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100 Of The Year's Most Compelling Press Photos

The biggest news stories of the year, visualised. (Contains graphic material.)

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The World Press Photo exhibition, which opens next month in London, highlights the best photojournalism of the year, celebrating photographers whose award-winning work has brought the world’s biggest stories to life. Across 15 categories, the following images capture the drama and emotion at the heart of the refugee crisis, armed conflicts, natural disasters, and the backlash against police brutality – as well as sport, the natural world, and daily lives lived in different countries and cultures.

Hope for a New Life

Warren Richardson, Australia

A baby is handed through a hole in a razor-wire barrier, to a Syrian refugee who has already managed to cross the border from Serbia into Hungary, near Röszke.

March Against Terrorism in Paris

Corentin Fohlen / Divergence

People demonstrate their solidarity with victims of terrorist attacks, and voice support for freedom of speech, at the end of a rally at the Place de la Nation in Paris.

Gang-related Violence

Niclas Hammarstrom, Sweden

A man lies dead after a gang shoot-out in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. He was the fourth victim on the same street of an ambush by members of the 18th Street gang on their rivals MS13.

Broken Border

Bulent Kilic / AFP

People cross into Turkey through a broken fence, near the official border crossing at Akçakale. Akçakale and the Syrian town of Tel Abyad are directly adjacent to each other, with the border running through the middle.

IS Fighter Treated at Kurdish Hospital

Mauricio Lima / The New York Times

A doctor rubs ointment on the burns of a 16-year-old Islamic State fighter named Jacob in front of a poster of Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, at a YPG hospital compound on the outskirts of Hasaka, Syria.

Under the Cover of Darkness

Paul Hansen / Dagens Nyheter

Volunteers assist refugees arriving on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing by boat from Turkey under cover of darkness.

Tianjin Explosion

Chen Jie / Beijing News

A large pit, wrecked vehicles, and damaged buildings remain in the aftermath of explosions in the container storage station of a logistics company in the Port of Tianjin, northeastern China.

Reporting Europe's Refugee Crisis

Sergey Ponomarev / The New York Times

A man carries his child as Hungarian police use tear gas, pepper spray, and water cannons against people trying to cross into the country from Serbia, the day after Hungary closed its border with Serbia.

An Earthquake's Aftermath

Daniel Berehulak / The New York Times

Nepalese villagers watch a helicopter picking up a medical team, dropping aid at the edge of a makeshift landing zone in Gumda, Nepal.

An Earthquake's Aftermath

Daniel Berehulak / The New York Times

Flames rise from burning funeral pyres during the cremation of earthquake victims at the Pashupatinath Temple on the banks of Bagmati River, Kathmandu, Nepal.

FIS World Championships

Gepa Pictures / GEPA pictures

Czech skier Ondrej Bank crashes during the downhill portion of the alpine combined contest, at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. Bank stumbled and lost control just before the final jump. He was hospitalized with concussion and facial injuries.

2015 NCAA Tournament

Greg Nelson / Sports Illustrated

Ron Baker (31) shoots over Nick Zeisloft (2), as Hanner Mosquera-Perea (12) and Rashard Kelly (0) battle for position under the basket, at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament game between Wichita State and Indiana, at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha. The tournament, held each spring and popularly known as March Madness, is a major national competition, featuring 68 college teams. Since its creation in 1939, it has become the most popular basketball tournament in the US.

Neptun Synchro

Jonas Lindkvist / Dagens Nyheter

Members of Neptun swimming club’s synchronized swimming section perform in sailboat position, during pre-Christmas Lucia festivities.

The Gris-gris Wrestlers of Senegal

Christian Bobst, Switzerland

Superstar wrestler Omar Sakho (known as Balla Gaye 2) releases a dove for good luck, before a match with Eumeu Sène, at the Demba Diop Stadium.

Ebola Survivors Football Club

Tara Todras-whitehill / New York Times

Bandu Turay (second row from top, fourth from right), Erison’s mother, watches him play, on a field near their house in Kenema. Bandu and Erison were the only two of their immediate family to survive the Ebola epidemic.

Haze in China

Zhang Lei / Tianjin Daily

A cloud of smog hangs over Tianjin, in northeastern China. Tianjin, the fourth-most populous city in China, is an industrial and logistics hub. Its port forms a gateway to the national capital, Beijing. Hazardous smog blanketing China’s northeast triggered red alerts in a number of cities throughout the month, including Beijing and Tianjin. Schools were advised to stop classes, and people were told to stay inside and restrict vehicle use.

The Forgotten Mountains of Sudan

Adriane Ohanesian, USA

Adam Abdel (7) was badly burned when a bomb dropped by a government plane landed next to his family’s home, in rebel-held territory in Darfur. Adam was blown out of the house by the force of the blast, and his clothes caught fire. Two weeks later, his burns were still healing. Treatment was hard to obtain, because the government continued to deny NGOs and relief workers access to rebel-held territory.

March Against Police Violence

John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune

Lamon Reccord stares down a police sergeant during a march against police racial violence. Protests had taken place almost daily after the release of a police car dashcam video showing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald being fatally shot by a Chicago police officer. McDonald, who was armed with a knife, was shot 16 times by the officer, who said he feared for his life. The protest was one of a number that occurred throughout the year, following episodes elsewhere in the country where police were accused of using excessive force against black men, often involving fatal shootings.

Talibes, Modern-day Slaves

Mario Cruz, Portugal

Talibes, boys who live at Islamic schools known as Daaras in Senegal. Under the pretext of receiving a Quranic education, they are forced to beg in the streets while their religious guardians, or Marabout, collect their daily earnings. They often live in squalor and are abused and beaten.

In the Same Boat

Francesco Zizola / NOOR

Libyan migrants being rescued by the international medical relief organization Doctors Without Borders in the Mediterranean Sea. An overcrowded rubber dinghy sailing from Libya to Italy.

Emily and Kate and Eddie and Reid

Sara Naomi Lewkowicz / Getty

Although they hadn't planned it, Emily and Kate got pregnant within weeks of each other through artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization, respectively. Their sons were born within four days of each other, and the couple embraced the challenge of raising the two babies at once.

Emily and Kate and Eddie and Reid

Sara Naomi Lewkowicz / Getty

Emily holds the newborn baby to meet his new little brother. Reid and Eddie were born only four days apart, despite being due three weeks apart. Both babies had the same donor, making them biological half-brothers. “Oh my god,” Kate said, “we’re…like…a family, suddenly!”.

Into the Light

Zohreh Saberi / Mehr News Agency

Raheleh, who was born blind, stands behind the window in the morning. She likes the warmness of the sunlight on her face. Babol, Mazandaran, Iran.

An Antarctic Advantage

Daniel Berehulak / The New York Times

Chilean, Chinese, and Russian research teams in Antartica seek to explore commercial opportunities that will arise once the treaties protecting the continent for scientific purposes expire

An Antarctic Advantage

Daniel Berehulak / The New York Times

A member of a German research team counts the number of penguin species and pairs as part of ongoing research on bird and penguin species in Antarctica.

An Antarctic Advantage

Daniel Berehulak / The New York Times

The winter expedition crew of Russian research team and a Chilean scientist drink Samagon, a homemade vodka, in a bedroom of the Bellingshausen Antarctica base.

Bliss Dharma Assembly

Kevin Frayer / Getty Images

Tibetan Buddhists take part in the annual Bliss Dharma Assembly. The last of four annual assemblies, the week-long annual gathering takes place in the ninth month of the Tibetan calendar and marks Buddha's descent from the heavens. Prayer flags flutter above the city.

Citizen Journalism in Brazil’s Favelas

Sebastian Liste / NOOR

Police shootings in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas (urban shantytowns) are so common that they are seldom reported. According to Amnesty International, around 2,000 people are killed every year by Brazilian police, often in a manner that resembles a planned execution. In Complexo do Alemão, one of the largest Rio favelas, residents, frustrated by the lack of traditional media coverage, have formed Papo Reto ("straight talk"), a collective of activists who collate and distribute images and reports through social media.

Citizen Journalism in Brazil’s Favelas

Sebastian Liste / NOOR for The New York Times

Raul, from Papo Reto, photographs the scene where mototaxi driver Diego da Costa Algavez (22) was shot by police, in Vila Cruzeiro favela.

Waiting to Register

Matic Zorman, Slovenia

Refugee children covered in rain capes wait in line to be registered. Most refugees who crossed into Serbia continued their journey north, towards countries of the European Union.

Digging the Future

Matjaz Krivic, Slovenia

Arzuma Tinado (28) leads an eight-member crew of miners at Djuga, an artisanal gold mine in northeastern Burkina Faso. Around 15,000 people work in the area, in pits hacked into the ground, some barely wider than a manhole. As the price of gold fell, people began to dig ever deeper to find enough to make a daily wage. Arzuma works some 20 meters underground. Mining under these conditions is backbreaking labor during which miners are constantly breathing in dust. The subsequent process of extracting the gold exposes them to mercury and cyanide.

Lost Family Portraits

Dario Mitidieri / CAFOD

A Syrian family in a refugee camp in the Beqaa Valley stands beside a chair representing a missing family member. According to UNHCR, by the end of the year, more than 370,000 Syrian refugees were living in camps in the Beqaa Valley, close to the Syrian border.


Kazuma Obara, Japan

On 26 April 1986, a nuclear disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, near the town of Pripyat, Ukraine, resulted in large amounts of radioactive material being released into the atmosphere. Radioactive particles — the contaminating effects of which can last for years — were carried downwind through much of the western USSR and Europe. Five months after the disaster, a girl named Mariya was born in Kiev, 100 km south of Chernobyl. She grew up suffering from chronic thyroiditis, one of the results of radiation poisoning. These images represent 30 years of her life. 

La Maya Tradition

Daniel Ochoa De Olza / AP

The feast of Las Mayas, in Colmenar Viejo, on the outskirts of Madrid, has its origins in pagan ritual. It is held annually at the beginning of May, to celebrate spring. Five or six groups create altars adorned with plants and flowers on the main town square and adjacent streets, and each selects a young girl between the ages of 6 and 15 to be a "Maya". She must then sit on the altar — very still, silent and serious — wearing a white blouse and skirt, and a Manila shawl.

Where the Children Sleep

Magnus Wennman / Aftonbladet

Refugee children, on their long journey to a new home, sleep where they can along the route. Ralia (7) and Rahaf (13) sleep on the streets of Beirut, Lebanon. A grenade killed their mother and brother in Damascus. They are with their father, and have been sleeping outside for a year.

Where the Children Sleep

Magnus Wennman / Aftonbladet

Fara (2) loves soccer. Her father tries to make balls for her by crumpling up anything he can find, but they don’t last long.

Where the Children Sleep

Magnus Wennman / Aftonbladet

Lamar, from Baghdad, sleeps on a blanket in a forest. After two attempts at crossing the sea from Turkey in a small dinghy, her family has come as far as Serbia to find the border with Hungary closed.

Storm Front on Bondi Beach

Rohan Kelly

A massive shelf cloud moves towards Bondi Beach. The cloud was part of a weather front that brought violent thunderstorms, with local media reporting damaging winds, hailstones the size of golf balls, and heavy rainfall. Shelf clouds are low cloud banks often with smooth or layered surfaces, and black, turbulent bases.

Whale Whisperers

Anuar Patjane Floriuk, Mexico

A humpback whale and her newborn calf swim near Roca Partida, the smallest island of the Revillagigedo archipelago, off the Pacific coast of Mexico. During the mating season, the island waters are home to a large population of humpback whales, and are a popular diving destination. The islands are volcanic and are themselves uninhabited, apart from a small naval presence. They were declared a biosphere reserve in 1994, and are currently under consideration as a UNESCO natural heritage site.

The Power of Nature

Sergio Velasco Garcia, Mexico

Colima Volcano erupts with rock showers, lightning, and lava flows. The volcano, which is one of the most active in Mexico, showed an increase in activity from July onwards.

Lightning in volcano eruptions is generated when rock fragments, ash, and ice particles in the volcanic plume collide, producing static charges — just as ice particles do in clouds.

Tough Times for Orangutans

Tim Laman / National Geographic

Orangutans are found in the wild only in the rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo. Sumatran orangutans are on the IUCN Red List as a critically endangered species, with around 7,000 living out of captivity. Borneo orangutans, the world’s largest tree-dwelling animal, are listed as endangered. Numbers of both are decreasing sharply. Orangutans are facing a crisis in habitat, as logging activity, conversion to agriculture, and fires consume their forests. They are also poached for the illegal pet trade. A young male Sumatran orangutan threatens another male, in Batang Toru Forest. Male orangutans are intolerant of other males, and compete for territory and females.

Tough Times for Orangutans

Tim Laman / National Geographic

A young male Bornean orangutan climbs 30 metres up to the crown of a fruiting strangler fig tree to feed, deep in the rainforest in the Gunung Palung National Park.

Tough Times for Orangutans

Tim Laman / National Geographic

Orphan baby orangutans get a ride from their night cages to a patch of forest where they can play for a day, at the International Animal Rescue facility in Ketapang.

Ivory Wars

Brent Stirton / Getty Images Reportage for National Geographic

The trade in poached ivory is financing rebel armed militia across Africa, such as the Lord’s Resistance Army, Seleka rebels of the Central African Republic (CAR), the Janjaweed of Sudan, and the FDLR in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Various national armies actively trade with these groups, and centuries-old Sudanese poaching cartels participate in sending large bands of armed men across borders to kill elephants. Patrols of dedicated rangers around the continent are on the frontline of attempts to thwart the trade.

Ivory Wars

Brent Stirton / Getty Images Reportage for National Geographic

Ranger Dieudonné Kumboyo Kobango stands with his son Genekpio, who escaped soon after being abducted from his village near the park by the Lord’s Resistance Army.