An image by British photographer Jonathan Banks wins the title of Photo of the Year. Best Author is American photojournalist Matt McClain

SIENA, Italy - British Photographer Jonathan Banks’ stunning shot, “A Boy in the Crowd” of a Liberian child trying to retrieve his ball in a festival crowd guarded by armed soldiers is the overall winner of the 2019 Siena International Photo Awards (SIPA) contest.
Jurors selected the winning image from photographers from 161 countries.

Winning photographers were awarded the 26th of October at the Award Ceremony in the historic Theater Rinnovati in Siena, Italy. SIPA is now one of the world’s top international photography competitions. The awards event drew more than 300 photographers and guests from around the globe.

“A few years ago - explains Luca Venturi, the founder and art director of the Festival - we started this adventure in order to bound a uniquely beautiful and historic city like Siena with a photo festival and contest: the Siena International Photo Awards. In these five years our project has become, year by year, an event awaited and appreciated worldwide”. “This success - continues Luca Venturi – is confirmed by the numbers and by the importance of the internationally renowned professionals who have chosen to take part in our project, thus placing us among the major photographic contests in the world. We are happy that our dream has enthusiastically been supported since the beginning, both by the local authorities and private partners, without whom we couldn’t have started this adventure”.

Banks, an award-winning professional photographer and British Red Cross volunteer who often works with non-governmental organizations, shot the image in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital city, while working for International Alert, a peace-building organization.

“At this particular three-day festival on the outskirts of Monrovia in 2008, the crowd was tens of thousands strong. I started by photographing the soldiers, but then changed to what was more interesting in the crowd. I had been circling this particular soldier, when suddenly out of the crowd leaned this boy reaching for his precious ball scared of soldiers and their guns,” Banks said. “This all happened in the blink of an eye and resulted in this picture, which seems to represent the precariousness of peace, as seen through the eyes of a young child with little understanding of the greater dynamics at play. All he knew was, he wanted his ball back, but also to stay safe.”

American photojournalist Matt McClain won this year’s “Best Author” category with top images recognized in multiple categories, including “Photojournalism” for “Memorial Day,” his heartbreaking image of a young boy sitting next to the headstone of his late father on a visit to Arlington National Cemetery; and “Fascinating Faces” for his shot, “Border Patrol Academy” of a female cadet in line with male counterparts in Artesia, New Mexico.

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