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.
Titled Hope for a New Life, the Australian freelance photographer’s winning picture, part of the series Refugee Crisis Hungary, shows refugees crossing the border between Horgoš, Serbia and Röszke, Hungary.
Taken at 3am in the morning on 28 August 2015, the man and child were part of the movement of people seeking to cross into Hungary before a secure fence on the border was completed. The image also won first prize in the Spot News category. Winners of all other categories can be seen here.
The 47-year-old Richardson is a self-taught freelance photographer currently based in the Hungarian capital Budapest; he said of the image: “I camped with the refugees for five days on the border. A group of about 200 people arrived, and they moved under the trees along the fence line. They sent women and children first, then fathers and elderly men.
“I must have been with this crew for about five hours, and we played cat and mouse with the police the whole night. I was exhausted by the time I took the picture. It was around three o’clock in the morning and you can’t use a flash while the police are trying to find these people, because I would just give them away. So I had to use the moonlight alone.”
While working on the Serbian-Hungarian border, he was one of a group of journalists covering the refugee crisis to be beaten by police, a story widely reported at the time.
He writes of the experience: “Over the course of five days on the border of Serbia and Hungary, I witnessed some 20,000 people from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, Bangladesh, Iran and Nepal, cross the border. There were men, women and children, amputees, the sick, all with stories to tell about where they had come from and where they wanted to go.
One night in particular was a night that I would never forget. There was a group of Syrians hiding amongst the apple trees on the Serbian side of the border with Hungary, their challenge was to put as many people under the newly constructed razor wire fence. In the group there were some ten engineers that had taken a good look at the fence to see where they could cross so that they could get as many of their friends and family members into Hungary.