2009 Pictures of the Year International: The World. In High Resolution
Saturday, July 11th, 2009 to Sunday, November 1st, 2009

The second exhibition at the Annenberg Space for Photography honors the work of winning photojournalists and visual editors from Pictures of the Year International (POYi), the oldest and most prestigious photojournalism competition in the world. After 65 years at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, POYi has moved to Los Angeles, where for the first time, the images will be on display for more than just a few days. The exhibit perfectly showcases the alignment of POYi goals and the mission of Annenberg Space for Photography to inform and inspire the public by connecting photographers, social consciousness, and the human experience through powerful imagery and stories.

The exhibited print and digital photographs tell the tale of 2008, a year rife with war and financial ruin and relieved by unprecedented political and athletic triumphs. The images were chosen from more than 45,000 entries submitted by photographers from dozens of countries. Additional POYi prizes recognize the year’s top newspaper and magazine photographers as well as exceptional long-term documentary work via the World Understanding, Global Vision, and Community Awareness awards.

The resulting collection is testimony to the prowess of today’s photojournalists and the complexity of the global age. As a whole, the images combine to create a visual representation of recent events while revealing the conflicted ethos of our modern civilization with themes ranging from degradation to personal achievement, community to isolation, and human creation to the inexplicable wonders of nature.

Digital Feature
In addition to the print and digital galleries, the POYi digital show offers a contemplative presentation of the 1st place winners in all categories appearing on large 4K projection screens in the digital gallery with additional winning photographs displayed on surrounding HD screens.

The POYi feature digital video presentation tells the story of international photojournalism through the images and voices of photojournalists, photo editors and academics. The photography featured in this presentation is drawn from over 1400 award-winning images. Commentary is provided by Premiere Award winning photojournalists from around the world; editors from the New York Times and Los Angeles Times; and educators from the University of Southern California and University of Missouri.

Voice of the Photographer Videos
Playing in the Workshop are Voice of the Photographer video segments featuring insights and perspectives from Premiere Award Winners. Arclight Productions traveled around the globe to capture interviews with six of the winning photojournalists.

The U.S. Presidential Election and the Economy

News photographers in 2008 confronted the power of hope and the inevitability of change through two epics events: an unprecedented presidential campaign and the fall of the U.S. economy.

News photographers in 2008 confronted the power of hope and the inevitability of change through two epics events: an unprecedented presidential campaign and the fall of the U.S. economy.

The subprime mortgage crisis, caused by a staggering rise in mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures, reached a tipping point with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in September 2008. The result was a global financial crisis that sent governments worldwide scrambling to provide banks and investment institutions with enough capital to stave off economic collapse. The Troubled Assets Relief Program in the U.S., however, could not prevent the stock market from dropping below 7,000, unemployment from rising to 7.2 percent, or financial giants like Washington Mutual from going out of business.

The economic crisis created a platform for an historic U.S. presidential election between Barack Obama, a young, charismatic African American Democrat calling for change, and Republican John McCain, a seasoned prisoner-of-war Senator who touted toughness. Obama’s rally cry of "Yes We Can" ultimately drowned out McCain’s pledge to put "Country First." In November, Americans elected their first black president while Californians voted to ban same-sex marriage in their state.

The Human Condition

The photographer’s lens alone can’t solve conflicts or feed the poor. But as an unwavering eye focused squarely on a reality we too often ignore, the lens becomes a call to consciousness and an invitation to action.

The photographer’s lens alone can’t solve conflicts or feed the poor. But as an unwavering eye focused squarely on a reality we too often ignore, the lens becomes a call to consciousness and an invitation to action.

In India and Bangladesh, segments of society are confined to a culture of caste discrimination that defines their work and determines their fate. Similarly, in Middle America the failure of local industry has created communities of perpetual unemployment and poverty that have bred a generation of undereducated and despondent teens with few prospects for their future.

Health care in marginalized countries continues to be ill-equipped and under-staffed. Hospitals and institutions serve as little more than warehouses for suffering. The mentally disabled are often abandoned in overcrowded and filthy sanatoriums. Natural disasters like Hurricane Ike in Haiti, one of the poorest nations on Earth, inevitably leave behind a staggering death toll, widespread infection, and even greater scarcity. All the while in the U.S., one of the world’s richest nations, scores of uninsured working poor wait each week for the chance to see a doctor.

The photographer’s lens alone can’t solve conflicts or feed the poor. But as an unwavering eye focused squarely on a reality we too often ignore, the lens becomes a call to consciousness and an invitation to action.

China: Olympics, Three Gorges Dam, Earthquake

Photojournalists were allowed extraordinary access to China in 2008 as the country prepared to host the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.

Photojournalists were allowed extraordinary access to China in 2008 as the country prepared to host the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. They documented an evolving landscape of ambition that often valued achievement of the country above the needs of its countrymen. Images of the construction of innovative buildings, such as the Bird’s Nest, were often in contrast to a darker reality facing the Chinese people.

In May, a deadly 7.9-magnitude earthquake in the southwestern province of Sichuan that killed more than 69,000 and caused another 5 million Chinese to become homeless. In remote rural communities, photography communicated to the world the enormity of the natural disaster. Perhaps none were so emotionally unnerving as the images of schools that had collapsed while classes were in session, burying 19,000 children in a grave of rubble. July saw the last township along the banks of the Yangtze River to be relocated to make way for rising waters and the completion of the Three Gorges Dam—the largest hydroelectric dam in the world. Since displacement began in 2004, more than 1.4 million Chinese have been moved from their homes.

Sorrow gave way to glory when the Olympic Games kicked off in August. More than 11,000 athletes competed in 302 events that were marked with athletic artistry and world records, including eight gold medals by U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps.

Global Conflict

Photographers stationed throughout the world documented an increase in violence and war that spread in 2008 from traditional hotspots to nations facing new aggression and turmoil.

Photographers stationed throughout the world documented an increase in violence and war that spread in 2008 from traditional hotspots to nations facing new aggression and turmoil.

Citizens of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Pakistan, and the Gaza Strip know how to navigate their daily lives amid tensions on the verge of boiling into bloodshed. But in Kenya, residents and photojournalists covering the contested 2007 presidential elections were propelled instantly into an atmosphere of destruction and riots in January that claimed more than 1,000 lives.

The former Soviet state of Georgia became an unexpected battleground in July 2008 when regional strife between Ossetian separatists and Georgian armed escalated into a full-scale contest between Russian and Georgian troops in South Ossetia. Several weeks of media attention, complete with images of war and suppression, caused global outrage so vociferous that the Russian government halted their attack in mid-August.

Whatever the locale or customary level of unrest, photojournalists pushed the limits of personal safety to stand in the line of fire and capture the look of terror, the consequence of differing ideologies, and indiscriminant loss worldwide.