinara (18) sits with a relative on her wedding day in Muynak, Uzbekistan, on 27 October 2019. Once a port on the Aral Sea, Muynak is now more than 150 kilometers from the coast. Dinara’s father and new husband travel there to work as shrimp farmers.
Silt in the Amu Darya in Uzbekistan gives the water a dark red color, as water levels in the river continue to decrease. 28 October 2019.
World Press Photo Open Format Award
Title: Here, The Doors Don’t Know Me
© Mohamed Mahdy
This web-based project explores the effects of rising seas on the local community in Al Max, a fishing village situated along the Mahmoudiyah canal in Alexandria, Egypt. For generations, its residents have lived and worked on the canal that leads to the Mediterranean Sea. In 2020, the Egyptian government began evicting parts of Al Max and relocating people to housing several kilometers away from the canals, not only demolishing homes, but also endangering the collective memories and local culture embedded in the neighborhood. The stories featured here speak to the precarity of people everywhere striving for recognition amid global economic and environmental upheaval.
People of the Al Max community speak of love letters or last words found in bottles that would wash on to their shores. For this project, Mohamed Mahdy encouraged residents to write their own letters, building an archive of private memories for future generations. Visitors to the website are also encouraged to send their letters to the residents of Al Max, opening a channel of communication to the world. Utilizing found imagery and the artist’s own photography, Mahdy’s project presents an elegy to a communal way of life on the cusp of disappearing.
These stories, alongside the other winners, will be shown to millions of people as part of our annual exhibition in over 60 cities around the world – including Amsterdam (opening 22 April), Rome, Berlin, Barcelona, Zurich, Tel Aviv, Taipei, Singapore, Mexico City, Jakarta, Sydney, and Toronto, and will be seen by millions more online.