Smoke rises after an Israeli forces strike in Gaza City. This photo was one in a series of images by Associated Press photographer Bernat Armangue

They are the defining images of the world in  2012, each one reflecting a single, fleeting moment of a year gone  by.

Whether it is of the misery of a loved one  killed by an enemy missile attack, the overwhelming joy at winning Olympic gold,  or the intimate devotion of an elderly wife to her dying husband, each  photograph provides a fascinating snapshot of life on Earth.

The  winners of the World Press Photo Awards,  one of  photojournalism’s most prestigious contests,  were announced today, issuing awards in nine  categories to 54 photographers of  32 nationalities.

The overall winner was Swedish photographer  Paul Hansen for his picture of two Palestinian children killed in an Israeli  missile strike being carried to their funeral.

First Place: Henson’s picture shows a group of men marching the dead bodies through a narrow street in Gaza City. The victims, a brother and sister, are wrapped in white cloth with only their faces showing
Torture: This image by Emin Ozmen, from Turkey, in July last year won second prize in the Spot News Single category. It shows Syrian opposition fighters torturing a suspected government informant in Aleppo
This photo by Associated Press photographer Rodrigo Abd shows ‘Aida’ crying as she recovers from severe injuries after the Syrian Army shelled her house in Idlib north Syria. Aida’s husband and and two children were killed after their home was shelled

The photo shows a group of men  marching the  dead bodies through a narrow street in Gaza City. The  victims, a brother and  sister, are wrapped in white cloth with only  their faces showing.

‘The  strength of the pictures lies in the  way it contrasts the anger and  sorrow of the adults with the innocence of the  children,’ said jury  member Mayu Mohanna of Peru. ‘It’s a picture I will not  forget.’

Hansen’s November 20 shot won top prize in  both the spot news single photograph category and the overall competition. It  portrays two-year-old Suhaib Hijazi and her three-year-old brother Muhammad, who  were killed when their house was destroyed by the Israeli attack. They are being  carried by grieving uncles, as their father Fouad was also killed, and his body  can be seen in the background of the picture.

The children’s mother, whose name was not  provided, was in intensive care.

‘This prize is the highest honour you can get  in the profession,’ Hansen said. ‘I’m very happy, but also very sad. The family  lost two children and the mother is unconscious in a hospital.’

Palestinian schoolchildren walk between debris of a damaged school in Gaza City. The school was damaged when Israeli forces struck on a nearby building. This photo was one in a series of images by Associated Press photographer Bernat Armangue
Smoke rises after an Israeli forces strike in Gaza City. This photo was one in a series of images by Associated Press photographer Bernat Armangue

‘These situations are so visually complex,’  he added. ‘It’s difficult to convey the emotions, to translate what is  happening. The light is harsh and there are a lot of people.

‘But in the alley the light bounced off the  walls, so I thought this is a place where you can see that it’s a procession.  … You get the depth in the image, and the bouncing light.’

Violence in the Middle East, and its effect  upon civilians, was the dominant theme in the hard news categories.

The Associated Press won eight awards in all,  including top prizes for a spot news series for Bernat Armangue of Spain for  photos he took in Gaza during November; and for Rodrigo Abd of Argentina for  general news single photograph, with a picture of a woman with a bloodstained  face weeping in Idib, Syria, on March 10.

She was identified as Aida, and her photo of  silent grief is in some ways a reverse image of Hansen’s winning shot. She  received severe injuries when her house was shelled by the Syrian Army, killing  her husband and two children.

The photos were submitted anonymously to a  panel of 19 jury members, chaired by AP Director of Photography Santiago Lyon,  and judged in multiple rounds.

The winners were all ‘stellar examples of  first-rate photojournalism,’ Lyon said.

Other judges came from Germany, Iraq, Peru,  France, Sweden, China, Britain, Spain, Azerbaijan, South Africa, The  Netherlands, Switzerland and the U.S.

This picture by Australian photographer Daniel Berehulak shows pine trees uprooted during Japan’s tsunami in 2011 lay strewn over the beach
Spot News: This photo by Associated Press photographer Adel Hana shows Palestinian gunmen ride motorcycles as they drag the body of a man who was killed earlier as a suspected collaborator with Israel, in Gaza City
This photo by Associated Press photographer Esteban Felix shows the bodies of Lesbia Altamirano and Wilmer Orbera lying on the floor of a pool hall after being attacked by unidentified masked assailants in Choloma on the outskirts of San Pedro Sula, Honduras


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