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AP photographer wins top prize in World Press Photo contest

A powerful image of the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey has earned Associated Press photojournalist Burhan Ozbilici the prestigious 2017 World Press Photo of the Year award.

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Mevlut Mert Altintas, an off-duty police officer, shouts after shooting Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov at an art gallery in Ankara, Turkey, Dec. 19, 2016. AP photographer Burhan Ozbilici won the 2017 World Press Photo competition for the image. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

Ozbilici’s photograph of the December 2016 attack, which also won first prize in the spot news stories category, captured off-duty Turkish police officer Mevlut Mert Altintas shouting while holding a gun after shooting Ambassador Andrei Karlov at a photo exhibition in Ankara, Turkey.

The distinguished World Press Photo competition is judged by a jury of internationally recognized photography professionals. The winners were announced today at a press conference in Amsterdam.

Describing Ozbilici’s winning photo, jury member Mary F. Calvert said: “Every time it came on the screen you almost had to move back because it such an explosive image, and we really felt that it epitomizes the definition of what the World Press Photo of the Year is and means.”

Ozbilici, who is based in Ankara, recounted what he was thinking as the chaotic scene unfolded in a Dec. 20, 2016, first-person account published on APNews.com: “Even if I get hit and injured, or killed, Im a journalist. I have to do my work. I could run away without making any photos. ... But I wouldnt have a proper answer if people later ask me: ‘Why didnt you take pictures?

Ozbilici’s images of the ambassador’s assassination appeared on newspaper front pages worldwide and were shared widely on social media.

“Burhan’s striking image was the result of skill and experience, composure under extreme pressure and the dedication and sense of mission that mark AP journalists worldwide. We are enormously proud of his accomplishment,” said AP Executive Editor Sally Buzbee.

Denis Paquin, AP’s acting director of photography, added: “Burhan would tell you he was just doing his job. His humble professionalism, combined with incredible courage, enabled him to capture these unforgettable images. It’s an honor to work with all of the talented and dedicated Associated Press photographers whose inspiring work has been recognized with these awards.”

This is AP’s seventh World Press Photo of the Year award. Other AP photographers honored with 2017 World Press Photo prizes include:

  • Vadim Ghirda, second prize in Contemporary Issues Singles for “Migrant Crossing.”
  • Felipe Dana, third prize in Spot News Singles for “Battle for Mosul.”

The winning images can be seen here.

Winners will be recognized at an awards ceremony in Amsterdam on April 22. Full details about the World Press Photo contest are available here.

Read the AP News story about the award.


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