The picture shows 21-year-old Jon and Alex Semyonov, 25. Alex is lying on his back on a bed, with Jon sitting up and pressed close.
It is a sombre picture. You can almost hear the heavy curtains blowing in the background. And is that fear in the eyes of young Jon? This was a picture taken by Politiken’s photographer Mads Nissen last year. At the time, he worked for Berlingske.
Mads Nissen’s photograph is not just a good photograph. It is the best press photo that was taken in the world over the past year and is simply called World Press Photo of the Year. One picture out of the 97,912 contenders from 5,692 photographers that raises its head up as something very special. The 2014 picture that etches itself into the history of press photography.
World Press Photo Jury Chair Michele McNally of the New York Times says of the photograph that it has the potential to become iconic.
»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«, Jury Chair and Photography Director of the New York Times says.
A picture about love, and hatred.
For Mads Nissen, the picture is about love and he is delighted that a picture such as this one has been chosen as winner.
»Love and hatred. It’s about desire that cannot be held back no matter what. Even if you’ve been told that it is wrong; because being homosexual is not a sickness but something you are born to«, Nissen says from the Netherlands where the prizes for the world’s most prestigious photojournalist competition have just been awarded.
»I am delighted that they have chosen a picture that is tranquil. It is not bloody. The past year has been a dramatic one with Ukraine and Ebola. This is more about a problem in society than one about ‘bang bang’«, he says.
Mads Nissen was originally trained at Politiken from 2004 to 2006, after which he moved to Shanghai. In 2009 he was employed by Berlingske, where he remained until September last year.
The story about the repression of Russian homosexuals and their battle for the right to free love was produced for Berlingske. Since then he has been staff photographer at Politiken where Editor-in-Chief Bo Lidegaard says he is delighted with the honour that has been awarded to Nissen.
»I am both delighted and proud. Mads is a real storyteller, a person who always has contact with those with whom he works – both his colleagues and those he depicts. He has an empathy that you feel through his pictures«, Lidegaard says.
One of many prizes
It is the first time that Mads Nissen wins the World press Photo of the Year but far from the first prize for the 35-year-old photographer. He has been awarded Press Photo of the Year in Denmark twice as well as some 15 Danish prizes during his career. There have also been prizes in connection with a long list of international competitions.
Nor is it the first time that a Danish photographer has won Press Photo of the year. A Dane has now won the prestigious title four times. The very first Press Photo of the Year was awarded in 1955 to the Danish photographer Mogens von Haven for a photo of a motor-cross competitor taking a tumble from his motorcycle at the Volk Mølle course. In 1999 Berlingske’s photographer Claus Bjørn Larsen won the prize for his picture from the war in Kosovo. In 2001, another Berlingske photographer, Erik Refner, won for his picture from a refugee camp in Afghanistan.
Mads Nissen’s full picture series on homophobia in Russia was taken for Berlingske and can be seen on their website.
The World’s Press Photo of the Year is not a category pictures entered for. Judges scan all the material sent in and choose the best photograph. Apart from the main prize, Mads Nissen also receives a first prize in the Contemporary Issues category.
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