Back in 2011, Mohammed Badra was studying architecture at Damascus University, a 20-minute drive from his native Douma. Then war broke out in Syria and he was forced to abandon his studies, initially becoming a first-responder for the Syrian Red Crescent, and then starting to take photographs of the conflict. “Taking a picture is documenting history,” he says simply. “I am an architecture student, I was pushed into photography.”
In 2015 Badra joined EPA [European Pressphoto Agency], working under Oliver Weiken and starting to focus in on images of children. Children are “the biggest losers in this war” he says, and there are many caught up in the crossfire, with the UN estimating that some 500,000 are currently living in 16 besieged areas in Syria.
And it’s the child that’s the really shocking factor in Badra’s photograph from Eastern Ghouta, which has been nominated for the World Press Photo of the Year. Showing victims of a suspected gas attack in hospital on 25 February 2018, the image includes a small boy hooked up to breathing apparatus.
A shortlist of six images have been announced for this year’s World Press Photo of the Year, and three photographers shortlisted for a new award that celebrates visual storytelling – the World Press Story of the Year.
The six images shortlisted for World Press Photo of the Year are: Victims of an Alleged Gas Attack Receive Treatment in Eastern Ghouta by Mohammed Badra (Syria); Almajiri Boy by Marco Gualazzini (Italy); Being Pregnant After FARC Child-Bearing Ban by Catalina Martin-Chico (France/Spain); Covering the Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi by Chris McGrath (Australia); Crying Girl on the Border by John Moore (United States); and Akashinga – the Brave Ones by Brent Stirton (South Africa).
The three nominees for the World Press Story of the Year are Marco Gualazzini (Italy), Pieter Ten Hoopen (Netherlands/Sweden), and Lorenzo Tugnoli (Italy) – making Gualazzini the first photographer to have been nominated for both the World Press Photo of the Year and the World Press Story of the Year.
Daniel Castro Garcia wins the $35,000 W. Eugene Smith grant to continue his work on the European migrant crisis – read more about the work in BJP’s interview with him, first featured in our September 2016 issue. l. “The fact that my mum and dad are foreign, it’s played a massive role in my life. When those two boats capsized, the way that was written about, the adjectives used, and the type of photographs – on a personal level, that resonated. I know the kind of things my parents went through when they moved to the UK, and I know they’ve contributed really positively to British society. It felt increasingly uncomfortable, the way they were representing people who effectively did what my parents did, for the same reasons – poverty. Some of the things that were written were just unbelievable bullshit about people that are just the same as any of us. What an individualistic, separatist, regressive mentality.”
“I meet people with more empathy and more care towards one another in war situations or in conflict around the world than I have ever experienced in Europe. People want to share the little they have with me because I have talked to them and shown an interest in them,” says Jan Grarup. His work has taken him to the sites of the worst conflicts – from obvious examples such as Iraq and Iran, to forgotten areas like the Central African Republic. Each place he visits, he stays to learn about the culture and customs of the people before taking their photographs. In these places of despair and destruction, Grarup often finds hope and resilience. But the Western world needs to be more active and share the responsibility to help these regions return to a peaceful existence.
“With this exhibition, I will reveal something different to what Western and British society has seen about Syria,” says Sergey Ponomarev. “Most of the visual narratives that come from Syria are shot from the rebel side – people suffering from the government shelling, suffering malnutrition or lack of water, and just recently being attacked with chemical weapons. I will show images from normal life.” The Pulitzer Prize-winner is talking about his upcoming exhibition at the Imperial War Museum London A Lens on Syria, in which he’s showing two award-winning series created in partnership with The New York Times – Assad’s Syria (2013-2014) and Europe Migration Crisis (2015-2016). His mission, he says, is “to be the eyes of society”. Ponomarev has been following the Arab Spring since 2011, when anti-government protests first started to emerge in Syria but he says that from the start, “it was clear that photojournalist with Russian background couldn’t join the rebels”. Historically the Soviet Union supported the Syrian government and that remains the case today; “when the Free Syrian army clustered into several Jihadi groups, some …
The title of World Press Photo of the Year goes to Warren Richardson for his picture of a man and child captured by moonlight as they attempted to cross the border from Serbia to Hungary last summer. And the first places in each of the four main news categories include scenes from the shores of Lesvos, a Kurdish hospital, and the heavily bombarded suburb of Douma on the outskirts of Damascus. Announced from Amsterdam this morning, following newly introduced checks to ensure the winning images met tightened codes on image manipulation, the jury gave prizes in eight categories to 41 photographers, selected from 82,951 images submitted by 5775 photographers from 128 countries. Richardson, an Australian photographer based in Hungary, wins 1st prize in the singles category for Spot News with the same image, while the 1st prize story goes to Sameer Al-Doumy for his reportage from rebel-held Douma, which has been subject to months of heavy aerial bombardment on the back of a two-year siege. In General News, Mauricio Lima, a veteran Brazilian working on …