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Photo of Man on Fire Wins World Press Photo of the Year

Venezuelan photographer Ronald Schemidt has just been awarded the prestigious World Press Photo of the Year prize in 2018 for his striking photo of a Venezuelan man on fire during violent clashes with riot police.

The photo, titled “Venezuela Crisis,” was one of 6 finalists that were named back in February — revealed ahead of time for the first time in the contest’s history. In a poll we conducted at the time, nearly 50% of readers voted for Schemidt’s photo as the most deserving to win World Press Photo of the Year, widely considered the world’s premier photojournalism photo contest.

“Venezuela Crisis” also won 1st prize in the Spot News Single category.

Here’s the description of the photo, which was captured on May 3rd, 2017:

José Víctor Salazar Balza (28) catches fire amid violent clashes with riot police during a protest against President Nicolás Maduro, in Caracas, Venezuela.

President Maduro had announced plans to revise Venezuela’s democratic system by forming a constituent assembly to replace the opposition-led National Assembly, in effect consolidating legislative powers for himself. Opposition leaders called for mass protests to demand early presidential elections. Clashes between protesters and the Venezuelan national guard broke out on 3 May, with protesters (many of whom wore hoods, masks or gas masks) lighting fires and hurling stones. Salazar was set alight when the gas tank of a motorbike exploded. He survived the incident with first- and second-degree burns.

Schemidt, born in 1971, is a staff photographer for Agence France-Presse based in Mexico.

“It’s a classical photo, but it has an instantaneous energy and dynamic,” jury chair Magdalena Herrera says of the winning shot. “The colours, the movement, and it’s very well composed, it has strength. I got an instantaneous emotion…”

Jury member Whitney C. Johnson (Nat Geo deputy photo director): “It’s quite symbolic, actually. The man, he has a mask on his face. He’s come to sort of represent not just himself and himself on fire, but sort of this idea of Venezuela burning.”

Jury member Bulent Kiliç (Turkey Agence France-Presse chief photographer): “And there is one small detail in the picture. There was a gun on the wall. It reads ‘paz’. It means peace. That also makes this picture stong.”

As part of his win, Schemidt receives a cash prize of €10,000 (~$12,300) and a selection of camera equipment from Canon. His photo will also be displayed with other prize-winning photos in a traveling exhibition that will reach 100 locations in 45 countries around the world to be seen by over 4 million people.

Here are the other 1st prize winners in World Press Photo’s 2018 contest (warning: the gallery contains graphic images that may not be suitable for all audiences):


Contemporary Issues, first prize singles. “Lagos Waterfronts under Threat.” By Jesco Denzel of Germany.

Contemporary Issues, first prize stories. “Banned Beauty.” By Heba Khamis of Egypt.

Environment, first prize singles. “Waiting For Freedom.” By Neil Aldridge of South Africa.

Environment, first prize stories. “Wasteland.” By Kadir van Lohuizen of the Netherlands.

General News, first prize singles. “Rohingya Crisis.” By Patrick Brown of Australia.

General News, first prize stories. “The Battle for Mosul.” By Ivor Prickett of Ireland.

Long-Term Projects, first prize stories. “Ich Bin Waldviertel.” By Carla Kogelman of the Netherlands.

Nature, first prize singles. “Dumpster Diver.” By Corey Arnold of USA.

Nature, first prize stories. “Warriors Who Once Feared Elephants Now Protect Them.” By Ami Vitale of the USA.

People, first prize singles. “Resignation Syndrome.” By Magnus Wennman of Sweden.

People, first prize stories. “Boko Haram Strapped Suicide Bombs to Them. Somehow These Teenage Girls Survived.” By Adam Ferguson of the USA.

Sports, first prize singles. “Royal Shrovetide Football.” By Oliver Scarff of the UK.

Sports, first prize stories. “Kid Jockeys.” By Alain Schroeder of Belgium.

Spot News, first prize stories. “Massacre in Las Vegas.” By David Becker of the USA.

You can find a larger gallery of all the top photos of this year’s contest (including 2nd and 3rd place finishers) on the World Press Photo website.


Image credits: All photos copyright their respective photographer and courtesy World Press Photo


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