Massimo Sestini won a coveted World Press Photo of the Year award in 2015 for this image of an overcrowded refugee boat off the coast of Libya. The photo is striking for its beauty, however it is also distressing, perhaps for that very reason.
In 2014 alone, the year this photo was taken, 219,000 people fled across the Mediterranean and 3,500 men, woman and children lost their lives on the treacherous journey. The ending for the passengers shown in this photo was a happy one, however: shortly after Massimo Sestini discovered the scene from a helicopter, they were rescued by an Italian frigate.
The certainty of imminent rescue is reflected in the passengers’ faces, and this gives the photo a positive atmosphere despite the drama of the situation. The impact of the image draws on a long history of nautical images, however: the ship traditionally symbolises hope and the departure for a better world, despite all the hazards presented by the sea.