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Images of Extremes

UNICEF Photo of the Year 2007

Berlin, December 2007

The American photographer Stephanie Sinclair is the winner of the international photo competition “UNICEF Photo of the Year”. Her photo shows a wedding couple in Afghanistan who could not be more opposite. The groom, Mohammed, looks much older than his 40 years. The bride, Ghulam, is still a child; she just turned 11. “The UNICEF Photo of the Year 2007 raises awareness about a worldwide problem. Millions of girls are married while they are still under age. Most of theses child brides are forever denied a self-determined life”, says UNICEF Patroness Eva Luise Köhler at the award ceremony in Berlin. According to UNICEF, there are about 60 million young women worldwide who were married before they came of age, half of them in South Asia.

International experts nominated 142 photographers from 31 countries, who submitted a total of 1,230 pictures for the competition, which invited entries from throughout the world. This year, the jury, under the chairmanship of Klaus Honnef, Professor of Photography, chose the winners of the first, second and third prize and made eight other honorable mentions. Presenting this award for the eighth time, UNICEF Germany is honoring photographs of high artistic and photojournalistic quality that capture the living conditions of children.

The Winning Photograph

The UNICEF Photo of the Year 2007 is one of a series of photos about child marriages taken by Stephanie Sinclair between 2005 and 2007 in Afghanistan, Nepal and Ethiopia. During a stay in Afghanistan, it consistently struck the 34-year old freelance photographer, how many young girls are married to much older men. She decided to raise awareness about this topic with her pictures. According to UNICEF estimates, about 50% of Afghan women are married before they turn 18.

child marriages in Afghanistan. He is 40 years old, and she is 11.
photo: Stephanie Sinclair

In Afghanistan, in most parts of South Asia and in Southern Africa, marriage is often seen as a business transaction that has nothing to do with personal desires. In this process, the bride is the article of trade - the younger she is, the higher the bride price. “What are you feeling today?” Stephanie Sinclair asked Ghulam on her engagement. “Nothing,” the bewildered girl answered. “I do not know this man. What am I supposed to feel?”

child work in Bangladesh
photo: GMB Akash

GMB Akash from Bangladesh (Panos Pictures) has won the second prize. His photo shows the harsh life that most of the children lead in his home country. The face of a boy of about 12 years shows the pride he takes in his strength, although the work in the brickyard is far too physically difficult for a child of his age. According to UNICEF estimates, about 4.7 million children aged between 5 and 14 in Bangladesh are involved in child labor. Many children are forced to carry out hazardous work with dangerous chemicals in paint shops, workshops and tanneries. A child worker receives 60 Taka per day (less than 1 Dollar), about one-third of the regular wage for adults. GMB Akash has been working as a professional photographer since 2002.

The 29-year old mostly focuses on topics like the violation of children’s rights and the oppression of minorities. The picture of a boy in chains in an Islamic school earned him worldwide acclaim in 2005, but also death threats by Muslim extremists. In early 2007, he fled to Germany where he received a scholarship by the Hamburg Foundation for the Politically Persecuted.

The third prize has been awarded to German photographer Hartmut Schwarzbach (Argus) for his picture of Annalyn, celebrating her ninth birthday. On the picture, she is happily jumping on a red armchair that she had found on the garbage dump near the Philippine capital of Manila . Annalyn is chronically malnourished and thus too skinny and small for her age. She looks like a five-year-old. It has been three years now that Annalyn and her family have lived beside Manila ’s enormous garbage dump called “ Aroma Smokey Mountain ”. That’s where her family lives in a charcoal burners’ camp. Like most other children in this camp, Annalyn has to search for wood among the garbage every day, bring it to an oven and monitor the charcoal production amidst acrid smoke and unbearable heat. That is why Annalyn does not attend school. Nevertheless, it is her dream to be a teacher one day.

celebrating her ninth birthday, Aroma Smokey Mountain in the Philippine
photo: Hartmut Schwarzbach

Honorable Mentions:

  • Steven Achiam, Denmark , ( Student Danish School of Photojournalism), Sumo Boys in Japan
  • Renée Byer, USA, (The Sacramento Bee) A Mother’s Journey – Reportage about a single mother with five children and her son dying of cancer
  • Nir Elias, Israel, (Reuters) Pain Threshold – Sports Education in China
  • Wolfram Hahn, Germany (Student Communications Design, University of Applied Sciences Potsdam) - A Disenchanted Playroom - A study on children watching TV
  • Hatem Moussa, Palestine, (AP), Life in Gaza
  • Finbarr O'Reilly, United Kingdom/Canada, (Reuters), A House of Hope - Polio victims in Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo)
  • Musa Sadulayew, Chechnya, (AP), Chechnya’s Forgotten Children
  • Jonathan Torgovnik, Israel, (Newsweek Magazine), Crimes And Their Results - Portraits of women, who were raped during the Rwandan civil war, and their children today

The Competition “UNICEF Photo of the Year”

UNICEF aims to honor photos and photo reportages that picture the personality and situation of children around the world through high-quality photo journalism and creativity. In order to take part in the photo contest, the photographers have to be recommended by an internationally renowned photography expert. The winner of the first prize receives an order for a photo reportage for the German magazine GEO as well as high-quality camera equipment, donated by the company Isarfoto Bothe, Germany. The prizes are awarded by a jury consisting of photography expert and Jury Chairman Prof. Klaus Honnef, Professor of Photography, Ruth Eichhorn, Senior Picture Editor of GEO Magazine, Lutz Fischmann, Managing Director of Freelens e.V., Hamburg, Bernd von Jutrczenka, Picture Editor in Chief of dpa, Christian Pohlert, Senior Picture Editor of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) and Reinhard Schlagintweit, Board Member of UNICEF Germany.

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