Winners of Spot News – Stories | World Press Photo 2021
Here is a look at the most powerful narratives from the Spot News–Stories category of the World Press Photo 2021 contest.
Over the years, World Press Photo has played a pivotal role in showcasing significant stories—revolutions against corrupt governments, migrations due to conflicts, the battle of survival of endangered species, and stories of hope and resilience. The contest recognises and awards the best visual storytellers who have gone out of their way to document these moving narratives, with an aim to bring about change. This year’s winning images represent perseverance, as the world grapples with a pandemic amidst ongoing chaos and destruction. However, there is a glimmer of hope, as a few citizens have begun to take charge.
First Prize: Lorenzo Tugnoli, Italy, Contrasto
Port Explosion in Beirut: At around 6pm on 4 August, a massive explosion, caused by more than 2,750 tons of high-density ammonium nitrate, shook Lebanon’s capital Beirut. The explosive compound was being stored in a warehouse in the port. Some 100,000 people lived within a kilometre of the warehouse. The explosion, which measured 3.3 on the Richter scale, damaged or destroyed around 6,000 buildings, killed at least 190 people, injured a further 6,000, and displaced as many as 300,000. The ammonium nitrate came from a ship that had been impounded in 2012 for failing to pay docking fees and other charges, and apparently abandoned by its owner. Customs officials wrote to the Lebanese courts at least six times between 2014 and 2017, asking how to dispose of the explosive. In the meantime, it was stored in the warehouse in an inappropriate climate. It is not clear what detonated the explosion, but contamination by other substances, either while in transport or in storage, appear the most likely cause. Many citizens saw the incident as symptomatic of the ongoing problems the country is facing, namely governmental failure, mishandling and corruption. In the days after the blast, tens of thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of central Beirut, some clashing with security forces and taking over government buildings, in protest against a political system they saw as unwilling to fix the country’s problems.
Second Prize: Ernesto Benavides, Peru, Agence France-Presse
Presidential Vacancy: Peru saw its greatest political instability in 20 years in mid-November, with three presidents coming into power over the course of little more than a week, resulting in massive protests throughout the country. On 9 November, the Peruvian national congress impeached President Martin Vizcarra, condemning his handling of the COVID-19 crisis and alleging that he had taken bribes while serving as a regional governor—a claim he denied. During his tenure, Vizcarra faced opposition from Congress, but amassed wide popularity, especially among Peruvian youth, as an anti-corruption crusader. Crowds began to gather at Plaza San Martín in Lima in protest at Congress’s move, spawning demonstrations in other parts of the country. Congress speaker Manuel Merino was installed as interim president on 10 November, sparking accusations of a parliamentary coup. Protests intensified, and on 12 November a National March occurred throughout Peru, demanding his resignation. On 14 November, thousands of people again took to the streets in a second National March, with many dressed in black. In Lima, two people were killed and more than 100 were injured in violent clashes with police. Manuel Merino resigned on 15 November, setting off celebrations in the streets. A new president, Francisco Sagasti, was inaugurated two days later.
Third Prize: John Minchillo, United States, Associated Press
Minneapolis Unrest: The George Floyd Aftermath: On 25 May, George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died while being arrested by Minneapolis police in Minnesota, Minneapolis, USA. Four days later, Derek Chauvin, the police officer who had been filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes, was charged with murder. A bystander video of the encounter went viral, setting off protests first in Minneapolis and then around the rest of the country. Thousands of people gathered at a makeshift memorial the day after Floyd’s death, where organisers of the rally emphasized keeping the protest peaceful. Although daytime rallies throughout the metropolitan area were mostly peaceful events, nighttime demonstrations escalated into more extreme action, including looting and arson, in which people who were not part of the protest became involved. On 28 May the National Guard was activated. To many, the violence was an understandable response to years of injustice at the hands of the police. In the months that followed, large protests were held in more than 150 American cities, a nationwide call for racial justice not seen since the civil rights protests of the 1960s. Polls taken in June by four different agencies indicate that between 15 million and 26 million people across the US participated in the protests, making it the largest movement in US history. Protests in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement spread to more than 2000 cities in some 60 countries worldwide.
Tags: documentary photography, photojournalism, Stories, photo story, Documentary, Photo Essay, World Press Photo, photography contest, winners, spot news, World Press Photo Award 2021, World Press Photo 2021, Spot News Stories