Pic of gay couple in embrace wins World Press Photo award

An image of a gay couple locked in a tender embrace won the prestigious World Press Photo award on Thursday, highlighting the plight of sexual minorities in Russia, judges said.

Danish photographer Mads Nissen shot his evocative winning picture of Jon and Alex in a bare room in Saint Petersburg, with only a dark brown curtain as a backdrop. One of the men lies with his eyes closed, while the other tenderly looks on at him, their hands entwined together.

Danish winning photographer Mads Nissen (left) gives a press conference with World Press Photo director Lars Boering during the 2014 World Press Photo Awards. (Reuters)

Russia’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community has come under increasing attacks in Russia, with the government earlier this year passing a controversial law banning transvestites and transsexuals from driving.

In 2013, Putin signed a law banning the so-called “propaganda” of gay relationships to minors, despite an outcry from rights groups, Western governments and celebrities including Madonna.

Nissen’s winning picture is part of his larger series called Homophobia in Russia and also won first prize in the Contemporary Issues category.

Turkey, Syria
Agence France-Presse’s Istanbul-based photographer Bulent Kilic won first and third prizes in the Spot News category, Singles, for two haunting images taken in Turkey and Syria.

Kilic’s first photo is of a young girl, wounded and dripping with water, found after clashes between riot police and protestors following the funeral of Berkin Elvan, a 15-year-old boy who died from his injuries during last year’s anti-government protests in Turkey.

A young girl was wounded during clashes between riot-police and protesters after the funeral of Berkin Elvan, the 15-year-old boy who died from injuries during last year’s anti-government protests. (Bulent Kilic)

Kilic’s second picture captures the exact moment of an air strike against Islamic State fighters on a Syrian hilltop in October 2014.

Speaking about Nissen’s winning photograph, jury chairperson Michelle McNally said “it is a historic time for the image … the winning image needs to be aesthetic, to have impact and have the potential to become iconic.”

“This photo is aesthetically powerful, and it has humanity,” said McNally, who is the  New York Times‘s director of photography and assistant managing editor. 

Below are some of the images that won in the various categories of the awards; 

Second Prize Nature Category, Singles. A group of young Samburu warriors encounter a rhino for the first time in their lives. Most people in Kenya never get the opportunity to see the wildlife that exists literally in their own backyard. (Ami Vitale)

Second Prize Sports Category, Singles. Odell Beckham (#13) of the New York Giants makes a one-handed touchdown catch in the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium. (Al Bello)

First Prize General News Category, Singles. Damaged goods lie in a kitchen in downtown Donetsk. Ordinary workers, miners, teachers, pensioners, children, and elderly women and men are in the midst of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. (Sergei Ilnitsky)

For more on the awards visit the World Press Photo website

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