Friday, February 10, 2012

World Press Photos of the Year

The international jury of the 55th annual World Press Photo Contest announced Friday that it had selected a picture by Samuel Aranda as the World Press Photo of the Year 2011.

Samuel Aranda / EPA, file

An undated self portrait by photographer Samuel Aranda.

Jurors said the photo of a veiled woman holding a wounded relative in her arms after a demonstration in Yemen captured multiple facets of the "Arab Spring" uprisings across the Middle East last year. It was taken at a field hospital inside a mosque in Sanaa on October 15.

The winning photo was selected from 101,254 images submitted by 5,247 photographers from 124 countries.

"What I would really like is for this photo to help the people of Yemen," he told The British Journal of Photography after learning of the award. "I think it's a country that is often forgotten."Aranda, a freelance photographer from Spain, traveled to Yemen on assignment for The New York Times. In December he gave an interview to the newspaper about the difficulties of working in Yemen—and the warmth of its people.

Jury chair Aidan Sullivan said: "The winning photo shows a poignant, compassionate moment, the human consequence of an enormous event, an event that is still going on. We might never know who this woman is, cradling an injured relative, but together they become a living image of the courage of ordinary people that helped create an important chapter in the history of the Middle East."

The 2010 award was given to South African photographer Jodi Bieber.

In Yemen, a Photographer With No Name

It has been hard much of this year for Western photojournalists to enterYemen to cover the political turmoil of the Arab Spring. It took Samuel Aranda more than a month to find a safe way into the country, giving him plenty of time to ponder what it would be like working in the deeply divided nation, where hundreds have died in protests.

Mr. Aranda, a freelance photographer, had worked in the Middle East before, but never in Yemen. Much of the news coverage he read centered on violence, tribal discord and Al Qaeda’s growing influence.

“I was expecting Yemen to be like Iraq in 2004 or Pakistan or Afghanistan — where you can’t go out at night and a lot of people don’t really like foreigners,” said Mr. Aranda, a Spaniard from Barcelona. “Here it’s the opposite.”

He added, “They love foreigners.”

Mr. Aranda, 31, strove for anonymity for the first several weeks he was in Yemen, where for a while he was the only Western news photographer working. Out of concern for his safety, The New York Times withheld his name from picture credits until last week, when he requested that it be used again.

Yemeni photographers were generous in their assistance, he said, and helped him avoid being arrested. Wearing local dress, sporting a full beard and traveling by motorcycle, he was greeted warmly and operated freely in areas controlled by the opposition, he said.

But not everyone was so accommodating. He hid his camera in a small bag and avoided contact with state operatives and soldiers when working in parts of Sana controlled by loyalists of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. While covering the city of Taiz, Mr. Aranda said he and Laura Kasinof, a freelance reporter for The Times, came under fire from government soldiers.

Despite the difficulty of photographing, Mr. Aranda said, he enjoyed his introduction to Yemen and envisions staying to cover events unfolding after the apparent resignation of President Saleh recently.

“The best thing about this trip was discovering the old city of Sana,” he said, “the best city that I ever been in my life.”

Jodi Bieber / Institute for Artist Management / Goodman Gallery for Time magazine

Portrait of Bibi Aisha.

The winning picture shows Bibi Aisha, an 18-year-old woman from Oruzgan province in Afghanistan, who fled back to her family home from her husband's house, complaining of violent treatment. The Taliban arrived one night, demanding Bibi be handed over to face justice. After a Taliban commander pronounced his verdict, Bibi's brother-in-law held her down and her husband sliced off her ears and then cut off her nose. Bibi was abandoned, but later rescued by aid workers and the American military. After time in a women's refuge in Kabul, she was taken to America, where she received counseling and reconstructive surgery. Bibi Aisha now lives in the US.

Click here for a slideshow of more World Press Photo winners.

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