The Fiery Image That Won World Press Photo of the Year

Ronaldo Schemidt's picture of a Venezuelan protester ablaze has become a symbol of the country's struggle.

Ronaldo Schemidt felt the heat of the flames first. Grabbing his camera, the Agence France Presse (AFP) photographer turned around and saw him: 28-year-old José Víctor Salazar Balza ablaze amid riots in Venezuela.

"It all took just a few seconds, so I didn't know what I was shooting," Schemidt later recalled to the British Journal of Photography. "I was moved by instinct, it was very quick. I didn't stop shooting until I realized what was going on. There was somebody on fire running towards me."

That image from May 3, 2017 — referred to colloquially as "Burning Man" — quickly became emblematic of the protests against Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro. And on Thursday, the picture was awarded the prestigious prize of World Press Photo of the Year.


The image of Salazar — who survived his first- and second-degree burns — is just one of hundreds Schemidt has captured of the protests in his home country of Venezuela. (The one above, taken earlier on May 1, 2017, shows a masked protestor protected behind a makeshift barricade.)

Born in Caracas in 1971, Schemidt later moved to Mexico to pursue a career in photography. Based in Mexico City, he's photographed events both big (the death of Hugo Chavez) and small (a local artisan's guitar-making). Take a look at some of his most memorable shots.

HAND CRAFTED RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images HAND CRAFTED A Mexican luthier creates a replica of the guitar from the Disney Pixar movie "Coco" on January 8, 2018. The animated film has boosted guitar sales in the small town of Paracho. DAY OF THE DEAD AFP Contributor/AFP/Getty Images DAY OF THE DEAD The Catrinas Parade marches down Reforma Avenue in Mexico City on October 22, 2017, ahead of Día de los Muertos. La Calavera Catrina (aka "the dapper skeleton") was made famous by Mexican illustrator José Guadalupe Posada and has become a symbol of the Day of the Dead. THE AFTERMATH AFP Contributor/AFP/Getty Images THE AFTERMATH A boy seeks refuge at an improvised shelter following the 8.2-magnitude earthquake that struck Mexico's Pacific coast on September 7, 2017. GETTING HIS LICKS IN RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images GETTING HIS LICKS IN A boxer named Tank slurps up a cone at a doggie ice cream parlor in Mexico City on April 9, 2017. SWEET FIFTEEN RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images SWEET FIFTEEN Thousands of revelers show up to celebrate Rubi Ibarra's quinceañera on December 26, 2016, in Villa Guadalupe, after her parents' video invitation went viral. THE WRECKAGE RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images THE WRECKAGE Firefighters sift through debris following a huge blast in a Mexico City fireworks market on December 20, 2016. SILENT PROTEST RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images SILENT PROTEST A demonstrator marches to oppose Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro on June 7, 2016. A TRUMPED UP HALLOWEEN RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images A TRUMPED UP HALLOWEEN A factory worker in Mexico eyes a mask fashioned after then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on October 16, 2015. MEMORIAL DAY RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images MEMORIAL DAY Following the death of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez on March 5, 2013, supporters line up in Caracas to pay their respects.