Istanbul Photo Awards 2023 exhibition opens in Istanbul

Contest becomes one of most prestigious news photography competitions in international arena, says Anadolu Director General Serdar Karagoz

Anadolu's flagship Istanbul Photo Awards 2023 exhibition has kicked off in Türkiye, showcasing award-winning news photographs from international contestants of the event, which drew a large number of people as well as high dignitaries.

Handan Inci Elci, president of the Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University (MSGSU), Ukrainian Consul General in Istanbul Roman Nedilskyi, and Beyoglu municipality Mayor Haydar Ali Yildiz attended the exhibition at the campus Tophane-i Amire Culture and Art Center Five Domes Hall in Türkiye’s metropolitan Istanbul, on Tuesday.

The exhibition, which runs until Sept. 29 and culminates with awards for the best photographs in various categories, was hosted by Serdar Karagoz, the director general of Anadolu, Türkiye’s international wire service.

Speaking at the ceremony, Karagoz said that “in its 9th year, our competition has become a global platform with 16,000 photographers registered and one of the most prestigious news photography competitions in the international arena.”

“News photographers from all over the world are participating in our competition, where single and series photographs are evaluated in the fields of news, sports, environment, portraits, and daily life,” he added.

He said the international jury has difficulty selecting the winners from among 21,000 photographs, adding that "the tragedy caused by the Russia-Ukraine War is this year's leading theme."

Pointing out that Anadolu will also organize similar events in the Turkish capital of Ankara, the UN Headquarters in New York, as well as in London in the coming days, Karagoz thanked the Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University for hosting the exhibition, which is supported by Nikon Türkiye, Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) and Turkish Airlines (THY).

"Istanbul Photo Awards is a very important international brand created by an important Turkish institution. Based on the qualifications and number of participants in this contest, we can easily say that these competitions have now matured," jury member Ahmet Sel said for his part.

Emphasizing that Istanbul Photo Awards will celebrate its 10th anniversary next year, Sel said the competition has come a long way during the last nine years and has become one of the most important photography competitions in the world.

So many ‘strong pictures to choose from’ at this year’s Istanbul Photo Awards, says jury member

‘It was really difficult to say one was the best because they were all so powerful,’ says acclaimed photojournalist Carol Guzy

There was such a wealth of quality choices at this year’s Istanbul Photo Awards that it was hard to pick the winners, said a member of the jury for the esteemed competition.

“We had so many, so many really strong pictures to choose from, it was really difficult to say (which) one was the best because they were all so powerful,” Carol Guzy, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, told Anadolu.

On the Photo of the Year winner, showing a burned personnel carrier next to a lifeless soldier’s body in Ukraine, Guzy said the image by Sergey Kozlov of the German-based EPA agency “had the feel of an iconic image, almost nostalgic.”

“This just felt like a photo from a bygone era. It had that iconic feel to it that I think you know, everybody was moved by. The palette is very sort of monotone black and white with just this hint of red blood that that was extremely compelling, and I think left an indelible mark on our consciousness,” she said.

“But I also personally, I also felt that third place was a strong contender,” she added, speaking about Alkis Konstantinidis’ image of a woman in Ukraine mourning the death of her elderly father. “It was heart-wrenching emotion. It was a photo in Ukraine. You know, the civilian deaths. I feel like that is the story of Ukraine.”

She said that Ukraine was the top news story of 2022, and this affected the images submitted to the awards competition.

Guzy herself also went to Ukraine to document the war. “It was a hard decision to make to even cover the war for many reasons,” she explained. “Health issues for one thing, so I decided to cover features, not front line, though all of Ukraine is really a front line. There's nowhere that's safe. I experienced the civilian toll firsthand.”

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Choosing the winners

Guzy, a photojournalist with over four decades of experience, said that “content and moments are key” when making a decision on the winners of the contest.

“I can forgive technical quality that's not just right spot on for a picture that moves me. You know, the thing to reach someone on a visceral, personal, emotional level should always be the goal and provide some depth, especially with stories,” she said.

Guzy said that the viewer can be subjective and this should be kept in mind, adding: “Just because you didn't make first place doesn't mean your photo wasn't very powerful and deserving of merit in some way.”

She also advised photojournalists who want to enter the competition next year to “be more careful with captions.”

“I think it really can make a whole difference with the photo or the story … when we understand better the meaning behind it, and the importance of that image,” she explained.

Categories in the contest

Guzy said the contest covering a diverse world with additional categories in the news and sports categories is critically important.

“I personally feel that daily life, portrait, and nature photography (deserve) equally important coverage,” she said.

Such categories have “the ability to transcend that immediate spot news story, give us a deeper look at issues or sometimes just the gentle poetry of daily life. And the environment is of course critical to all life on Earth and paramount to our survival,” she added.

The first place winner in the Single Nature category, Brais Lorenzo’s, showing people in swimsuits watching nearby forest fires, was a juxtaposition between bathers and wildfire. “That was really compelling, it was very quirky image that was arresting in many ways,” said Guzy.

Bence Mate’s photo of birds was also a delightful image to look at, with Guzy saying: “I don't think we need to only focus on the problem but sometimes we just need to show that innate joy of the life experience.”

On the winning photo of a woman who cut her hair in solidarity with Iranian protesters, Rebirth, Guzy said: “It was deeply moving, and the other portraits were also incredibly evocative."


Guzy stressed the need to find a way to bring documentary photojournalism to the public, saying: “Anytime we can highlight such powerful coverage is critical to world understanding, and photojournalists also should be recognized for doing this outstanding work, whether it's in high- risk situations or their neighborhoods.”

She said that there's a great power in photojournalism, and photojournalists are the eyes of the world, adding: “It may not change the world that day, but it could incrementally change people's awareness, for an issue, create positive change, certainly open people's eyes.”

“But truth, truth is a loaded word. Whose truth? So we can't necessarily say we're always offering the truth, but it's our responsibility, I think, to try our very best to accurately portray any situation for others to judge,” she said.

However, she said, people are starting to lose trust in the media, and the rise of artificial intelligence may only make things worse.

“I think it's our responsibility to try to educate people about our role in providing coverage and a difference when it's done by trained professionals,” she said.

War, disaster photojournalism, advice for budding journalists

Guzy said that covering conflict and natural disasters comes with personal risks but also requires the emotional courage to witness atrocities and the profound suffering from man's frequent inhumanity.

“I think the goal is always to put a face on the number of casualties or issues that we're trying to explain, that can evoke empathy with viewers, and also, of course, raising awareness,” she said.

“But I think we need to find balance, and also highlight those moments of hope, which sometimes we forget to do as journalists, I think, in any dire situation, there are angels that rise above the chaos to help,” she added.

She also said that she came to Türkiye briefly after two earthquakes shook the country’s southeast this February, taking over 50,000 lives and flattening many areas.

“It felt like being in Armageddon. The one thing you can't photograph really is the scale, the number of people and the amount of cities that were affected – it was it was heart wrenching,” she said.

To young photojournalists, she advised against jumping into war zones without proper training as they would not only risk their own lives but also others who try to help them.

She said rookie journalists and photojournalists can learn more from doing feature stories.

“Journalism is not a job. I mean, for those of us who love it, it's a passion. It's our heart. It's our life, literally. If I can't be a visual storyteller, it's like you took the oxygen out of a room and I can't breathe,” she added.

This year’s Istanbul Photo Awards are supported by Nikon, the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), and Turkish Airlines, the nation’s flag carrier.

All the winners can be seen by visiting

Istanbul Photo Awards 'global competition,' says jury member

Talented photojournalists worldwide value competition, respect jury, says Cameron Spencer, Getty Images' chief sports photojournalist

The Istanbul Photo Awards is a "global competition" and continues to grow every year, said one of the jury members on the international competition, organized by Anadolu for the ninth time this year.

Speaking to Anadolu, Getty Images chief sports photojournalist Cameron Spencer said the awards "grow in status and recognition, you just have to look at how many people do submit work, and the quality of the photography that's being submitted."

"And then you look at who is entering. And a lot of very talented photojournalists and sports photographers from around the world value the competition and respect the jury," said Spencer.

Spencer said the competition is also unique due to the diversity of the jury members' skills and their years of experience.

"The fact that we all have different viewpoints, and we're able to have conversations about it and, and come to a decision that we're all happy with," also makes the competition exceptional, he said, adding that next year will mark the Istanbul Photo Awards' first decade, a "very exciting" milestone that will be "great to see."

For his fellow jury members, Spencer said, "We all respect each other's views and respect each other's expertise."

"For me, sport is my expertise. But, you know, we all do value good photography, and I have a passion for all kinds of photojournalism, just like the rest of the jury," he said.

Deciding on winners can take a while but they are always happy with the outcome, said Spencer. "When we get there, we're on the same page, which is really important.”

Photo of the Year

On the winner of 2023's Photo of the Year award, Spencer said the image captured by Sergey Kozlov was "a timeless, powerful shot."

Kozlov’s clinched this year’s title with a poignant image titled "Russia-Ukraine war." The photo shows a dead soldier lying on the ground with a burned-out Russian armored personnel carrier in the backdrop in a chilling, snow-covered scene.

"I think the fact you have the elements of the snow and the winter and the cold, and, you know, this lifeless soldier lying there, and the way he's composed, that's such a powerful, powerful image," said Spencer.

He underlined that the photo captured the tragedy of the war between the two neighboring countries, that has cost over 24,000 civilian lives since it broke out in February last year, according to UN figures.

"I think in the past year, you look at the fact that Ukraine dominated for all the stories, you know, it shows how big a story that was. And I think the commitment that a lot of the world's best photo journalists went to cover that war and really tell that story to the rest of the world, I think that opened people's eyes on how significant it was, and how senseless that was, as well," he added.

Istanbul Photo Awards' new categories

Spencer also touched on new categories that were added to the Istanbul Photo Awards in the past couple of years.

He welcomed the introduction of the Nature and Environment category since issues surrounding environmental crisis have become more widely covered.

On the new Daily Life category, Spencer said: "We see all the major headlines in the big stories that break throughout the year, but it's also nice to sort of see little snippets of humanity around the world that often are a feel-good story, or they're just something that you'd never know about, unless that photographer shared that story."

"It's providing a voice or a platform for someone or a group of people that might not have that," he added.

The Portrait category, meanwhile showed that the Istanbul Photo Awards went beyond rewarding a photograph just because it looks nice.

"I think that's what we've established as a jury that we want to award great portraiture, but also portraiture that has meaning and portraiture that has stories that we think (are) worth sharing and rewarding in terms of the time and effort that's been put in by the photographer to capture those stories."

For instance, Spencer said, winning entry in the Story Portrait category, showing Afghan women athletes barred from playing and competing, was very powerful, Spencer said.

"It was such a powerful series, because they can no longer compete. And I think the way the photographer shot it was creative and really powerful and I think that's why it was worthy of being a winner," said Spencer, adding that the jury "all agreed that that was a really, really important story to share. And the creative way that the photographer did it was very impressive."

Watch the interview video


As a sports photographer, Spencer said that area had its own challenges.

"I think for us, a lot of the time, it's the fact that you're there to document fleeting moments that only happen once. And once they're gone, they're gone. And you need to be in the right place at the right time, you need to know your subject, know the sport, know the rules, know what certain players are going to do, or just be prepared," he said.

"And often, that comes from years of experience to be able to capture that defining moment when it happens."

He said the winners of the Single Sports category were all beautiful and striking images.

The third-place winner, showing cyclists crashing over a barrier with spectators behind, was "just a purely brilliant action photograph," said Spencer.

"And Oliver Scarff's picture of the synchronized diver, basically drowning and getting rescued by a coach like that's captured from a robotic camera underwater. And when they set that camera up that day, they would have never expected that to unfold and it's such a moving powerful shot. And it really captures the spirit of sport," he said.

In the Single Sports category, first prize went to David Ramos for a photo of football superstar Lionel Messi celebrating Argentina's 2022 World Cup triumph on a teammate’s shoulders.

"The way that's captured on a shallow lens, up close with a shallow depth of field just feels like you're part of the scene, you're there cheering Messi on as he gets paraded around with the trophy," said Spencer.

All winners can be seen at 

Istanbul Photo Awards 2023 Winners

2023 winners announced

EPA photographer Sergey Kozlov wins Photo of the Year award with his work 'Ukraine-Russia War'

European Pressphoto Agency (EPA) photographer Sergey Kozlov's photo titled "Ukraine-Russia War" won the Photo of the Year award at the Istanbul Photo Awards, the ninth edition of the annual international photography contest held by Anadolu Ajansı to support photojournalists.

The contest is now a globally dedicated platform with more than 16,000 international users.

A prestigious jury gathered online and selected the award-winning photographs for the Istanbul Photo Awards 2023.

Kozlov's photo was selected as the winner of the Photo of the Year among more than 21,000 photographs submitted from different parts of the world.

The winners were selected from photographs that cover last year's global events, from the Ukraine-Russia war to the incidents in Palestine, from the pressures of the Taliban administration to child trafficking in Nigeria, from Lithium-induced environmental changes to wildlife studies in Thailand, from the World Cup in Qatar to Portuguese bullfights, Arctic pole icebreakers to African albinos' daily life.

The international jury stated that the quality of the photos sent was very high and they had great difficulty in making the decision in the eliminations made on the platform specially prepared by the AA Information Technologies team.

In the Story News category, Associated Press (AP) photographer Evgeniy Maloletka won first place with his series about the siege of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

Getty Images Photojournalist David Ramos took first place in the Single Sports category with his work documenting the joy of Lionel Messi in the World Cup final.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) photographer Jeff Pachoud took first place in the Story Sports category with his photos at The Tour de France Femmes.

Brais Lorenzo won the first prize in the category of Single Nature and Environment by capturing people watching the fires in Spain with concern.

The jury awarded Jonas Kako's work, which shows the undeniable effects of drought, as the winner of the Story Nature and Environment by the jury.

The winner of the Single Portrait is Elham Abbasloo, who captured the women's movement that started in Iran after the death of Mahsa Amini.

AP photographer Ebrahim Noroozi won the first prize in the Story Portrait category for his photographs of female athletes in Afghanistan under Taliban rule.

In the Single Daily Life category, Gazeta Wyborcza photographer Jakub Porzycki won the first prize with his photo of Wanda, who was celebrating her 111th birthday.

Politiken / Panos Pictures photographer Mads Nissen, who documented life in drug prisons in Afghanistan, won the first prize in the Story Daily Life category.

This year, 29 photographers received awards in 10 categories in the contest supported by Nikon, the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) and Turkish Airlines (THY), the nation's flag carrier.

Information related to the jury and award-winning photographs can be accessed via the website (