Awards, News

Spot News winner Bulent Kilic on his double win

"You can see the shock in her eyes." Bulent Kilic relays the stories behind his two winning images in World Press Photo's Spot News singles category

“I didn’t manage to ask this girl’s name or age because of the clashes, but she must have been around 15-years-old,” says Turkish photographer Bulent Kilic, who has won first and third place in the Spot News singles category at this year’s World Press Photo contest. “There were many high school students there, supporting their friend.”

Kilic, a photographer with Agence France-Presse, is talking about the clashes that took place between riot police and protestors after the funeral of Berkin Elvan, a 15-year-old boy who died from injuries he suffered during anti-government protests in Istanbul on 12 March 2014.

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When he heard about the clashes, Kilic, who was in the area, hurried to the scene with two other photographers. He took many images, he says, and worked from 7am until 3am the following morning. But it was for this haunting image of a young wounded girl that he won first prize in the Spot News singles category.

Kilic, who was named Photographer of the year 2014 by The Guardian, explains that he saw this girl standing on the street. He was immediately struck by the shock on her face. “You can see it in her eyes – what she is feeling. She had been affected by the water cannons and tear gas. The police took her, and held her. She was in shock. Afterwards the police let her go.”

During the clashes, police purportedly fired tear gas and water cannons at protestors in the capital of Ankara, while crowds amassed in Istanbul, shouting anti-government slogans as they made their way to a cemetery for the boy’s funeral.

“We worked very hard,” says Kilic. “If I need to show details, I’ll show details; if I feel that a situation has to be shown from up high, I’ll do that. As agency photographers we have to find details, but we also take general images [of the scene]. Sometimes a strong image will come from the details, and sometimes from the general [images.]”

Kilic also won third place in the Spot News singles category with an image depicting IS militants standing close to an air strike on Tilsehir Hill, near the Turkish border in Syria, on 23 October 2014.

“We worked along the border, where many thousands of refugees were coming,” relays Kilic. “At the same time there were clashes between Kurdish fighters and Islamic State militants, and also between demonstrators and Turkish police.”

Kilic explains how he and other photographers spent one month photographing along the border, and watched as IS “got closer and closer.”

“We drove to a village across from this hill and took position,” he says. “I was shooting at the same time as the air strike. Many people were killed in front of me, but these people killed others – what can I feel? This is war… I don’t like to comment too much. You work hard in all situations. For one picture, it’s not easy. Comment is easy.”

In the past, Agence France-Presse entered images on the photographer’s behalf, as it did this year, says Kilic.

“I didn’t expect to win… I mean, I’ve hoped for this award for many years, but I was afraid that it might pass [me by]. But finally… it feels really great after all this time.”

You can see Kilic’s winning images here.

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