The World Press Photo of 2014, selected today, shares an intimate embrace between a gay couple in a dark room in Russia, captured by Danish photographer Mads Nissen.
The photo also won first place in the Contemporary Issues category, making it the second year in a row the judges selected a winner from said category.
Nissen’s winning image is part of a photo series called “Homophobia in Russia,” which documented the difficulties and struggles shared by the LGBT community in Russia, especially after an anti-gay law passed in 2013.
“This is an attempt to understand what it’s like to live with forbidden love in modern Russia,” Nissen wrote in the description of his photo essay. “Sexual minorities face legal and social discrimination, harassment, and even violent hate-crime attacks from conservative religious and nationalistic groups.”
The World Press jury explained that they were looking for a timeless, iconic image that sets a professional standard for story telling, stressing the necessity for a touch of humanity as well as aesthetics. And Nissen’s photo hit all the spots.
But perhaps the lesser-known part of the competition is an astonishing fact: The World Press jury disqualified 20 percent of its finalists for over-manipulating images and careless post-processing.
When a photo makes it to the final stages of the contest, the photographer is required to send in raw files. This year, the disqualified images had either excessive toning or removal of small details that compromised the integrity of the original photos.
The contest rules only allow “retouching of files that conforms to currently accepted standards in the industry,” and “the jury is the ultimate arbiter of these standards,” World Press Photo managing director Lars Boering told TIME magazine.
The worst hit category was Sports Stories, hit so badly that the jury awarded only two prizes instead of the usual three.
“We want to keep the standards high,” Boering said, stressing the urgency of this issue in professional photojournalism. “Over the coming months, we will be engaging in further dialogue with the international photojournalistic community to explore what we can learn from all this, and how we can create a deeper understanding of issues involved in the application of post-processing standards in professional photojournalism.”
Here are the rest of the winners of the 58th photo contest, carefully selected from more than 95,000 images submitted from more than 5,000 photographers around the world.