A history of Palestinians in the World Press Photo of the Year contest

Since 1955, the World Press Photo of the Year award has gone to the most telling of photographs, the ones that capture, contain, and organize the most reality and raw emotion in a rectangular field of pixels. Each photograph presents a narrative of the human condition and is oftentimes the strongest visual representation of an era of importance. They catalyze change by attracting the world’s visual attention.

Of the fifty-four photographs honored with the distinction, three feature Palestinians as the subjects. Three. The first shows Palestinian refugees fleeing from their homes again in 1976 during civil war in Lebanon. The second, from 1982, reveals the aftermath of the Sabra and Shatila massacre. The third, taken in 1993, shows Palestinian children raising toy guns as a sign of defiance at the close of the First Intifada. You’d think, then, that giving the world three opportunities to witness the realities lived by Palestinians would prevent the perpetuation of such injustices, no?

Here are the photographs with brief captions.


Palestinians flee the La Quarantaine district of Beirut, Lebanon in January 1976. What makes this photograph especially moving is the context behind it, the fact that these refugees were remade into refugees. The father likely experienced the same rocking explosions almost three decades ago when he was a child, and now his children get to follow in his footsteps. (Photo by Françoise Demulder)


Ten bodies lie outside of a building in Lebanon’s Sabra and Shatila refugee camps after Christian Phalangist forces, guarded by the Israeli military, massacred upwards of 3,500 Palestinians. The massacre began on September 16, 1982 and lasted until September 18, 1982. (Photo by Robin Moyer)


Palestinian children wave toy guns in the air in Gaza City in the Gaza Strip. Although the First Intifada had come to a close by September of that year, the population had been energized to resist the oppressive occupation of its land. The Second Intifada began seven years later. (Photo by Larry Towell)

The bodies of Suhaib Hijazi, 2, and his brother Muhammad are carried by their uncles through the streets of Gaza City to a mosque for the burial ceremony. An Israeli air strike on the Palestinian family’s home killed the children and their father. (Photo by Paul Hansen)


There is one comment

  1. Noelle Clearwater

    There is more depth, more resonance of feeling, more heart-wrenching sadness evoked from these three photographs than from any image of the Vietnam war I have ever seen. To know that so many generations have experienced this same level of trauma tears at the fiber of one’s being. To see the bloodied bodies of children, such incalculable loss, is a heartscald beyond verbal expression. That there are three images of such inhumanity, and children in the last image, making an attempt to rise up against oppression because no one else will defend them should shock the human heart and spirit into action, but it does not. Ane we are the worse for it to be sure, for we are complicit as a nation. Thank you, Sami for your ever-vigilant awareness and willingness to show this to the world. I wrote to the archives, hoping to use the last image with my thesis. If you know where I might write to Larry Towel, I would appreciate that information ,

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