John Moore’s photo of a 2-year-old asylum seeker and her mother being detained was named photo of the year in the World Press Photo contest.
John Moore’s dramatic image of a 2-year-old Honduran asylum seeker crying as her mother was searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border has been named the photo of the year in the 2019 World Press Photo contest.
Mr. Moore, a staff photographer for Getty Images, has worked extensively on immigration issues on both sides of the Mexican border since 2008. He has traveled its entire length and made many trips to Mexico and Central America. He also photographed immigration jails, deportations, ICE raids and naturalization ceremonies and has also worked in immigrant communities throughout the United States.
“The goal of this project over all these years has been to humanize the issues of immigration and border security,” Mr. Moore said. “Oftentimes these things are discussed in statistical terms, which can be quite dry, and I’ve always tried to put a human face onto this topic. So for me, photographing that little girl on the border was an extension of my efforts.”
Mr. Moore was on a ride-along in the Rio Grande Valley on a moonless night last June when officers detained and frisked families before taking them to a processing center. He watched as border patrol officers, about to search Sandra Maria Sanchez, asked her to put down her daughter, Yanela. As she did, the child started crying and Mr. Moore dropped to his knees to take a few photos from the child’s perspective. Ms. Sanchez told him that she and her daughter had traveled for a month from Honduras through Mexico.
He filed his photos, making sure to point out that mother and child were taken for possible separation. “A two-year-old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas” he wrote in the caption. “The asylum seekers had rafted across the Rio Grande from Mexico and were detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents before being sent to a processing center for possible separation.”
The images went viral. A photo of Yanela crying became a symbol of the agony of family separation and led opponents of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy to donate millions of dollars to immigrant rights groups fighting the policy. When it turned out that Yanela and her mother actually stayed together, conservative commentators decried the image as “fake news.” Time magazine featured part of one of the images from the sequence that night in a cover photo illustration with President Trump towering over the child.
“The best we can do, often as wire service photojournalists, is to photograph honestly and caption correctly,” Mr. Moore said. “Our photographs sometimes take on a life of their own later on. As photojournalists, we can’t always control that narrative.”
Pieter Ten Hoopen, a member of Agence Vu, received the inaugural World Press Photo story of the year award for his coverage of a Central American migrant caravan heading to the U.S. border. That story also took first in the spot-news-stories category.
Lorenzo Tugnoli, of Contrasto, took first in general news stories for his coverage of the crisis in Yemen for The Washington Post. Chris McGrath of Getty Images won first in general news singles for his image of journalists outside the Saudi Embassy in Istanbul after Jamal Khashoggi had been murdered.
In long-term projects, Sarah Blesener was awarded first place for her exploration of patriotism and young people in both the United States and Russia. Yael Martinez took second for a personal story about his family’s losses amid violence in Mexico. Alejandro Cegarra took third for a project on economic hardship and political upheaval in Venezuela. All three projects were published on Lens.
Diana Markosian of Magnum Photos was awarded first in the contemporary issues category for an image of a quinceañera celebration in Cuba, while Finbarr O’Reilly took first in the portraits, singles, category for a fashion photo from Senegal. Bénédicte Kurzen and Sanne De Wilde, both members of Noor, took first in the portraits-stories category for their joint project exploring the mythology of twinhood in Nigeria. Brent Stirton of Getty was awarded first place in the nature-stories category for his work on falcons for National Geographic.
In this year’s contest 78,801 images, from 4,738 individuals, were entered in the photography categories. In recent years there have been controversies over the number of women photographers who entered the contest and were awarded, with critics maintaining that the low numbers showed that women were not getting sufficient and appropriate opportunities.
The number of women who entered the photography categories rose to 19 percent this year from 16 percent last year. But the increase in awards for women was greater: Among the 43 winners from 25 countries, almost a third were women this time around, according to Lars Boering, the managing director of World Press Photo foundation. Last year 12 percent of the winners were women.
The organization made a concerted effort over the past year to increase the involvement of women in the photo division of the contest, Mr. Boering said.
Only one of the six photos under consideration for the photo of the year was made by a woman, though the juries were diverse in gender and country of origin.
In contrast, in the video and interactive categories, 53 percent of the participants were women this year, Mr. Boering said. And the winning entries in the two major digital awards were dominated by women.
In the World Press Photo Digital Storytelling Contest, “The Legacy of the ‘Zero Tolerance’ Policy: Traumatized Children With No Access to Treatment,” by Univision News Digital, was selected as the online video of the year. The director was Almudena Toral.
“The Last Generation” — a project about young people in the Marshall Islands by Frontline, The GroundTruth Project, the filmmaker Michelle Mizner and the reporter Katie Worth — was named interactive of the year.
James Estrin, the co-editor of Lens, joined The Times as a photographer in 1992 after years of freelancing for the newspaper and hundreds of other publications. @JamesEstrin