Russia gay couple in World Press Photo of the Year

This image of a gay couple in Russia, part of a larger project on homophobia, took the top prize. Picture: AP
This image of a gay couple in Russia, part of a larger project on homophobia, took the top prize. Picture: AP
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AN intimate and atmospheric image of a gay couple in Russia, has been crowned the 2015 World Press Photo of the Year.

The photo of Jonathan Jacques Louis, 21, and Alexander Semyonov, 25, by Danish photographer Mads Nissen was part of a larger project by him called “Homophobia in Russia”, highlighting how life is becoming increasingly difficult for sexual minorities in Russia.

Nissen said he sees the image, shot in St Petersburg, as “a ­modern-day Romeo and Juliet story” about two people in love but facing outside forces which want to deny them their feelings. Its sensitivity also appeared intended to act as a counterpoint to gruesome photographs and video images spread by terrorists that increasingly come to dominate the news.

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“Today, terrorists use graphic images for propaganda. We have to respond with something more subtle, intense and thoughtful,” jury member Alessia Glaviano said.

A photo of a circus monkey cowering as its trainer approached scooped first prize in the Nature Singles category for Yongzhi Chu from China.

Second prize in the category was awarded to Ami Vitale from the US for a picture of group of young Samburu warriors, in Lewa Downs, northern Kenya, encountering a rhino for the first time in their lives.

The first prize in the Nature Stories category went to Anand Varma for a photo which shows a dying ant infected with fungal spores which has fastened itself to a leaf.

While the winning image was of an intimate moment, the world’s hotspots of unrest and despair also featured prominently in the prizes, with images from the conflicts in Ukraine, Syria and Gaza as well as the Ebola crisis in Africa impressing the judges.

Bao Tailiang of China’s Chengdu Economic Daily won first prize in the Sports Singles category with a photo of Argentina star Lionel Messi gazing at the World Cup trophy after his team lost 1-0 to Germany in the final in Rio.

The contest drew 97,912 images from 5,692 photographers from 131 countries. Nissen won a £7,400 cash prize for his winning image.