Suhaib, two years old. Muhammed, almost four. Their uncles carry them through the streets of Gaza City. The boys are swaddled in fabric. Ready to be buried. Paul Hansen, photographer at Stockholm morning daily Dagens Nyheter, captured the best photo of 2012 according to World Press Photo.
– I don’t remember the exact moment when I took the picture. I remember the heat, the smell of sweat. I remember all the screams; it was like a wave of sorrow, says Paul Hansen.
It all began the day before. Hansen and some colleagues were discussing a bomb that had hit a house in Jamalia, Gaza City. Two little boys were killed along with their father. The mother had been gravely injured and was in hospital. At that point she didn’t know what had happened to her family.
– The doctors had been discussing who should tell her when she woke up. How do you tell someone that their children and husband are dead, that their house is gone?
The next day he came across a funeral procession. After following it for a while Paul Hansen suddenly understood – it was the two little boys and their father.
– There were hundreds of people. Everyone was crying, everyone was shouting. They were angry and sad. It was a cacophony of sound and emotion. And there I was, running around and trying to translate all of that into one five hundredth of a second, says Paul Hansen.
Only after the photo had been printed on DN:s front page did Paul Hansen understand how powerful it was.
Hansen’s photo of the funeral procession in Gaza was chosen as the World Press Photo of the Year 2012 on Friday. He is the first Swede to ever win that prize. Hansen’s photograph also won the spot category.
– It is a huge honor. This prize is so important, from such a professional organization. This makes me truly believe that the photo is good.
Hansen has been riding a wave of success recently. Last week he was chosen as the Photographer of the Year by Pictures of the Year International for the second time. Paul Hansen hopes that all the attention can in some way alleviate conflicts around the world.
– This prize makes us discuss photo journalism, makes us realize how important it is. If we, the media, can help illuminate all this darkness, maybe we can force world leaders to think twice. I might be naïve. But people have a voice through photos. Those two little boys are all over the world now.