This Thursday in Amsterdam, photographer Ronaldo Schemidt received the prize for the press photo of the year. After more than 73,000 images sent by 4,548 photographers from 125 countries, his incredible shot of a Venezuelan protester turned into a human torch during an anti-Maduro demonstration that won over the jury, presided over this year by the director from the photography of the magazine Geo France Magdalena Herrera. She says about it "the photo of the year must tell an event. It must also raise questions ... It must speak to us and show us a point of view on what has happened in the world this year. It’s a classic photo, but it has an energy and instantaneous dynamics. We find in this photo colors, movement and it is very well composed. She has strength.”
The Difficult Story Behind A Spectacular Photograph
It’s the context of the photo that makes it so special. Venezuela, whose economy is largely based on the exploitation of its oil wells, experienced economic difficulties with the fall in the price of oil. The country then experienced inflation of about 700% per year, followed by food shortages and a worrying rise in violence. These elements set fire (literally) to the political mess left by Hugo Chavez at his death. Protests and riots broke out across the country in protest of Nicolas Maduro's government. Ronaldo Schemidt, a Venezuelan photographer living in Mexico, is then dispatched to the spot by AFP. At the corner of a street, he sees protesters near a National Guard’s motorcycle whose tank suddenly exploded, setting fire to one of the individuals present. Ronaldo Schemidt told AFP: "I felt the fire behind my back and I reacted reflexively: I started taking pictures without knowing what I was photographing. It was only after a few seconds that I realized that someone was burning. At the moment, I did not think I was going to win a prize with that. It is a reflection of what was happening then in Venezuela. And now it's even worse. "
The Perfect Photo
The 2018 World Press Photo Awards was particularly remarkable, the depth of the photo of the Venezuelan who won the grand prize of the jury. And for good reason, whether the student turned into a human torch or the gun painted on the wall shooting an ironic "Paz" (peace), everything in this shot gives the impression of being unreal. About his victory, he says, "I feel conflicting emotions. I know like everyone else what Venezuela is going through,” Ronaldo Schemidt convinced the jury. For Whitney C. Johnson, deputy director of photography at National Geographic, "the man has a mask on his face. It's as if he were not only representing himself, or himself on fire, but also the idea of a burning Venezuela." Ronaldo Schemidt’s photo also won first prize in the "Spot News" category.
Ronaldo Schemidt receiving his award - AFP