Ronaldo Schemidt has won the World Press Photo of the Year award for an arresting image taken during an anti-government protest in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas. The chosen picture shows 28-year-old José Víctor Salazar Balza ablaze amid violent clashes with police after the gas tank of a nearby motorbike exploded. Miraculously, Salazar survived the incident but with first- and second-degree burns.
Schemidt’s image was among six nominated for the award, including by Patrick Brown (Australia) for his photograph of the Rohingya crisis; Adam Ferguson (Australia) for his image of a Boko Haram survivor; Toby Melville (UK) for his photo following the immediate aftermath of a terror attack in London; and Ivor Prickett (Ireland) for two images from the Battle for Mosul.
Of the winning image, jury member and deputy director of photography at National Geographic, Whitney C Johnson said: “It’s quite symbolic. The man, he has a mask on his face. He’s come to represent not just himself and himself on fire, but this idea of Venezuela burning.”
Bulent Kiliç, another jury member and chief photographer at Turkey Agence France-Presse, highlighted “one small detail in the picture. There was a gun on the wall. It reads ‘paz’ – it means ‘peace’. That also makes this picture strong.”
Since last year’s protests against President Nicolás Maduro’s regime, Schemidt says there has been minimal violence, but food and medication have become more scarce. “Services are worse and worse,” he said in a Q&A with BJP in February 2018. “I feel that the population is disappointed and resigned, a lot of them are desperately getting out of the country, breaking families apart.”
The World Press Photo of the Year is given to the photographer whose picture captures or represents an event or issue of great journalistic importance in the last year. More details can be found here: worldpressphoto.org.