Out of 100,000 photographs, one single shot stood out.
A woman, fully covered in a black Abaya, save a small sliver of flesh, cradles a wounded relative.
Initially published in The New York Times without a photo credit out of fear for the photographer’s safety, Samual Aranda’s “Living Image of the Courage of Ordinary People” was chosen as this year’s World Press Photo of the Year.
The day the photograph was taken Oct. 15, 2011, Yemen was at the height of its bloody uprising. As protesters clashed with forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, this wounded man slipped into a mosque that was operating as a field hospital. It’s an intimate moment, a poignant look behind the bloodshed.
“The winning photo shows … the human consequence of an enormous event, an event that is still going on,” World Press chairman Aidan Sullivan told the Associated Press. “We might never know who this woman is … but together they become a living image of the courage of ordinary people that helped create an important chapter in the history of the Middle East.”
Another juror, Koyo Kouoh, told the Associated Press that the photo “stands for Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, for all that happened in the Arab Spring… It shows the role that women played, not only as caregivers but as active people in the movement.”
Aranda, a Spanish freelancer for the New York Times, had worked in the region before, but never in Yemen. Last December he spoke to the New York Times’ Lens Blog about his expectations working in a country on the brink of civil war and about the generosity of those he met in Sanaa.
“[Sanaa] is the best city that I ever been in my life,” he told the Lens Blog. “I was expecting Yemen to be like Iraq in 2004 or Pakistan or Afghanistan — where you can’t go out at night and a lot of people don’t really like foreigners. Here it’s the opposite.”
This is the first time Aranda has won the award and will receive a cash prize of $13,300 at a ceremony later this year.