• February 19, 2014

World Press 2014: Signals from Djibouti

Proof Staff

Each year, an international panel of visual luminaries gathers at World Press Photo in Amsterdam to judge tens of thousands of images submitted by photojournalists from around the world. The results of this year’s contest were announced on February 14, with six awards going to photographers on assignment for National Geographic magazine, and a seventh for a project funded with the magazine’s support. Over the next few days, we will go behind the scenes of the winning shots with the photographers and their picture editors. Here, John Stanmeyer and Kim Hubbard share their thoughts on “Signal,” which took the top prize of 2013 Photo of the Year.


Kim Hubbard, Senior Photo Editor

When John Stanmeyer called me from Djibouti to say he was photographing people on a beach holding their cell phones in the air, I was a little skeptical. In his first few days there, he’d only been able to find what he described as “frivolous vignettes,” and we were both hoping for something better. Something substantial. When he sent me a jpeg of the folks on the beach, we both knew he had found a special situation. John returned to that beach night after night, hobbling on a sprained leg to get the picture. He managed to distill our entire story into one beautiful, moonlit image: modern day migration meets the universal desire for connection.

Picture of photo editor kim hubbard and photographer John Stanmeyer
Kim Hubbard and John Stanmeyer
John Stanmeyer, Photographer

The photograph “Signal”  was taken along the shores of the Red Sea on an evening of a full moon in Djibouti City, Djibouti.  I was there on assignment photographing the story “Out of Eden”, a project with National Geographic explorer Paul Salopek related to our collective human migration out of Africa that began some 60,000 years ago.

After a month traveling overland from a small village in Ethiopia, I arrived in Djibouti City. On my second day in the capital, I did what I often do when in a place I’ve never been before — walk about in the natural process of getting lost. While meandering along the beach, I came upon a group of people at dusk, all standing at different spots along the shoreline holding up their phones, some talking on them, others waving them in the air or just standing motionless.

I asked my friend/translator what they were doing as it was truly one of the more unique gatherings I’d ever stumbled upon. He said there are people, mostly Somalis, who often come to this spot along the beach to try and do what is called “Catching”—to catch an inexpensive signal from neighboring Somalia by using a Somali SIM card in their phones.

Picture of people holding up cell phones to get a signal
Impoverished African migrants crowd the night shore of Djibouti city, trying to capture inexpensive cell signals from neighboring Somalia—a tenuous link to relatives abroad. From part one of the Out of Eden series published in the December 2013 issue of National Geographic.

Immediately I was astonished by what we were witnessing — the innate desire we all have as humans to reconnect home. Over the following few days I would revisit this stretch of beach where each night there would be a new gathering of men and women waiting for that moment when all the natural layers would combine.

Speaking to many of them, the stories were always the same: the desire to reconnect to family, asking for remittance or updates on emigration papers from family living in Europe. Not all attempts to catch the signal were fulfilled.  Some would stand in one place for twenty of thirty minutes, waiting for their phone to grab the faint signal which never appeared, only to return another evening to try once more.

I’ve been asked often over the past few days what this photograph means to me. Very simple — it felt as if I was photographing all of us — you, me, our brothers and sisters — all desperately trying to connect to our loved ones.

In this tenuous period of human migration where despair and hope simultaneously intertwine, we seek to find comfort, a sense of balance, a desire to be home, reconnecting to something stable, reassuring. This photograph of Somalis trying to “catch” a signal is an image of all of us as we stand at the crossroads of humanity, where we must ask ourselves what is truly important, demanding our collective attention in a global society where the issues of migration, borders, war, poverty, technology and communication intersect.


Stanmeyer’s coverage of the Hejaz region of Saudi Arabia, the second segment of Paul Salopek’s epic journey, will be featured in the July 2014 issue of National Geographic. John will travel to Israel in April to continue his coverage of Salopek’s seven-year-walk from Ethiopia to Patagonia. Stay tuned.

There are 139 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. satheesan nair.c
    March 11, 2014

    Impressive photo and its relative story.

  2. GeorgeDawn
    March 1, 2014


  3. Ellen Waara
    February 27, 2014

    I lived in Hargesa Somalia as a child – my Dad was in the Peace Corp. They are the most handsome people on the planet. My heart opens as they heal and find their homes within.

  4. Jeff Murphy
    February 27, 2014

    The Natural World meets technology – unfortunately technology changes because of our desire to improve technology where the Natural World is changing because of the desire for technology

  5. Roja
    February 25, 2014

    Simply soul stirring .

  6. Pat Bernas
    February 24, 2014

    Lovely. Beautiful story.

  7. Barbara l Melling
    February 24, 2014

    E.T. Call home lol

  8. Claire
    February 24, 2014


  9. Ann Quinton
    February 24, 2014

    I was so sad to see the negative comments made bysome of the people. This is such a poignant illustration of the longing for familythat so many folk have to bear, all over the world,,,, thank you so much for sharing its beauty with us.

  10. ideogram
    February 24, 2014


  11. ana pego
    February 24, 2014

    Could be a fction´s film, with people sending messages to the multiple gods. They expect to deserve what they shall say to them.

  12. Jude Cameron
    February 24, 2014

    This photo fills my heart with immense gratitude for the deep connections that I have in my life.

  13. Jim
    February 24, 2014

    ET, call back.

  14. hilerica
    February 24, 2014

    thought, very understandable article, but not full and enough photo explanation

  15. Basima Raouf
    February 24, 2014

    expecting an answer from god granting thier wishes .

  16. Walter Burgi
    February 24, 2014

    an image of how little we understand the UNIVERSE so far

  17. Susan Van Duyne
    February 24, 2014

    Beautiful! Humanity waiting for a signal; from home, from the universe, from God.

  18. Pilar alonso
    February 24, 2014

    This photo is pure Emotion and Beauty

  19. brenda clevenger
    February 24, 2014

    I’m taken back to the week following Hurricane Ivan which struck the Gulf Coast area the year before the infamous Katrina; a time when hurricanes received far less press. Along with a few thousand others who had lost their homes and belongings we made the daily trek to a particular parking lot to receive ice and MRE’s and, most precious of all– a cell phone signal to reach out to families. It was on one of these occasions that we learned that our beloved matriarch/grandmother had passed the day before. I’ve never felt so alone and helpless.

  20. Aysan Yapici
    February 24, 2014

    When I see this picture, the first impression I get is that there is a bunch of people looking at a source of light in the dark sky, a smaller version of the Moon. It gives the feeling of hope, connection with the outer world, expectation.

  21. Maggie Davey
    February 24, 2014

    This beautiful picture reminds me how we take communication for granted these days and how hard it is for some people to contact those they love.

  22. Murari Lal Vishwakarma
    February 24, 2014

    An amazing post .

  23. Soumi Biswas
    February 24, 2014

    Emotion! Message! towards home!

    February 24, 2014

    The mood is what captures the mind first. A moonlit night and the scene on the beach . The desperateness for catching a signal to connect to the outer world is very, very evident. The text says they stayed immobile for nearly half an hour. And they would do the same thing every day! Reminded me of Samuel Becket’s classic,”Waiting for Godot.”

  25. Alex Double
    February 24, 2014

    A great photo but your geography is a little lacking. The photo would have been taken on the shores of the Gulf of Tadjoura or possibly the Gulf of Aden depending on what side of the city the photo was taken. The Red Sea odes not start until after the Straits of Bab El Mandeb some 80 or so kilometres north , north west of Djibouti.

  26. Mike
    February 24, 2014

    Not impressed, but there you go.

  27. PJ
    February 24, 2014

    This is HOPE

  28. Sabyasachi Banerjee
    February 24, 2014

    This photo transcends boundaries. And indeed connects. In isolation probably the photo is not much. But along with the story it develops this knockout punch..

  29. aldo
    February 24, 2014

    I came from Africa and now live in Italy where very often I read about those desperate “boat” people trying to leave behind the emptiness and sorrow of their life, not knowing the future hardship they will encounter as soon they will ( if lucky enough) put their feet on the “promised” land. This picture tells the start of those people dream for a brighter future and also the remaining roots with their origins.

  30. Max
    February 24, 2014

    The only reason these people can’t afford a proper Dijoubitian SIM card is they already blew through their days wages on QAT. I love Eastern Africa, but Dijoubiti has to be one of the places that I never want to have to go back to ever again

  31. Maria Works
    February 24, 2014

    To John Stanmeyer: Thank you for telling us the story behind the picture. You beautifully described the need for that touch stone of family, of being connected, that we all need. Well done, sir.

  32. Monnette
    February 24, 2014

    The picture and its story is not exclusive to just one area or one group of people. It is a shared experience.

  33. Michaelle
    February 24, 2014

    The Purpose of your Life is to Grow Up and EVOLVE. Be Free to reach your full Potential of Spiritual Evolution!

  34. Gloria
    February 23, 2014

    Absolutely exquisite, and startling at the same time; the world has gotten smaller through technology, yet it remains infinitely vast for the people whose families are thousands of miles away… What an interesting age we live in!

  35. joelcleofas
    February 23, 2014

    Great shot. but the picture doesn’t show the whole story unless you read
    the whole article and I didn’t see anything representing poverty.

  36. Maria Elena
    February 23, 2014

    Beautiful,interesting and inspiring photo and article.

    February 23, 2014

    This is one planet, one world, there are no boarders. We are one people.

  38. Aviott John
    February 23, 2014

    Beautiful beyond words. An image that manages to convey so much hope and tragedy in one exquisite image.

  39. Wendy Johnson
    February 23, 2014

    This reminds me of the things we take for granted because we have access to them everyday…grateful!

  40. Bull
    February 23, 2014

    Probably Somali pirates trying to get in touch with Al Shabab.

  41. Monroe Thomas Clewis
    February 23, 2014

    Signals from Djibouti

    Standing on the beach
    Waiting for a signal
    To come in
    Or if the gods will
    They stood in silhouette
    Against the full moon
    A group of men
    Hands held high outstretched
    As if in prayer
    Their cellphones lit like
    Second stars
    As men had stood
    Before them
    In the timeless reaches
    Waiting for an answer

  42. Ted
    February 23, 2014

    like me in Montreal I do not like to pay TV channel and I buy antenna and more and I can not have any free antenna on air in Montreal . nothings we pay and must pay for every things in Canada

  43. Johannes
    February 23, 2014

    I am not certain about this one, they may also be trying to get updates from their Somalian brothers of their piracy hit list, plans and updates

  44. Max hufferd
    February 23, 2014

    Beautiful, my first overwhelming thought of my wife who passed away 18mths ago after 47 yrs of marriage and 8 yrs of childhood sweetheart love,,,what if there was a place, and only one place where you could go and have a chance,,maybe it would only be one chance, to reconnect to your loved one, no matter how briefly
    ???? Would you go, how long would you wait, would you stand on one foot because someone told you it might help, would you stand in that spot until you felts cramps in your arms and legs,,, you bet you would and the joy in your heart would be overwhelming IF,,just IF you got that one brief contact !!! That’s what I saw in that picture !! Sign me up I’ll be there standing side by side just like the people in the picture,,,thanks for touching my heart !!!

  45. jackie
    February 23, 2014

    beautiful photo, no matter what you read into it.

    And to those who feel it exploits people’s misfortune, i think you project your own values on another country that doesn’t have all the ‘luxuries’ that you enjoy. it wasn’t all that long ago that we in the US had party lines where many families shared 1 landline and had to wait their turn to use it…now a single house has many phones. we are so jaded in our abundances that we forget what a wonder and gift all those things we take for granted really are. many third world countries are thrilled to have the most basic of our modern conveniences. it is only in our arrogance that we think of them as unpriviledged and misfortunate.

  46. Tamara Owens
    February 23, 2014

    This photo reminds me of the far to few people in the world, shining their light, into the darkest of places. Fantastic photo!

  47. LaDonda
    February 23, 2014

    It makes you wonder, why them and not you. I am blessed with my life. What a beautiful photo .

  48. Catharina Maria Frank(la Grange)
    February 23, 2014

    Almost the same as getting the feeling somebody very close to you knows an answer that could change your live, but for some unknown reason can not tell you exactly what is going on in your own live???

  49. Jac Peeris
    February 23, 2014

    Thank you for this moving and poignant reminder of our fragile human connections and their importance to our life. Such a stunning photograph and the words are beautiful too. Only a truly open heart could capture the extraordinary energy of this so perfectly and share it with all of us. Thank you.

  50. Ron Harris
    February 23, 2014

    I have a lot of “emotion” for other worlds, I tend to always count my blessings. And never hesitate to seize a moment, cause there worth so much in so many ways. Good job on capturing a speechless photo in time.

  51. Dutch McAllister
    February 23, 2014

    The amulet of the 21st century is captured in a photograph. Spellbinding.

  52. Paula Freund
    February 23, 2014

    I thought the info under the photo was so funny, it brought much laughter to me!! Thank you! I do have another point to make right after this sentence!
    The last sentence is not complete, so nor is the thought of what you were trying to convey and I AM REALLY CURIOUS WHERE YOU WERE GOING WITH WHAT YOU WROTE HERE!! HERE IS THE LAST SENTENCE: “…This photograph of Somalis trying to “catch” a signal is an image of all of us as we stand at the crossroads of humanity, where we must ask ourselves what is truly important, demanding our collective attention in a global society where the issues of migration, borders, war, poverty, technology and communication intersect.”

  53. Pamela Bruner
    February 23, 2014

    The photographer does not exploit anything. The picture is something someone far away saw through their eyes and wanted to share with me, to see with my eyes. Thank you. The photographer said what the scene means to him, that does not mean it is the same for everyone. What it means to you, is perhaps different. It is a lovely shot, done well.

  54. Betty McGarity
    February 23, 2014

    So beautiful. It speaks to my heart. Along with my sadness for these people and their longing, I am filled with gratitude that my loved ones are nearby.

  55. Cleave
    February 23, 2014

    Having recently been in Africa, I’d offer this photo is a completely accurate representation of the African spirit. A people who, most often, live a simple, challenging but happy life, and yet are always looking for that little extra opportunity for something special. Things westerners often overlook are items of value and importance there. Life in parts of Africa is very difficult. This just seems like a moment when things get a little easier for just a few minutes.

  56. Robert Crosby
    February 23, 2014

    Profoundly religious, that word religare meaning “to bind together/to connect”.

  57. Betty
    February 23, 2014

    What a great capture of life! You were meant to be right where this happened!

  58. Peter O Nalcot
    February 23, 2014

    Run out of words on your shoot ,

  59. Erkadius Erkadius
    February 23, 2014

    The same feeling when I connceted with my wife and son in Padang, 100° East, while I was studying at Michigan State, East Lansing, in 80° West. Waiting for the international dialing to succeed.

  60. Daniel
    February 23, 2014

    Amazing ! This is a symbol of hope.

  61. J finney
    February 23, 2014

    My first thought was about how NASA searches space and listens for some faint signal from far away. The other day I asked the students in my class which is more important – the telescope or the microscope their response was profound. They felt what is going on here where we are is most important. Telescopes tell of distant past or maybe our future as humans, but microscopes try to solve issues and problems we face right now. To think about these people in the photo and their need to connect touches something in us about being human. At the same time, there is something in us that hopes to make a connection to something cosmic. Isn’t this what we do when we pray. We hold our hands high and hope to connect. Sometimes we do. A photo that triggers these types of thoughts and emotions deserves the award. Thank you for sharing it and I look forward to seeing what my students think about it tomorrow.

  62. Joan
    February 23, 2014

    john stanmeyer’s framing and Michelle’s thoughtful response is an example of what
    art achieves. Provokes us to consider what an image might mean, suggest, encourage. John’s frame invites thoughtfulness,discussion, perhaps even action.

  63. Julia R
    February 23, 2014

    I agree with James Hendricks, The story of the struggle of the human race compressed into a single image. Stanmeyer found a great example. Thank you.

    February 23, 2014

    I’m inclined to take a more down-to-earth view; Islamic paradises such as Somalia and other N African countries are what these people seek to escape form. Trouble is many of them export their Islamic misery to their hosts.

    NOT so romantic, sorry.

  65. Steven Jacobson
    February 23, 2014

    It shows me that, no matter where we are in the world without family and friends we are the loneliest people.

  66. Anne Umphrey
    February 23, 2014

    The title speaks of attempting to contact loved ones but to me it symbolizes searching the heavens for meaning, or to pray to the Universal Unknown.

  67. Juli O
    February 23, 2014

    So beautiful.

  68. Jan Krueger
    February 23, 2014

    This is very haunting, very moving.

  69. Audrey McCollum
    February 23, 2014

    A profoundly moving expression of the deep need for connection shared by humankind!

  70. Peace
    February 23, 2014

    It’s so moving to see how difficult people in other part of the world in connecting to others. We are so fortunate in the US to have all means available to help us connect, and yet we often choose isolation.

  71. Joanna
    February 23, 2014

    I agree with Michelle… The Somali people are experiencing pain that most of us can never imagine. They’ve been driven abroad by war. Many have seen family and friends murdered. They are abused and exploited abroad. Many also live in poverty in the West, and their youth become prey for gangs and drug dealers. Their women are seen as backwards and incomprehensible by most Western women.

    This photo should be seen as horrifying, not uplifting. And certainly we shouldn’t sit back and think “gee, how nice, at least refugees have cell phones now to call home.” Alhamdullilah, but… also heartbreaking.

  72. Mary
    February 23, 2014

    One day I hope to catch such a picturesque moment. Thank you!!!

  73. orieta sureda
    February 23, 2014

    estas magnificas fotografias nos hacen valorar mas lo que tenemos dia a dia ya que no tengo ese problema y saber de personas que tienen que pasar todo eso solo para recibir la comunicacion con un ser querido

  74. M.K. Abissath
    February 23, 2014

    Life is a stage indeed! Sooner than later these brothers and sisters I will call “Djibouti SIGNAL communicators” will traverse that stage of their life.
    I am a Ghanaian. Just about 15 years ago, before the privatization of the telecommunications in Ghana, there was only one external telecom point in the capital Accra. At that time, if you want to communicate with your relative abroad, or your relative abroad want to speak to you directly on phone, you would have to go to that external telecom office and book your call in advance. So, depending on how many people are on the waiting list, you would have to wait for about 3, or 4 or 7 days for your turn.
    And after booking the call, there is no guarantee that on the D Day your call would go through. Sometimes, you may have to sleep there to receive your call at odd hours say, 1 am or 3 am GMT.
    Today, the number of mobile phones in Ghana are more than the population of the country (25million)
    People in there remotest hamlet or village in Ghana has mobile phones and can conveniently communicate with their relatives in any corner of the world. Well, there may be some little connectivity challenges here and there. But largely, most Ghanaians communicate with the rest of the world right from their own bedroom.
    So, a time will come these brothers and sisters in Djibouti will stop going to the beach in the night to obtain signal to talk with their loved ones abroad. Life is stage.

  75. nmr
    February 23, 2014

    I love the blues in this photo.

    This desire for connection reminds me of the Buson haiku:

    Escaped the nets,
    escaped the ropes,
    moon on the water.

  76. Sushant Singha
    February 23, 2014

    Astonished to see natural light could do real wonders and I salute the spirit of trying to be connected with our loved ones…

  77. Lynn Henderson
    February 23, 2014

    This photo held my attention for a while; it’s captivating..especially once I read the explanation of the event. As a photographer, I’m moved by the photo itself, by the story and definitely by the lengthy comments above by Michele of Feb 20.

  78. Nguyen Thyanh
    February 23, 2014

    there is always a story behind every picture … I am speechless!

  79. Billy
    February 23, 2014

    No words needed!

  80. luisa-spain
    February 23, 2014

    Many thanks to Michelle fo her words full of wisdom and compassion, which I totally share.

  81. Carol
    February 23, 2014

    when will all the “closets” be gone?

  82. Donnmaria Killlnger
    February 23, 2014

    Initially, I did not realize what these people were doing on the beach or that they were holding up a cell phone.
    I believe the photo captures the hope of many, stranded far from their home and love ones, but still making the effort to “reconnect” or capture the signal on their cell phones. Since many of these people returned over and over, it shows me, we as humans, always have hope. A beautiful photo, wordless, but indicating the people have fortitude and continued hope. Congratulations!

  83. Africawatcher
    February 23, 2014

    When I read the caption I thought immediately about creating an album of similar situations – gorilla trackers in Bwindi National Park in SW Uganda climbing a tree at the edge of the reserve to get a signal; Ethiopians in Moyale ‘catching’ the cheaper signal from across the border in Kenya; myself, searching for a signal on a US network in a relative’s home just a few miles outside New York City. It is a wonderful metaphor for the universal desire to communicate [and to save money]. In Africa, mobile phones have transformed life in the past ten years – a reason to rejoice.

  84. Marion
    February 23, 2014

    Silence…comment #8 (Michele) on 2-20-14, said it all —

  85. Steven
    February 23, 2014

    Awesome photo. Capturing a fascinating moment of human interaction. Interesting comments. But what a downer of a comment from “Michele”

  86. David Spence
    February 23, 2014

    Wow! The picture, with Stanmeyer’s story, packs a punch. It cuts deep into who we are, as humans. It is at once uplifting and poignant. Thank you National Geographic. I am glad I am a subscriber.

  87. debbie
    February 23, 2014

    Excellent! I also did not see much of in this photograph until I read the story. I think if one does not read the story, the photo might be lost and some would loose it’s beauty. Congratulations!

  88. Joey
    February 23, 2014

    What an incredible capture. This story brought about an epiphany of what I must do to make a difference this life.

  89. Anna
    February 23, 2014

    Beautiful, poignant, yes the whole human race! And we can also pray and keep in our hearts our love of these people, for we are all truly one and we do care.

  90. Alma Miranda
    February 23, 2014

    It has been a long time since a photo made me cry.

  91. RealityBites
    February 23, 2014

    All it would take is one company not to always put greed first…… won’t ever happen.

  92. estefania gomez vicente
    February 23, 2014

    impactante y a la vez tremendamente enternecedora.

  93. CoSuDu
    February 23, 2014

    I have to agree with Michele’s comments and appreciate the tactful, intelligent, and critical thoughts behind them.

  94. INOX
    February 23, 2014

    This reminds me of something that comes along with hope, that being patience. Along with patience comes suffering and pain, but it’s that hope and faith that keeps us and these men going. The need and desire to communicate with others, especially loved ones, is undeniable.

  95. Zirk
    February 23, 2014

    @Michelle – I agree 120%

    February 23, 2014

    A wave of humbleness.

  97. Linda
    February 23, 2014

    Awesome picture, very thought provoking.

  98. Lucienne Morin
    February 23, 2014

    Brilliant Capture!!!

  99. Bill Murray
    February 23, 2014

    Heart warming and moving…

  100. Carole
    February 23, 2014

    Thank you Michele, for your comment. Well said.

  101. Elisabeth Bobynskyj
    February 23, 2014

    The poetic beauty of this photograph belies the tragic and helpless situation of these poor people.

  102. Rob
    February 23, 2014

    I’ve lived in Djibouti City for two years and I have never saw anyone do this. I live about 1 mile from the beach where this might have been taken.

  103. Coco Puff
    February 23, 2014

    Men, become Stonehenge!!

  104. Don
    February 23, 2014

    The desire to communicate!

  105. Allan
    February 23, 2014

    I read the first of Paul Salopek’s epic journey in NATGEO and while some what knowledgeable of how difficult life is in that region I was struck by how strong man’s survival instincts are, what extreme’s man will go to to find a better way of life. These people trek across a very arid country to try and reach Dubai and find some subsistence work and then move on from there. Many die along the way. Its amazing how they all use cell phones to communicate with in a geographic area that is in many parts not even in the early 20th century.

  106. Rick haithcox
    February 23, 2014

    Millions of light years away??? Really?? On what planet do you think this image was made??

  107. Allan
    February 23, 2014

    I read the first of Paul Salopek’s epic journey in NATGEO and while some what knowledgeable of how difficult life is in that region I was struck by how strongman’s survival instincts are, what extreme’s man will go to to find a better way of life. These people trek across a very arid country to try and reach Dubai and find some subsistence work and then move on from there. Many die along the way. Its amazing how they all use cell phones to communicate with in a geographic area that is still in the early 20th century.

  108. Maura McGrath
    February 23, 2014

    Absolutely stunning – the photo AND your reflection – yes, we are all one

  109. Larry Brown
    February 23, 2014

    This photograph reinforces how fortunate I am to live in a part of the world where I can have unlimited communication with any individual or any organization I desire.

  110. Leo
    February 23, 2014

    Excellent? amazing? poignant? perfect?even magnificent? Are you people on another planet? Put down your Starbucks and realize that Michele is the only one who “understands the reality”.

  111. Paul Pometto
    February 23, 2014

    I lived and worked for two years in Djibouti, traveling to see magical vistas & witness strong family ties across deserts and mountains. It was a profound experience. Paul

  112. Ricardo Terrazas
    February 23, 2014

    I’m not a professional photographer but certainly caught my eyes this picture and realized that the backround and somewhat the entire scene make me wonder about how important is been in touch with the love ones!… I travel quite often and always tried to capture marvelous moments but this is just speechless!!, thanks!!

  113. Irina
    February 23, 2014

    Thankfully, only one comment missed the mark completely here. I actually understood the picture without the explanation. The reality of the picture added depth and clarity. Love it!

  114. joe
    February 23, 2014

    Awesome photo and story. Is life better comfortable and stale, or risky and painful? Ideally, i think both. Brave men and women on their journey to find a better life. Each journey unique. Expectations rarely met, life lessons learned, character grown and many new discoveries and relationships found. We are all on a journey……

  115. Katharine T. Ohman
    February 23, 2014

    Immediately, this photo took me back to what had happened immediately following Hurricane Katrina in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi. Individuals would stand at the foot of the Bay Bridge taking turns trying to ‘catch’ a connection with loved ones inside and outside of the disaster zone.

  116. Jody Zimmerman
    February 23, 2014

    I don’t think the premise is to exploit this group of people, but to share the intense human need to connect with others. It is a beautiful statement of humanity and an extraordinary photograph.

  117. Lesley O’Neil
    February 23, 2014

    Very moving; evocative of the desire for human communication, under any circumstances.

  118. Deepanjan Roy
    February 23, 2014

    Simply Magnificent – this touches a chord somewhere deep inside every human

  119. James Bernstein
    February 23, 2014

    For me, a wonderful photograph is an image that freezes and emotion in time. It allows the viewer to not only view the image but reflect upon it even though it is a still while the personal feelings continue to change within the viewer. This photograph does exactly that as looking at all the people holding their phones into the sky reminds me of an image of people holding candles in the air after the death of John Lennon and Strawberry Fields in New York City. This is a timeless photograph that will never be answered but will always in the still curiosity.

  120. Barrier Patrick
    February 23, 2014

    Signal or not signal ?

  121. AnnC
    February 22, 2014

    A picture of hope, love and patience. Heart-warming & perfectly amazing.

  122. Protap Pal
    February 20, 2014

    A unique moment that fulfills demands of our collective attention.Countless thanks.

  123. christine cabugao
    February 20, 2014

    soooo amazing. at first glance i thought it was just so ordinary, people taking picture of something in the sky, nothing unusual but when i read the caption, “SIGNAL” it blew me away and made me smile and made my day! congratulations!

    February 20, 2014


  125. noel
    February 20, 2014

    this is amazing that God,s giving to us but i hope this is true….

  126. Michael boyton
    February 20, 2014

    Stunning, a race of people living millions of light years away, searching, for answers, !!

  127. Eleni
    February 20, 2014


  128. alexandra
    February 20, 2014


  129. Michele
    February 20, 2014

    Mr. Stanmeyer’s photograph is truely cosmetically beautiful and eloquently offers up an entire story in just a fraction of time. However, I do not look at this story with idealism but with the sadness that maybe their struggle is being unintentionally exploited. This may be due to the lack of knowledge of the reality of their pain (not just the idea of their pain). Mr. Stanmeyer spoke of this photograph as a representation of all humans, but how many of us have truly been in this kind of situation? There is no beauty, and not much of a story for those who live it, in a situation where your last hope is standing for hours on a beach trying to “catch” a signal.

    I don’t pretend to know the level of despair these individuals have, but from personal experience I see the reality of their plight, and can drum up emotions of such a situation from my past. It pains me to think that their despair can possibly be exploited, idealized, and understood in intellectual circles right along side later conversations about having a hard time getting a cell signal to call their spouse while holding a Starbucks.

    I want to explain further my perspective in the following example. A photograph of solders, dead and injured, on Normandy Beach during D-day, is being described as a photo that we all can understand because we all want freedom from oppressors like Adolf Hitler. The WWII (Normandy Beach) veteran, I believe, would see something different-reality. Just imagine his emotional reaction, on over-hearing some people who were not present at V-Day Normandy, glorifying the beauty of the picture and saying this represents all humans struggle for freedom. He may be saddened by the idealization of a photo, that for him, is real pain he actually experienced–despair, regret, and imprisonment.

    In conclusion, I do not mean to be disrespectful in my honesty. I truly believe that sincerity, and a devil’s advocate, can foster a mentally healthy environment.

  130. dinesh
    February 20, 2014

    the realization of those who escape form realities

  131. magvan
    February 20, 2014

    symbol of endless hoping of human being

  132. Shawna Carin
    February 20, 2014

    I love this! I see the call of the human heart in John Stanmeyer’s photo. Grateful

  133. James B. Hendricks
    February 20, 2014

    The story of the human race compressed into a single image. I am not at all surprised that it won best photo for 2013. Congratulations!

  134. caner şahin
    February 20, 2014


  135. Anna Duggan
    February 19, 2014

    I am speechless!

  136. Vlada
    February 19, 2014

    This is great . . .

  137. Scotia
    February 19, 2014

    …moving, ethereal – beautific.

  138. martin roche
    February 19, 2014

    hope is speaking to me through this picture, thanks

    February 19, 2014


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