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Czech Press Photo Awards capture year’s highlights

Shots of elections, international protests and daily life show the year that was

A photo of disgraced politician David Rath won the top honors at the 19th annual Czech Press Photo awards. A court order kept the press away from the courtroom, but a clever photographer, Michal Komaryt, caught him in the elevator window. He has a blank, downcast expression. The photo was judged the best out of some 3,580 images submitted by 294 photographers residing in the Czech Republic or Slovakia. A new video section had 56 entries from 38 authors.

Czech Press Photo Awards
When: To Jan. 31, 2014
Where: Old Town Hall

The 11 member jury consisted of professionals from international publications including UK-based Sunday Times, news agency Reuters and National Geographic Magazine. They picked the best photo as well as first-, second- and third-place winners in eight categories and eight honorable mentions. Other prizes were given out by contest partners, including Nikon, Canon, Trigema and energy company ČEZ. The City of Prague also gave a grant to one winner, who will have a separate exhibition.

The photographer of the winning shot described the impossible situation, with a police escort rushing the accused politician past the press every day. “The photographer’s interest in taking more of the same pictures was diminishing each time David Rath walked through the corridor. I took advantage of the small melee by the lift door,” Komaryt said. “Before the arrival of the lift with the former [governor] I leaned over the rope so that my camera pointed straight into the small window of the lift door,” he added.

Then he waited for what he hoped would happen. “The lift arrived and for a few seconds David Rath could be seen through the small window of he lift. I took about three pictures, chose one and sent [it] from my computer to the newspaper.”

The photo does stand out from the rest of the coverage of the case, and also has a highly artistic quality, with the frame of the elevator window echoing the shape of the elevator door, while the textured glass gives an expressionistic feel to Rath’s face.

Politicians figure into the categories for portraits and for news coverage as well. The exhibition connected to the awards shows many of the top entries in addition to the winners. President Miloš Zeman is well represented, and while some pictures of him did win, some of the also-ran shots are worth seeking out. His famous attack of a virus, as his spokesman claimed, while he attended the display of the crown jewels at St Vitus’ Cathedral was captured by Jan Šibík of Reflex magazine. The president can be seen with extremely odd expressions at what should be a solemn moment. Widespread speculation claimed that his “virus” was either a severe hangover or he was actually intoxicated. Images and portraits from the general elections

Some of the photos cover international news, and the winner in the General News category was Milan Jaroš of Respekt, who covered protests in Taksim Square in Istanbul. These capture some of the chaos as ordinary citizens and police wear gas masks, as well as some of the calm moments at a tent city and a night concerts.

Domestically, the floods figures into many of the entries. Freelance photographer Michael Fokt earned an honorable mention in the Nature and Environment category for his look at how the flood impacted animals at the Prague Zoo. Another freelance photographer, Miloš Štáfek, won second prize in same group for a shot of floodwater being released from Nechranice dam.

Roman Vondrouš, who won first prize in the Sports Action category in the World Press Photo contest earlier this year for his pictures of the Pardubice Steeplechase, won second prize in the Sports category for more horse race coverage. On a different topic, his photo essay about nightclubs in Prague won third place in the Art and Entertainment category.

There is still one more prize to be awarded, and that is based on the votes of visitors to the exhibition. It will be announced at the end of the exhibition’s run.

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