On Diversity and Representation — World Press Photo 2017

In this year’s World Press Photo, only 15% of entrants and 11% of prizewinners were women. Just one out of 45 awarded photographers was African, 3 were from South-America, 3 from Asia and 5 from the Middle East.

By Pol Artola @artolariera / March 5, 2017

Only 15.5% of World Press Photo 2017 contest entrants were women, according to a technical report released yesterday by the organisation. Their share among the winning photographers was 11%. The figure follows the trend of previous years’ editions, in which the proportion has been quite similar. In the last three editions (2014, 2015 and 2016), the number of female entrants to the contest has invariably been 15%. In 2012, the most recent “high point”, it was 17.5%. In 2016, 17% of prizewinners were women.

% of entrants by gender. From World Press Photo’s Technical Report 2016
Number of entrants by gender. From World Press Photo’s Technical Report 2016.
Amber Bracken, Canada, for Standing Rock
Paula Bronstein, USA, for The Silent Victims of a Forgotten War
Ami Vitale, USA, for Pandas Gone Wild
Elena Anosova, Russia, for Out of the Way
Kristina Kormilitsyna, Russia, for Fidelity

This imbalance was also clear in the State of News Photography 2016 report, a survey in which 85% of respondents were male, while 15% women. Nevertheless, we can’t assert whether this differs from or replicates the gender balance of the photojournalism professional community as a whole, since there’s not enough available data to do so. In absence of accurate research on the issue, though, WPP’s own database could be considered one of the most representative samples to approximate the real gender split in the profession, due to the popularity and number of entrants of its contest.

In order to increase gender diversity, World Press Photo partnered with the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) to better support female photojournalists by launching the Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Awards.

Geographically, of the 45 awarded photographers in this year’s edition, only 1 of them was African (South Africa), 3 were from South-America (2 Brazilians, 1 Chilean), 3 from Asia (a Chinese, an Indian and a Filipino) and 5 from the Middle East, (2 Syrians, a Turkish, an Iranian and a Pakistani). Only 2% of the 2017 entrants were from Africa and 6% from South America. Lars Boering, Managing Director at The World Press Photo Foundation, labeled it as “unacceptable“.

Brent Stirton (Getty), South Africa, for Rhino Wars
Lalo de Almeida, Brazil, for Victims of the Zika Virus
Felipe Dana(AP), Brazil, for Battle for Mosul
Tomas Munita, Chile, for Cuba on the Edge of Change
Tiejun Wang, China, for Sweat Makes Champions
Noel Celis (AFP), Philippines, for Inside the Philippines’ Most Overcrowded Jail
Nayan Khanolkar, India, for Big Cat in My Backyard
Burhan Ozbilici (AP), Turkey, The Associated Press, for An Assassination in Turkey
Walid Mashhadi (AFP), Syria, for Rescued From the Rubble
Abd Doumany (AFP), Syria for Medics Assist a Wounded Girl
Jamal Taraqai (EPA), Pakistan, Pakistan Bomb Blast
Hossein Fatemi (Panos), Iran, for An Iranian Journey

Looking at historical data, from the 600 awards given since 2007, only 17 correspond to African photographers, 27 to South Americans, 34 to Middle Easterners and 65 to Asians.

As seen in the graphic below, the geographic distribution of entrants has been traditionally weighted towards Europe (47% in 2017) and Asia — note that China alone constitutes almost 10% (799) of the total entries in 2017 (80,408), being the top country by number of entrants both in 2017 and in 2016 (1014).

As World Press Photo clears up in their report, entries are judged anonymously, so neither the country of origin nor the gender are visible factors during the judging process.

Entrants by continent. From World Press Photo’s Technical Report 2017.
Top countries by number of entries. From World Press Photo’s Technical Report 2017.

To address the under-representation of photographers in Africa, Asia (beyond China), and South America, which is one of the main goals of World Press Photo, the organisation has set up training programs in these regions (in Mexico City in 2015, Nairobi in 2016 and an upcoming masterclass in Accra, Ghana, in 2017), as well as launching the African Photojournalism Database in partnership with Everyday Africa and Blink.

Subscribe to our newsletter
@artolariera and @photojournalink on Twitter
We are also on
Facebook and Instagram