They are the defining images of the world inÂ 2012, each one reflecting a single, fleeting moment of a year goneÂ by.
Whether it is of the misery of a loved oneÂ killed by an enemy missile attack, the overwhelming joy at winning Olympic gold,Â or the intimate devotion of an elderly wife to her dying husband, eachÂ photograph provides a fascinating snapshot of life on Earth.
TheÂ winners of the World Press Photo Awards,Â one ofÂ photojournalism’s most prestigious contests,Â were announced today, issuing awards in nineÂ categories to 54 photographers ofÂ 32 nationalities.
The overall winner was Swedish photographerÂ Paul Hansen for his picture of two Palestinian children killed in an IsraeliÂ missile strike being carried to their funeral.
The photo shows a group of menÂ marching theÂ dead bodies through a narrow street in Gaza City. TheÂ victims, a brother andÂ sister, are wrapped in white cloth with onlyÂ their faces showing.
‘TheÂ strength of the pictures lies in theÂ way it contrasts the anger andÂ sorrow of the adults with the innocence of theÂ children,’ said juryÂ member Mayu Mohanna of Peru. ‘It’s a picture I will notÂ forget.’
Hansen’s November 20 shot won top prize inÂ both the spot news single photograph category and the overall competition. ItÂ portrays two-year-old Suhaib Hijazi and her three-year-old brother Muhammad, whoÂ were killed when their house was destroyed by the Israeli attack. They are beingÂ carried by grieving uncles, as their father Fouad was also killed, and his bodyÂ can be seen in the background of the picture.
The children’s mother, whose name was notÂ provided, was in intensive care.
‘This prize is the highest honour you can getÂ in the profession,’ Hansen said. ‘I’m very happy, but also very sad. The familyÂ lost two children and the mother is unconscious in a hospital.’
‘These situations are so visually complex,’Â he added. ‘It’s difficult to convey the emotions, to translate what isÂ happening. The light is harsh and there are a lot of people.
‘But in the alley the light bounced off theÂ walls, so I thought this is a place where you can see that it’s a procession.Â … You get the depth in the image, and the bouncing light.’
Violence in the Middle East, and its effectÂ upon civilians, was the dominant theme in the hard news categories.
The Associated Press won eight awards in all,Â including top prizes for a spot news series for Bernat Armangue of Spain forÂ photos he took in Gaza during November; and for Rodrigo Abd of Argentina forÂ general news single photograph, with a picture of a woman with a bloodstainedÂ face weeping in Idib, Syria, on March 10.
She was identified as Aida, and her photo ofÂ silent grief is in some ways a reverse image of Hansen’s winning shot. SheÂ received severe injuries when her house was shelled by the Syrian Army, killingÂ her husband and two children.
The photos were submitted anonymously to aÂ panel of 19 jury members, chaired by AP Director of Photography Santiago Lyon,Â and judged in multiple rounds.
The winners were all ‘stellar examples ofÂ first-rate photojournalism,’ Lyon said.
Other judges came from Germany, Iraq, Peru,Â France, Sweden, China, Britain, Spain, Azerbaijan, South Africa, TheÂ Netherlands, Switzerland and the U.S.