The horsepower of an image
Czech press photographer wins Sports Action category of 2013 World Press Photo Awards
Posted: September 25, 2013
Courtesy Photo: © Roman Vondrouš, Czech News Agency
Horse racing pictures by Czech photographer Roman Vondrouš won in the Sports Action category with pictures from Pardubice.
Roman Vondrouš is a soft-spoken citizen of Pardubice, a professional press-photographer and a lover of horses. He is also the winner of this year's World Press Photo award in the Sports Action category, the first Czech to win an award in the competition since 2006.
Vondrouš's award-winning photo series titled Cross Country Steeplechase, now on display at Prague's Karolinum as part of an exhibit of World Press Photo prize winners, depicts striking, dramatic and emotive scenes from the Grand Pardubice horse races in his home town.
"90 percent of the photos were taken in Pardubice," he told The Prague Post.
"Pardubice is a city of horse racing. And I like horses," he explained. He said he has attended hundreds of horse races, always with his camera in tow.
Where: Karolinum, Ovocný trh 3, Prague 1 When: To Oct. 13
Tickets: 100 Kč
The black-and-white series was taken over only six days, and they must have been quite wet. Whether it be drizzle, driving rain, or muddy puddles kicked up by the horses' hooves, water help brings the pieces to life, conveying speed, struggle and collision. The stormy light adds moody contrast, shadow and silhouette to the compositions that reflect the tension and passion of the races.
It seems the weather worked in Vondrouš's favor, as his intention was to capture the dramatic moments from horse racing in "interesting light moments" and from unusual angles not usually available to viewers. "I wanted people to see something more than they see at the race or on TV."
He seems to have succeeded. Many of the images transport the viewer directly onto the racetrack, viewing galloping horses almost from below their hooves, or facing a jockey and his horse head-on.
This power to convey a message, emotion or event to the viewer through images is a key criterion of the World Press Photo competition, which was founded by a group of Dutch photographers 60 years ago.
According to their website, the World Press Photo foundation, which is supported by the Dutch Postcode lottery and sponsored globally by camera maker Canon, is "committed to supporting and advancing high standards in photojournalism and documentary photography worldwide."
"We strive to generate wide public interest in and appreciation for the work of photographers and for the free exchange of information," they write.
This year, over 100,000 journalistic photos were submitted to the competition from 5,666 photographers hailing from 124 different countries.
In past years, submissions from the Czech Republic have hovered around 30 in number, and this year there were 36. One of the first winners of the World Press Photo competition was another Czech sports photographer, Stanislav Tereba.
Winning photos were chosen by a diverse 19-person jury of people knowledgeable in photography, led by Santiago Lyon, vice president and director of photography of The Associated Press. Within the nine categories of Contemporary Issues, Observed Portraits, Staged Portraits, Daily Life, Sports Action, General News, Sports Feature, Nature and Spot News, some 54 photographers from 33 different countries were selected. The winners were announced on Feb. 15.
The prize, in addition to recognition, is 10,000 euros and a Canon digital camera for the grand prize winner, 1,500 euros for each category winner, and a paid trip to Amsterdam for the awards ceremony for all first prize winners.
World Press Photo of the Year 2012 went to Swedish photographer Paul Hansen for his chilling shot of a family in Gaza City carrying two dead children to their funeral. They were killed by an Israeli air strike.
The children are wrapped in white cloth and carried by their anguished uncles, followed by a crowd of men, their faces displaying a range of emotions from anger to disbelief, captured with crystal-clear lucidity by the photograph.
In a press conference in Prague, representatives of the World Press Photo event recalled how a jury member had been moved by the contrast between the innocence in the children's faces with the sorrow and anger of the adults'.
The photo's sharpness and lighting give it an unreal, almost three-dimensional quality, and indeed there was a debate online as to whether the work was in fact some kind of a composite of multiple photos. This would have violated the competition rules, which state that a photograph can only be subjected to basic editing, but cannot be altered.
After being assessed by three technical experts it was confirmed that photo is not a composite, representatives confirmed at a press conference in Prague.
Other prize-winning photos cover a range of themes and topics, from the hopelessness and suffering of drug abuse, discrimination, crime and war, to the uplifting beauty of nature.
Yet even more inherently positive categories like Nature and Sports contain disturbing images: lemurs looking out helplessly from a cage, Somalian women playing basketball at the risk of punishment by disfigurement or death, a monkey dressed with a human doll mask in Java.
The photos thus inspire with beauty, but also leave an overriding impression of a world gone wrong.
The exhibition, under the patronage of Vice President of Parliament Přemysl Sobotka, is open daily until Oct. 13.
Jennifer Day can be reached at
Tags: World Press Photo, horse race, Grand Pardubice.