Warren Richardson's image of a refugee passing a baby through the fence at the Serbia/Hungary border, lit purely by moonlight because a flash would have alerted border police, has won the coveted World Press Photo of the Year.
“The police would come and go from near where the Syrian group was hiding. Each time the police showed up, they would try to fix the fence so that people would not go under. But each time the police would leave, the Syrian engineers would make another hole so that they could help as many people as possible get under the fence.
“The police continually returned to the same spot, but this time they were a little more verbal and angry. The police attempted to fix the new holes that the Syrian engineers had made.
The police were yelling into the darkness in broken English: “Do not come illegally into Hungary, go away we do not want you here, if we catch you, you will be arrested.”
“They proceeded to spray pepper everywhere to prevent anyone from using this particular spot. Again the police moved on to check other areas they were having problems with. Once again the Syrian engineers, with tears in their eyes from the pepper spray, created another hole in the fence to allow more people to move forward into Hungary to get to Germany, as this is where they desperately wanted to be.
“Four hours on from when they started, they had helped more than 200 people go under the razor wire fence. Once everyone had passed under the fence, the Syrian engineers said their last good byes to me, and left as they were the last ones to go into the darkness of the night.”
Richardson’s next project will see him walk to the Arctic Circle, a way of continuing his refugee stories, to explore the effects of human-induced climate change on the world.
Francis Kohn, chair of the general jury, and photo director of Agence France-Presse, said: “Early on we looked at this photo and we knew it was an important one. It had such power because of its simplicity, especially the symbolism of the barbed wire.
“We thought it had almost everything in there to give a strong visual of what’s happening with the refugees. I think it’s a very classical photo, and at the same time it’s timeless. It portrays a situation, but the way it’s done is classic in the greatest sense of the word.”
Huang Wen, director of new media development at Xinhua News Agency, said: “It’s a haunting image. You see the anxiousness and the tension in such a mood which is pretty different from those in-your-face images. It’s subtle, and shows the emotion and the real feeling from the deep heart of a father just trying to hand over his baby to the world he was longing to be in. This is really something.”
Vaughn Wallace, deputy photo editor Al Jazeera America, said: “We’ve seen thousands of images of migrants in every form of their journey, but this image really caught my eye. It causes you to stop and consider the man’s face, consider the child. You see the sharpness of the barbed wire and the hands reaching out from the darkness. This isn’t the end of a journey, but the completion of one stage of a very long future. And so, for me, this had to be the photo of the year.”