To mark the 20th edition of the Joop Swart Masterclass, taking place this week, LightBox asked a representative photographer from each year of the program to contribute two images — one from their masterclass project and another from their wider body of work — along with a few words on what the masterclass meant to their life and career. 1994: Stephen Dupont "My selection in the first Joop Swart Masterclass came with excitement and total pride in having been honored with a place in such a renowned international workshop. I remember it being one of my first big breaks ever as a photographer. The inspiration and knowledge gained from both masters and students was unrivaled. It's still a highlight in my life and I have great memories of the experience. Some of the students and masters of that class have become close friends as well. Very special indeed!" A scene from Everliegh Street in Sydney's southern suburb of Redfern. Redfern is a suburb rich in Aboriginal urban culture where many lived then and still do today. This scene however no longer exists as the street's houses have all been demolished and Everliegh Street looks completely different. 1994. (WPP Joop Swart Masterclass, Generation X, 1994)Stephen Dupont
World Press Photo Masterclass 1995
PLS HOLD UNTIL FAMILY IS NOTIFIED: Iraq: Karmah: October 31, 2006: Sgt Jesse E. Leach drags Lance CPL Juan Valdez of the for 4th mobile assault platoon Weapons company 2nd battalion 8th Marines to safety moments after he was shot by a sniper during a joined patrol with the Iraqi Army in Karmah, Anbar Province, Iraq. Valdez was shot through the arm and the right side but survuved. Photo: Joao Silva was shot by a sniper while on a patrol
Kom Blom met ons/Come flower with us - Gansterism in Westbury, J
Women of Afghanistan
ARGENTINA. Buenos Aires. 1997. Ostrich eggs found while hunting.
ARGENTINA. Buenos Aires. 2007. 'The real thing.'
The Homecoming
The Albanians
Boxer Istvan ‘Ko-Ko’ Kovacs of Hungary trains in preparation for a professional boxing world championship title match in Zinnowitz, Germany. 2000.
US Army Specialist Sterling Jones collapses in exhaustion during Operation Rock Avalanche in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan. 2007.
USA. Kentucky. 2001. Neo-Nazis and white supremacists at NordicFest, a yearly get-together for racists in Kentucky. The "Family Festival" includes three days of camping, drinking, racist speeches, cross burnings, and white Supremacy rock bands. NordicFest is organized by the IKA (Imperial Klans of America), an offshoot of the more well known KKK.
MOLDOVA. Transdniester. 2004. The population of Transdniester is mainly ethnic Russians, and the main religion is Russian Orthodox Christianity. Here a priest gives his blessings before a christening in the icy waters of January.
Kenyan Taekwondo
AFGHANISTAN. Korengal Valley. 2007. A soldier from 2nd platoon rests at the end of a day of heavy fighting at the 'Restrepo' outpost. The position was named after the medic Juan Restrepo from 2nd Platoon who was killed by insurgents in July 2007.
An Iraqi woman walks through a plume of smoke rising from a massive fire at a liquid gas factory as she searches for her husband in the vicinity of the fire in Basra, Iraq, May 26, 2003.  The fire was allegedly started by looters picking through the factory, and residents in the vicinity feared the explosion of the four liquid gas tanks on the premisis.   Weeks after the end of the war, looting continues to be one of the main problems for both Basra and Bagdad cities as coalition forces struggle to get life back to normal.  (Credit: Lynsey Addario/ Corbis Saba)
Afghan Women
IRAQ. Baghdad, Iraq. Monday, April 26, 2004. An Iraqi man walks by the scene of an attack on US Army Humvee's that caused several American casualties in the Al-Waziriyah neighborhood of Baghdad.
EGYPT. Cairo. January 28, 2013. A protestors covers his head with a plastic bag as a makeshift gas mask during clashes near Tahrir Square.
An Israeli army video explains how to use a gas mask at an army gas mask distribution center in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, May 26, 2010. Air raid sirens have sounded across Israel as part of a massive air raid drill. Citizens rushed to air raid shelters Wednesday in the public part of the four-day-long drill. Israel is practicing its response to a widespread rocket attack all over the country. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
Afghan Brides
Congo in Limbo
Belgium / Belgique
"Sin and Salvation in Baptist Town"
U.S. Marines from 2nd Platoon, Lima Company of the 3rd Battalion 6th Marines, use a flare to signal a landing position to a medevac helicopter, near Patrol Base Beatley, in Marja District, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, on April 20, 2010. Photo by Adam Ferguson/VII
An Iraqi girl sits inside a spaceship ride at an amusement park in Baghdad, Iraq, on Mar. 23, 2013. Photo by Adam Ferguson/VII
SALVADOR DE BAHIA, BRAZIL – MARCH 20, 2011: A boy jumping from a building of the abandonated chocolate factory, on March 20, 2011 in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. Despite the lack of socio-economic support from the government, they have managed to make a safe place for themselves to live, and form a community of their own, which is safer that the alternatives available to them. However they are currently being evicted by the government due to being there illegally. (Photo by Sebastian Liste/Reportage by Getty Images)
“Alhamdulillah” (Praise to God)
Pakistan Christians
A Palestinian refugee girl Nour Soboh 4 years , palys beside her horse in her family house in Bait Lahiya town, North Gaza StripHOLD TO MARIA MANN
To mark the 20th edition of the Joop Swart Masterclass, taking place this week, LightBox asked a representative photogra

Stephen Dupont
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Discovering the Next Generation of Photojournalists at World Press Photo's Masterclass

Nov 04, 2013

Founded in 1955, World Press Photo is best known for its annual contest that, for more than half a century, has consistently set the bar for excellence in photojournalism and documentary photography. The announcement of the contest winners each April and the subsequent worldwide traveling exhibition highlight both new and established photographers for an international audience of millions.

But the annual contest, while the most prominent of World Press Photo's initiatives, is only one aspect of the organization’s commitment to the support and appreciation of visual journalism.

The Joop Swart Masterclass — established in 1994 and named for a World Press Photo board member and passionate supporter of young photographers — holds a unique place within the educational programs run by the World Press Photo Academy.

To mark the 20th edition of the Masterclass, taking place this week, LightBox asked a representative photographer from each year of the program to contribute two images — one from their masterclass project and another from their wider body of work — along with a few words on what the masterclass meant to their life and career.

The full list of 260 participant photographers from the past two decades is a veritable Who’s Who of contemporary documentary photography. It also reflects World Press Photo’s global reach and its unwavering commitment to supporting non-Western photographers.

For the annual Masterclass, a committee of international experts nominates an initial list of 150 to 200 promising photographers. A panel of five industry professionals then narrows the submissions to the final selection of 12 participants for that year's class.

The managing director of World Press Photo, Michiel Munneke says, "Quality, of course, is the most important criterion, but geographical diversity is also at the front of the judges' minds. We believe that it enriches discussions and perspectives if you have people of different cultural backgrounds, as well as different professional backgrounds, [working] together."

The selected participants are asked to prepare a photo essay over the following six months on a theme that is both specific, and universal.

However, Munneke points out, "there are no restrictions attached, no definitions given. The annual theme -- for example 'Faith' in 2002, 'Trust' in 2012, 'Hope' in 2013 -- is interpreted and executed differently by each photographer. We want to challenge the photographer to come up with a story that is compelling and convincing."

The project also challenges photographers to find their own voice and take a different approach to their own work. "If you are a spot-news photographer," Munneke says, "this is an opportunity to be more reflective and come up with something personal, to work in a different way.”

The photographers work independently until November, when they bring their projects to Amsterdam. There they attend an intensive 6-day workshop where they are mentored by six leading industry professional “Masters."

Munneke says that the Masterclass originated "as a response to repeated requests from the photo community to bring together experienced photojournalists with young, promising individuals, to help the younger photographers progress in both theory and practice. That goal remains the same today, while the amount of individual attention given to each participant makes it a unique experience."

For virtually everyone who participates, the class is more than career-changing; it’s life-changing.

"The masters feel they learn as much from the participants [as the participants do from them]," Munneke says. "These veterans get fresh ideas and are inspired by these young photographers."

For instance, Stephen Mayes, the Executive Director of the Tim Hetherington Trust notes that "maybe the most surprising aspect of Tim’s participation in 2002 'Faith' Masterclass was that he was present as a student, not as a master. He was already an assured image-maker then, with deep knowledge of multimedia and the wider applications for photography. It’s entirely characteristic of Tim that he would use any opportunity to meet people and learn from them, whether teachers or students.”

Many of the alumni subsequently become masters themselves and have their work recognized by World Press Photo awards -- including Jodi Bieber, Erik Refner and Tim Hetherington each winning the prestigious World Press Photo of the Year.

In many ways, World Press Photo's instrumental role in the evolution of photojournalism and documentary photography is most evident in its Masterclass: a nurturing environment that provides young and regional photographers with the time and the means to gain confidence and find their true voice.

Tragically, two Masterclass alumni, Tim Hetherington and Anton Hammerl, were killed covering the 2011 civil war in Libya. But their photographs — along with those of 258 fellow Masterclass participants — continue to provide an enduring and powerful legacy.

While this year’s Masterclass selection committee recognized, in the work of the nominees, signs of the ongoing shifts in photographic storytelling and aesthetics, it also acknowledged the continuing practice of more traditional photojournalism. Ultimately, in making its selections, the panel was most interested in "freshness and in finding photographers who will move into new ground through the Masterclass."

2013 Masterclass recipients:

Phil Bicker is a senior photo editor at TIME.

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