The world in pictures: The World Press Photo Exhibition 2021

By Renata Konya
The World Press Photo exhibition was held for the fourth time at the Hungarian National Museum. The often-shocking exhibition took place between September 24 and October 31. The photos were selected by an international jury, from 74470 photos of 4315 photojournalists in 130 countries. True to the traditions of previous years, an accompanying exhibition was also connected to the main exhibition. This year, it was the jubilee exhibition of the Szebeni Workshop, called “Lát-Lelet,” that presented the works of fifteen Hungarian photographers.

Photojournalists play a significant role in today’s visual storytelling. They are the ones who bring distant events closer to us. In the past two years, we have all experienced the impacts of the pandemic in some ways. We know how it has changed our lives, but these photos show how other people’s – doctors, nurses, sportspersons, mothers, children, families – worlds were turned upside down.

A series of three photos, by Jasper Doest, illustrated how people developed strong relationships with nature during the covid-19 related lockdown. It showed a pair of feral pigeons befriending the photographer’s family members while they were unable to leave their homes in Vlaardingen, the Netherlands. Ollie and Dollie, as the family called them, were regular visitors and their daily visit reminded them that humans are not alone on the planet, even if they live in isolation in the city.

Besides the pandemic, photojournalists reported on worldwide social issues, regional political and social conflicts, nature, environment protection, and sports. Some of these stories included the Black Lives Matter protests in the U.S., the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and Kenya’s worst infestation of desert locusts.

The images submitted for the competition were judged by a twenty-eight-member jury of renowned photography professionals, independent of the World Press Photo Foundation. They are made up of new members each year. As before, photojournalists could participate in the following categories: General News and Spot News, Contemporary Issues, Long-Term Projects, Environment, Sports. This year, each category had a separate jury. The General Jury finally decided on the remuneration. All award-winning images went through a rigorous verification process to be absolutely sure that the image was not been tampered with and that the event matched the descriptions placed on the side of each picture.

Digital Storytelling is an accompanying program within the exhibition, in which the audience can experience a continuous cinematic experience. Digital Storytelling, which features mostly documentary films, represents the increasingly popular online media.

The traveling exhibition was viewed by more than four million visitors in 120 locations worldwide. The exhibition organized in Hungary was also one of the most visited in the world, with more than forty-five thousand visitors in the years before the pandemic. It shows people’s interest in what is happening in the world we live in. These pictures are often eye-openers, they make us feel and think and help us appreciate the things we have.

“We desperately need authentic pictures and stories! These photos open a window to the world.”