Spanish photographer Samuel Aranda has won the 2011 World Press Photo of the Year award for an image of a veiled woman holding a wounded relative in her arms after a demonstration in Yemen.
Jurors said Aranda's photo, taken for The New York Times, encapsulated many facets of the uprisings across the Middle East known as the Arab Spring, one of the major news events of the year.
The photo was taken on October 15 in a mosque in Sanaa, Yemen, that was being used as field hospital after demonstrators protesting the rule of Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh clashed with government forces.
"The winning photo shows a poignant, compassionate moment, the human consequence of an enormous event, an event that is still going on," said chairman Aidan Sullivan.
"We might never know who this woman is, cradling an injured relative, but together they become a living image of the courage of ordinary people that helped create an important chapter in the history of the Middle East."
The woman is almost completely concealed under black robes as she clasps her relative, a thin man whose torso is bare, grimacing in pain.
Sullivan said Aranda thought the man might have been the woman's husband, but he was not sure. He said the image has religious "almost Biblical" overtones and noted its resemblance in composition to Michelangelo's Pieta - but in a Muslim setting.
"It stands for Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, for all that happened in the Arab Spring," said juror Koyo Kouoh.
"But it shows a private, intimate side of what went on, and it shows the role that women played, not only as caregivers but as active people in the movement."
The tsunami in Japan was another major theme of the competition. Japanese photographer Yasuyoshi Chiba took first prize in the People in the News Stories category for Agence France Presse for images including an April 3 photo of a Japanese woman standing alone and holding her daughter's graduation certificate aloft after she found it amid a swirl of debris in Higashimatsushima.
In all, 57 photographers from 24 countries won awards in a field of more than 5000 professional photographers, who submitted more than 100,000 entries.
The jury also itself nominated a photo taken by an unidentified amateur for special mention: a still image taken from a video of a Libyan National Transition Council fighter pulling Moammar Gadhafi onto a military vehicle in Sirte, Libya, on October 20.
"The photo captures a historic moment, an image of a dictator and his demise that we otherwise would not have seen, had it not been photographed by a member of the public," Sullivan said.
Aranda's photo also took first place in the "People in the News Singles" category. He will get euro10,000 (NZ$16,000) at an awards ceremony later this year.