World Press Photo Award for AWI Photographer

Esther Horvath wins one of the world’s most prestigious photography competitions, with a picture from the MOSAiC expedition
[17. April 2020] 

Caught in the glare of Polarstern’s spotlights, a curious mother polar bear and her cub explore the MOSAiC ice camp – with this image Esther Horvath, a photographer and photo editor at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), won the World Press Photo Award for an individual picture in the category “Environment”, as the World Press Photo Foundation announced on the evening of 16 April.

“For me as a photographer, winning a World Press Award is almost like taking home the Oscar in the film industry,” says Esther Horvath. “It’s always been one of my greatest dreams, and I’m delighted that I won it for my photographic coverage of the MOSAiC expedition.”

The World Press Photo Award is the world’s premier competition for press photography. Every year, the jury of experts recognises professional photographers for their outstanding individual photographs. To be eligible, the respective photo has to have been taken within the past twelve months. Esther Horvath’s award-winning shot documents one of the first polar bear sightings during the MOSAiC expedition, one of the sensational moments in its first few weeks. The photo was released on 22 November 2019 in an article on MOSAiC published in the New York Times. For the award, photographs can be submitted in one of eight categories: Contemporary Issues, Environment, General News, Long-Term Projects, Nature, Portraits, Sports, and Spot News. Normally the awards are presented at a festive ceremony in Amsterdam; this year, due to the corona virus crisis, there will be a videoconference instead. Afterwards, the winning photos will go on a one-year-long tour, covering 120 cities in 50 countries.

Esther Horvath has been accompanying scientific expeditions to the polar regions since 2015. Yet a career in photography wasn’t her first choice: after completing her degree in Business, she spent several years working in Vienna, before finding her way to photography. Nevertheless, it had always been her true dream: “I always wanted to tell stories visually,” says Horvath. In 2012 the time had come: as she relates, she packed two suitcases and flew to New York, where she invested all of her savings into becoming a documentary photographer. Once she’d finished, she stayed in New York for a time, before joining the AWI in Bremerhaven in 2018. Her photos can frequently be seen in leading newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, National Geographic and Geo.

For the future, Horvath hopes to continue working together with researchers in the polar regions to raise awareness for climate change. She sees photography as a universal language, which she wants to use to bring together science and society.

In the context of the MOSAiC expedition, experts from 20 countries will research the Arctic for an entire year. To make this possible, from autumn 2019 to autumn 2020 the German research icebreaker Polarstern will drift through the Arctic Ocean, trapped in the ice. MOSAiC is being coordinated by the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI). To ensure that this unparalleled project is a success and yields as much valuable data as possible, more than 80 institutes have pooled their resources in a research consortium. The expedition budget is ca. 140 million euros.

For news straight from the Arctic, check out the MOSAiC channels on Twitter (@MOSAiCArctic) and Instagram (@mosaic_expedition) using the hashtags #MOSAiCexpedition, #Arctic and #icedrift.

For further information on the expedition, please visit:

In addition, you can use the MOSAiC Web App to track Polarstern’s drift route and follow developments on site, live:


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Esther Horvath

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The Institute

The Alfred Wegener Institute pursues research in the polar regions and the oceans of mid and high latitudes. As one of the 18 centres of the Helmholtz Association it coordinates polar research in Germany and provides ships like the research icebreaker Polarstern and stations for the international scientific community.

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