Message from the head of jury

At the start of 2022, few imagined that a major war would rage on the European continent for the first time in decades. A war that brought images of violence, destruction and horror to millions around the world. The enormity of the chaos is as jaw dropping as it is inconceivable — thousands of civilians senselessly killed, millions more forced to flee their homes sparking the largest refugee crisis in a generation. 

As much as any story, the war in Ukraine has reminded us of the enduring importance of photojournalists, who withstand substantial hardship, and risk their lives, to show us the world we inhabit. Their mission to bear witness, hold power to account and explain an interconnected world has never been more vital and indispensable. 

The photographs in this collection are a testament to that commitment. For every arresting image we see, there is a courageous and determined photographer on the ground, risking everything to tell someone else’s story. 

Rui Duarte Silva brought us a heartbreaking image from war’s frontlines of newborn babies packed into an elevator racing from the maternity ward to a bomb shelter out of reach of Russian missiles. 

Adra Pallón seemed to live amid the wildfires that erupted in Galicia. His images of firefighters battling the blazes from this year’s fire season in Europe are a terrifying reminder of our rapidly changing climate. 

Punctuating the scenes of war and strife are reminders of the richness of life. The tender embrace of a mother dancing with her daughter in her demolished courtyard, worried about how she would protect her children from Covid. Or images of the brave Tânia Chaves, who overcame cancer and an amputated leg, to become a national champion in adaptive climbing. 

The best photographers are observers who operate behind the scenes. They often go unacknowledged and are frequently unappreciated. But to me, they are heroes.