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José Víctor Salazar Balza caught fire after a motorcycle exploded in a clash with riot police during a protest of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas on May 3, 2017. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

Venezuelan photographer Ronaldo Schemidt won the World Press Photo of 2017 title for an image of a demonstrator engulfed in fire at a protest of the country’s president, Nicolás Maduro.

“It’s a classical photo, but it has an instantaneous energy and dynamic,” said Magdalena Herrera, director of photography at Geo France and the chair of this year’s jury. “The colors, the movement, and it’s very well composed, it has strength. I got an instantaneous emotion.”

José Víctor Salazar Balza, the demonstrator depicted in the winning photo, was standing near a motorcycle on fire when it exploded, engulfing him in flames.

“It’s quite symbolic, actually,” said National Geographic’s Whitney Johnson, another member of the jury. “The man, he has a mask on his face. He’s come to sort of represent not just himself and himself on fire, but sort of this idea of Venezuela burning.”

The photo is part of a series that Schemidt shot within a span of two minutes on May 3, 2017. His successive images show Salazar Balza wrapped in flames, running for help.


A demonstrator catches fire during clashes with riot police within a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas on May 3, 2017. The protestor caught fire after the gas tank exploded while they were trying to burn it. Venezuela's angry opposition rallied Wednesday vowing huge street protests against President Nicolas Maduro's plan to rewrite the constitution and accusing him of dodging elections to cling to power despite deadly unrest. / AFP PHOTO / RONALDO SCHEMIDT (Photo credit should read RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images) (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

(Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

(Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

(Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

A demonstrator catches fire during clashes with riot police within a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas on May 3, 2017. The protestor caught fire after the gas tank exploded while they were trying to burn it. Venezuela's angry opposition rallied Wednesday vowing huge street protests against President Nicolas Maduro's plan to rewrite the constitution and accusing him of dodging elections to cling to power despite deadly unrest. / AFP PHOTO / RONALDO SCHEMIDT (Photo credit should read RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images) (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

Some of Schemidt’s colleagues, including the Associated Press’s Fernando Llano, captured the incident’s aftermath as Salazar Balza received help from fellow demonstrators. “A few days afterward I saw him on social media, inviting people to continue the protests on the streets,” Schemidt told the British Journal of Photography. “I read he was recovering from his burns.”


José Víctor Salazar Balza is aided by fellow anti-government protesters after he was burned in Caracas. (Fernando Llano/AP)

Protesters carry José Víctor Salazar Balza for treatment of his burns. (Fernando Llano/AP)

Schemidt’s win comes four months into 2018 as the World Press Photo organization introduced, this year, a new method of announcing its winners. In February, six contenders were shortlisted for the top prize, with the final results announced at a ceremony in Amsterdam on Thursday.

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