A woman holds a wounded relative during protests against president Saleh. Sanaa, Yemen, 15 October © Samuel Aranda, Spain, for The New York Times, World Press Photo of the Year 2011.
Samuel Aranda's winning image of a veiled woman holding the body of an injured man has been compared to Michelangelo's Pietà - a sculpture depicting Mary clutching the body of Jesus. We find out more, speaking with the World Press Photo judges and Aranda.
"There's been discussions about connections between Samuel Aranda's image and the Pietà," admits jury member Nina Berman. "I was a big supporter of this image and I think it's fantastic that Christian audiences can connect in a way that is compassionate and not prejudicial with the Muslim world," she tells BJP. "And if they have to do it through their own Christian icons, then fine. That's what art is for."
During the judging process, says Aidan Sullivan, "we didn't make any references to the Pietà. But I think there was always this feeling that it had a religious undertone."
For Manoocher Deghati, the regional photo manager for Associated Press in the Middle East, it was the first thing you could see. "You also see the Algerian Madonna picture [shot by Hocine Zaourar in 1997 and which also won a World Press Photo the following year]," he says. "Icons are icons. I think that's fine. I think it's eye-catching, and the fact the man is naked but the woman is completely clothed makes it even more interesting."
Deghati adds: "I think it's important also because in the West we believe women have been oppressed [in the Middle East] but this gives another human face to her choices."
For Koyo Kouoh, the founder and artistic director Raw Material Company, it's normal that Aranda's image would refer us to Michelangelo's Pietà. "The image of the pieta is something imprinted in human DNA," he says. "It is something that is always inside us. And I don't think [it was intentional]. Maybe afterwards there is a lot of reading and interpretation of the image but I don't think he was pushing to make that reference. He just captured a moment."
Aranda confirms that fact to BJP. "It was not intentional," he says on the phone. "You know how it is in these situations - it was really tense and chaotic. In these situations, you just shoot photos. It is what it is. We're just photographers. I consider myself just a worker. I just witness what is going on in front of me, and shoots photos. That's it."
But, for Berman, this connotation could help build a bridge between people. "This is how humans touch each other. We often believe, us in the Western world, that women that are fully-veiled are somehow less complete people. But even though you don't see her face, she's a very strong character in that picture. That was very important for me."
For more coverage of the World Press Photo results, check www.bjp-online.com/tag/world-press-photo.
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