A Canadian photojournalist for Reuters, Finbarr O’Reilly, 35, has won the premier World Press Photo of the Year Award for a color picture of the emaciated fingers of a one-year-old child pressed against his mother’s lips at an emergency feeding station in Niger. The picture was taken while covering a devastating drought, the worst there in decades, that left millions of people without food in August 2005.
O’Reilly is the Reuters chief photographer for West and Central Africa and is based in Dakar, Senegal. He has been working full-time as a photojournalist for Reuters for less than two years. Before that he was a reporter based in Kigali, Rwanda, covering Africa's strife, poverty, and famine extensively for Reuters.
“This fantastic achievement is further magnified by the fact that Finbarr is new to photography,” Tom Szlukovenyi, Reuters global picture editor, said. “His raw talent shone through even when he was working for Reuters as a text reporter. His first picture as a full-time professional photographer was taken only a year ago in Sudan. Under the watchful eye of his mentor Radu Sigheti, Reuters East Africa senior photographer, he has progressed incredibly fast and has provided Reuters with a steady stream of outstanding images. News of Reuters second consecutive win at the World Press spread like wildfire among photographers covering the Winter Olympics and is seen as further proof of the talent and hard work of all in the picture service.”
Mohamed Azakir, a Reuters photographer based in Lebanon, also received the first prize in Spot News Singles in this year’s contest with his picture of a car bomb explosion in Beirut.
World Press Photo will present this year's awards on April 23 in Amsterdam. O'Reilly's World Press Photo of the Year Award carries with it a 10,000 Euro cash prize and Canon donates a new Canon EOS 1D Mark II N camera to the winner.
It’s the second year in a row for a Reuters photographer to win the top honor in World Press. Last year Arko Datta won Photo of the Year for a powerful image of a woman who survived the post-Christmas tsunami kneeling on the ground and mourning the body of a family member who was killed in the disaster.
James Colton, jury chairman this year for World Press Photo and a picture editor for Sports Illustrated magazine, an NPPA member since 1992, talked about O’Reilly’s winning photograph in the World Press announcement today. “This picture has haunted me ever since I first saw it two weeks ago. It has stayed in my head, even after seeing all the thousands of others during the competition. This image has everything: beauty, horror, and despair. It is simple, elegant, and moving,” he said.
“We are deeply honoured and extremely proud to win news photography's top award for the second year running,” Geert Linnebank, Reuters editor-in-chief said. “Photojournalism is integral to what we do every day at Reuters -- holding up mirrors so the world can watch and understand itself. Finnbarr O'Reilly's photo of famine in Niger is one of the very brightest of those mirrors, one which has the power to mobilize."
“Finbarr has very quickly become a rising star in Reuters photography team, coming from writing journalism, which shows how broad his talent is,” Tom Glocer, Reuters CEO, said. “This highest recognition for Reuters for the second year in a row makes me very proud. We have a fantastic team of first-class photographers, often in very difficult situations. Day after day they bring to the world in one shot all the issues of the planet. Last year it was Arko Datta's tsunami survivor photograph, this year it's the famine in Niger seen by Finbarr. Photography is very important for Reuters and this is why we will continue to invest in it.”
The jury that picked this year's World Press winners was chaired by Colton and included Paula Bronstein of Getty Images; Per Folkver, a picture editor for Politiken in Denmark; Janine Haidar, a picture editor for Agence France-Presse in Lebanon; Magdalena Herrera, an art director for National Geographic from France and Cuba; Wen Huang, a picture editor for Xinhua News Agency in China; Gary Knight, of the VII Agency, who is based in the U.K.; Eliane Laffont, editorial director for Hachette Filipacchi Photos; Greg Marinovich, a picture editor for the Sunday Times in London; Ricardo Mazalan, an Associated Press photographer from Argentina; Simon Njami, artistic director for Rencontres Africaines from Cameroon; Kathy Ryan, the photography editor for The New York Times Sunday Magazine; and Stephan Vanfleteren, a photographer from Belgium.
Other winners this year include Ben Curtis, of the Associated Press in the U.K., who won first place in stories for his coverage of street violence surrounding the presidential elections in Togo. David Guttenfelder, of the Associated Press in America, won first place in general news singles for a picture of a father and son in a field hospital in Pakistan. And Todd Heisler, of the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, won first place in general news stories for his essay "Final Salute," honoring fallen U.S. Marines as their bodies are returned home for burial.
John G. Mabanglo of EPA, who is based in America, won first place in sports action for a picture of diver Chelsea Davis hitting her head on the diving board at the FINA World Championships in Montreal, and Donald Miralle, Jr., of Getty Images won first place in sports action stories for a sports portfolio that included an underwater picture of Aaron Peirsol at the Santa Clara Grand Prix.
World Press says that 4,448 photographers from 122 countries entered 83,044 images in this year’s competition. They awarded prizes in 10 theme categories to 63 photographers from 25 nationalities. A full list of this year's winners is here.