"Anything we can do that can try to show the drama and massacres the Syrians are suffering is good.” Rodrigo Abd has been awarded the 1st Prize General News Single for his portrait of an injured woman in Syria. He speaks to BJP about the image and the difficulty he faced in reporting in Syria. Interview by Lauren Heinz
Argentinian photographer Rodrigo Abd was on assignment in Syria for The Associated Press in March 2012 when he came across Aida, the woman in his World Press Photo (WPP) winning image. He was in the north of Syria in the town of Idlib, which was under attack by the Syrian Army. The day the image was captured, Abd was attempting to escape the town along with the rebels and ended up in a small Red Cross hospital.
“We were trying to shoot images of patients there and the people arriving. The scene was really hard to photograph because it was so terrible and so sad. A woman was in a bed with one of her children, and in the next bed were two of her other children, all with blood on their faces. We couldn’t talk too much to her because she didn’t know that her husband was killed with her other two children. We knew at that time because some of the relatives and doctors told us. It was incredibly sad.”
When Abd arrived in Syria in March, the situation was far more difficult for journalists than it has become in more recent months and as such he didn’t encounter many other journalists. “We arrived hiding in a truck, not to be seen crossing the border [from Turkey into Syria]. We arrived with smugglers; it was very dangerous and difficult.”
Abd is very pleased about his win, for the most part because of the recognition for the story unfolding in Syria. “It is so difficult to report from there, not only because it’s dangerous but also because the story is not in the front pages and people have been suffering for so long. Anything we can do that can try to show the drama and massacres the Syrians are suffering is good.”
Winning the first prize also has added significance because Abd’s grandparents immigrated from Homs in Syria to Argentina. “Returning to my roots was something professionally and personally important to me. My parents never even went there. But it was so familiar in terms of food, people and how people act in the streets. To see the people suffering is so dramatic, so cruel.”
Several images and stories from Syria have won awards in the World Press Photo this year and for Abd this is very appropriate. “It is important for WPP to have pictures from Syria not only because of the drama but it’s so important to show what’s going on there and that journalists risk a lot to cover the story. We have to be proud of them because sometimes it’s very difficult. But nothing we can go through [as journalists] is compared with what the Syrian people are going through, who have been suffering for more than two years.”