A little girl is crying her eyes out while a border guard searches her mother: this is the photo that won first prize in this year’s edition of World Press Photo. It was taken by John Moore and reflects a growing preoccupation of our era: the migrant crisis affecting various population groups around the world. In this image, a Honduran family is trying to enter the U.S. and is being intercepted by American border guards.
A heartbreaking image, certainly because it shows a child that doesn’t understand the situation and is distraught at the sight of her mother being arrested by police officers. But the photo is also a harsh indictment of the Trump administration’s immigration policy. The image went viral and shed light on practices of the American border guard, which, among other things, has been criticized for separating children from their parents during detention.
Strength in unity: migrants in the Americas join forces as they embark on the arduous journey between the country of origin and the desired destination country. Such is the case of the caravans of people wishing to enter the United States. Photographer Pieter Ten Hoopen followed one of them through Central America. His images show just how exhausting the long march from Honduras to northern Mexico is. Entire families are seen trying to approach the US border, distress and exhaustion written on their faces.
Another consequence of migration: poverty. Photographer Heba Khamis chose to focus on a little known reality, the prostitution of young migrants in Germany, and in Berlin in particular, where she carried out her investigation. This is how she came to portray a 71-year-old German embracing a 21-year-old migrant man, who managed to get off heroine and now works in a gay bar, but whose story points to the difficulty migrants face in their efforts to integrate European society.
Sad in a different way is this photograph of a child sleeping on a dirty mattress that lies atop a pile of garbage. Mario Cruz’s image sounds the alarm on pollution in the Philippines and more particularly pollution on the Pasig River, which was declared biologically dead in the 1990s. Each year, it pours up to 63,700 tons of plastic into the ocean. In some areas, the garbage is so thick that people can walk on it, like the child shown here, who literally sleeps on top of it.
In Africa, it’s a lake that poses a big problem, Lake Chad. Its size has been reduced by 90% over the course of the last sixty years, mainly because of unplanned irrigation and deforestation. In addition to this environmental problem, there is a major political one: the extremist group known as Boko Haram is proliferating in the area, while ranchers fight with farmers over water scarcity. Marco Gualazzini’s photographic report reveals just how vital environmental issues are in this part of the world.
Migration crises, environmental crises… While many of the photographers who won prizes this year explored these issues, others focused on crises affiliated with those issues, namely war. Kudos to the very violent but necessary report by Mohammed Badra in Syria, where he captured the pain of children wounded by bombs. John Wessels, meanwhile, traveled to the northeastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where an armed conflict has been raging for 25 years while the Ebola virus continues to plague the people.
By Jean-Baptiste Gauvin
World Press Photo 2019
November 14 to December 15, 2019
Fondazione Sozzani, 22 rue Marx Dormoy, 75018 Paris, France