Reactions to Samuel Aranda’s World Press Photo-winning image


Samuel Aranda - World Press Photo 2012 winning image - A woman holds her wounded son in her arms, inside a mosque used as a field hospital by demonstrators against the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, during clashes in Sanaa, Yemen on 15 October 2011.

Samuel Aranda - World Press Photo 2012 winning image - A woman holds her wounded son in her arms, inside a mosque used as a field hospital by demonstrators against the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, during clashes in Sanaa, Yemen on 15 October 2011.

“If we don’t get that then we’ll helplessly stare at all these images, to project what we already know onto them. Samuel Aranda’s photograph provides a good opportunity: It’s easy to see the veil, it’s easy to see the pose (the expression of human suffering and of compassion), it’s easy to see (or at least somewhat realize) the very specifically Western visual imagery. But it’s quite a bit harder to put all that together and to then find out what we are really looking at.” -Joerg Colberg, The Problem with Western Press Photo

The winners of World Press Photo 2012 were announced on Friday, and while no awards went to anything as controversial as an iPhone or Google Street View series, there have been varied reactions to Samuel Aranda‘s winning image of a woman in a niqab comforting an injured man in Yemen. I was struck by the image when I saw it published without a photo credit on the cover of the New York Times. The image is strong, but it allows much to be read into it. Over the weekend, everyone came out with an opinion on the image. Some were fawning, others were more measured or outright critical. Of particular note, be sure to read these: Michael Shaw’s Aranda’s World Press Photo of the Year: Pietàs and Burkas and Just Plain Obscurity, Oh My!, JM Colberg’s The Problem with Western Press Photo, Jim Johnson’s Uses of the Pietà ~ Criticisms of World Press Photo Award. Make sure to read WPP juror Nina Berman’s response to Jim Johnson in the comments (that link may or may not go directly to the comment. If not, scroll down to comment #9).

What do you think?


  1. [...] to Yemen Times, someone has come forward saying she is the veiled woman in Samuel Aranda’s World Press Photo 2012-winning image. Fatima Al-Qaws says she was comforting her son as he recovered from a tear gas attack. The man in [...]

  2. [...] it because I don’t really care about awards, but the debate has been mildly interesting. dvaphoto’s roundup is a good place to start. Colberg’s article made some excellent points, and that’s [...]

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  5. [...] We’ve already had the debate this year on the reading of photographs to fit into easy narratives with Samuel Aranda’s World Press Photo 2012-winning photo of a Yemeni mother comforting an injured man. Some saw a Western photographer shoehorning Christian ideology on a Muslim and Middle Eastern scenario; others saw a beautiful and heartbreaking devotion of mother/woman taking part in revolutionary struggle. For what it’s worth, the woman in the photo found out about the photo via facebook and thought it supported the revolution and showed that Yemenis were not extremists. [...]

  6. Annick toespring says:

    Wow, never seen such real life pictures…so beautiful made…deep respect!

    [Reply]

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