World Press Photo of 2014 challenges homophobia

The jury of the 58th annual World Press Photo Contest has selected an image by Danish photographer Mads Nissen as the World Press Photo of the Year 2014. The picture shows Jon and Alex, a gay couple, during an intimate moment in St Petersburg, Russia. Life for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) people is becoming increasingly difficult in Russia. Sexual minorities face legal and social discrimination, harassment, and even violent hate-crime attacks from conservative religious and nationalistic groups. The photo also won first prize in the Contemporary Issues category. See all the awarded photos in the World Press Photo image gallery.

Jon and Alex World Press Photo winner by Mads Nissen

“Jon and Alex” is part of “Homophobia in Russia“, a photography project, published in Berlingske Magazine Sunday and BT Sunday. Mads Nissen explains the thinking behind the project.

“In June 2013, Russia’s homophobia moved from the streets into the country’s legislation as the State Duma unanimously adopted an anti-gay law banning “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations”, effectively making it illegal to hold any gay pride events, speak in defense of gay rights, or say that gay relationships are equal to heterosexual relationships. This reportage documents the harassment and those affected by it. It also covers the courtroom where gay activists are interrogated, the nightclub where they feel free to mingle and a lesbian family who live in fear of their three children being removed by the state because of their own personal sexuality. This is an attempt to understand what it’s like to live with forbidden love in modern Russia.”

Homophobia in Russia - photographs by Mads Nissen

Comments on the winners by the jury

Jury chair Michele McNally, director of photography and assistant managing editor of The New York Times, said: “It is an historic time for the image… the winning image needs to be aesthetic, to have impact, and to have the potential to become iconic. This photo is aesthetically powerful, and it has humanity.”

Pamela Chen commented: “We were looking for an image that would matter tomorrow, not just today. The winning image demonstrates what a professional photographer can do in a daily life situation, setting a professional standard for story-telling in life. This is a contemporary issue, it is daily life, it is news, it has spot news resonance, it has general news resonance, but it also brings up the issue in a very deep and challenging way. It is quite universal.”

Alessia Glaviano said: “The photo has a message about love being an answer in the context of all that is going on in the world. It is about love as a global issue, in a way that transcends homosexuality. It sends out a strong message to the world, not just about homosexuality, but about equality, about gender, about being black or white, about all of the issues related to minorities.”

Donald Weber commented: “World Press Photo is more interesting than being just a competition. The winning image fosters debate not only within the photo community, about who we are and where we’re going and what we’re trying to say, but also in the larger community. The images are seen and discussed by tens of thousands of people.”

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