World Press Photo MD Lars Boering on the 2018 contest

“We have so many people from so many countries [on the shortlist] – photographers from 125 countries have participated, 22 are on the shortlists,” says Lars Boering, managing director of World Press Photo.

“We are a Dutch organisation but over the past three years it has become a very international team, and members of staff always find someone to feel that their country has done well.”

World Press Photo has been announced – or at least the shortlists, because this year, for the first time, the shortlists are being released before the winners. The final results will be announced at a special awards ceremony on 12 April which will help open the World Press Photo Festival.

There are now eight categories in the competition, including a new Environment prize, and each nominated photograph – including all singles and stories, except for those in the long-term projects award – are eligible for the World Press Photo of the Year. Shortlisted for the main prize are five photographers, Patrick Brown, Adam Ferguson, Toby Melville, Ronaldo Schemidt and Ivor Prickett, with Prickett nominated for two separate images shot in Mosul.

15 March 2017. Civilians who had remained in west Mosul after the battle to take the city line up for aid in the Mamun neighbourhood. In early July, after months of fighting, the Iraqi government declared the city of Mosul fully liberated from ISIS, although conflict continued in pockets of the city. Thousands of civilians were killed during the battle for Mosul, while large areas of the city were left in ruins. The Battle for Mosul – Lined Up for an Aid Distribution © Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

It’s all part of a raft of changes that Boering has introduced to World Press Photo since 2015, when he took over as managing director. He joined just before a disastrous year for the contest, in which more than 20% of final round entries had to be disqualified for image manipulation, and the contemporary issues winner, Giovanni Troilo, had to be disqualified after emerged one of his images had not been shot where he had said it had been shot.

In response Boering launched a new code of ethics for entrants, which means that images submitted to the prize are now more thoroughly checked. This year, he says, all the images have been thoroughly checked before the shortlists have been announced, let alone the winners.

“All the checking is already done – all raw files, where the images were shot, everything,” he tells BJP. “We know how important it is that everything can be trusted, and we keep asking questions until we are satisfied. We wouldn’t announce the shortlists unless we were.”

Last year new challenges surfaced though, when the winning image by Burhan Ozbilici – which showed a terrorist attack at a press conference in Turkey – was denounced as “a staged murder for the press” by jury chair and Magnum Photos member Stuart Franklin. “It is a premeditated, staged murder at a press conference, which arguably you could put in the same envelope as the beheading of a prisoner in Raqqa [Syria],” Franklin told BJP.

“I can tell you, I didn’t vote for the photograph because of that dilemma,” he added.

For Boering, it’s an issue but it is also “a very old habit”. “In that sense every terrorist event is set up by people who are aiming to make the biggest effect,” he tells BJP. “It’s the same with press conferences and politicians.”

12 August 2017. People are thrown into the air as a car plows into a group of protesters demonstrating against the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in Virginia, USA © Ryan M. Kelly, for The Daily Progress, nominated for Spot News Singles category

In fact, he adds, photographers always take a certain perspective on what is happening around them, so “if you take that standpoint the whole world’s a stage”. In judging a large competition such as World Press Photo, the juries inevitably see the same event photographed multiple times, he adds – and it’s interesting to see “how different photographers have interpreted the same scene”.

It’s a factor that Magdalena Herrera, chair of the 2018 jury, also picked out for comment this year, telling BJP that the judges were specifically looking for photographers with “a point of view” – image-makers who recognise that their wire is always shot from a certain perspective, and make something of it. For Boering, the next logical step is to invite these photographers to advocate for their work, and he says the forthcoming World Press Photo Festival will do just that.

29 March – 7 December 2017. Sex workers pictured in their apartments, in St. Petersburg, Russia © Tatiana Vinogradova, nominated for People Stories category

“We’re calling it a festival, but it’s not a festival in the traditional sense of putting on photography shows,” he says. “We’ll premiere the World Press Photo show there, but the focus is on putting the photographers on the stage.

“Most successful photographers now know they need to stand up and present their stories,” he says. “Very often they have taken up the cause [of what they have shot] They feel they have a responsibility.”

And, when I point out that it’s striking that The New York Times commissioned three of the six images nominated for World Press Photo of the Year, Boering says ethical considerations are also behind their success. “Their tenacity is really showing through,” he says. “It’s good to know that the things we see are things we can trust.”

To see all the nominated images, visit the World Press Photos website

16 – 25 September 2017. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), having laid down weapons after more than 50 years of conflict in Colombia, is transforming itself into a new political party and is participating in professional football clubs made up of victims of conflict as well as former rebels. From the series Peace Football Club © Juan D. Arredondo, nominated for the Sports Stories prize
2 March 2017. Djeneta (right) has been bedridden and unresponsive for two and a half years, and her sister Ibadeta for more than six months, with uppgivenhetssyndrom ( resignation syndrome), in Horndal, Sweden. It is a condition believed to exist only amongst refugees in Sweden. Resignation Syndrome © Magnus Wennman for Aftonbladet, nominated for the People Singles prize
24 July 2011 – 24 November 2017. The Omo Valley region in Ethiopia is an extremely fragile natural environment that is home to approximately 200,000 inhabitants of many diverse ethnic groups. This area is changing rapidly as a result of the construction of the Gibe III Dam, which is having a severe environmental and socio-economic impact on the region. From the series Omo Change © Faust Podavini, nominated for the Long-term Projects prize
5 August 2010 – 12 August 2017. After years of social chaos, drug trafficking and corruption, many Latin Americans are determined to revolt against the problems afflicting their countries. The project describes the fear, anger and impotence of victims amid the daily terror of street gangs, murder and thievery, and also addresses the recent trend of drug tourism in countries such as Colombia. From the series Latidoamerica © Javier Arcenillas, Luz, nominated for the long-term projects prize
12 – 17 January 2017. The tightening of the so-called Balkan route into the European Union stranded thousands of refugees attempting to travel through the country to seek a new life in Europe. Many spent the freezing Serbian winter in derelict warehouses behind Belgrade’s main train station. From Lives in Limbo © Francesco Pistil, nominated for the General News Stories prize
19 September – 2 November 2017. ‘Clearance operations’ against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar conducted by the Burmese army led to hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing into Bangladesh on foot or by boat. Many died in the attempt. In Bangladesh, refugees were housed in makeshift settlements. Image © Kevin Frayer for Getty Images, nominated for the General News Stories prize
23 February 2016 – 9 July 2017. Humans are producing more waste than ever before. Differences between waste management systems documented between 2016 and 2017 in Jakarta, Tokyo, Lagos, New York, São Paulo and Amsterdam investigate how societies manage—or mismanage—their waste. From Wasteland © Kadir van Lohuizen, NOOR Images, nominated for the Environment Stories prize
19 January – 18 February 2017. Deforestation in the Amazon, Brazil. After declining from major peaks in 1995 and 2004, the rate of deforestation in the Amazon increased sharply in 2016. From Amazon: Paradise Threatened © Daniel Beltrá, nominated for the Environment Stories prize
23 September – 1 October 2017. Degrees of anger in three US states: a journey made in the weeks after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. From White Rage – USA © Espen Rasmussen, VG, nominated for the Contemporary Issues Stories prize
6 November – 7 December 2016. The practice of breast ironing for girls between the ages of eight and 12 in Cameroon is carried out in the belief that this will delay maturity and help prevent rapes or sexual advances. From Banned Beauty © Heba Khamis, nominated for the Contemporary Issues Stories prize
Diane Smyth

Diane Smyth is the editor of BJP, returning for a second stint on staff in 2023 - after 15 years on the team until 2019. As a freelancer, she has written for The Guardian, FT Weekend Magazine, Creative Review, Aperture, FOAM, Aesthetica and Apollo. She has also curated exhibitions for institutions such as The Photographers Gallery and Lianzhou Foto Festival. You can follow her on instagram @dismy