The crackdown in Burma was put in the spotlight of the Visa pour l’Image international photojournalism festival. A Burmese photographer, who remained anonymous for security reasons, was awarded the Visa d’or News in Perpignan on Saturday 4 September, rewarding his work on the “Spring revolution” in Burma.
“When I learned that a coup d’etat had just taken place in Burma on the 1ster February, it was obvious to call on him, he is probably the best photographer in the country ”, told Agence France-Fresse (AFP) Mikko Takkunen of New York Times, came to collect the prize in its place.
“Keeping the anonymity of a photographer is not a decision that we take lightly, and it is always linked to the safety of our employees which is our priority”, insists this photo manager for Asia in New York Times who has been collaborating with the Burmese photographer for years.
At the ceremony, he added that the winner was dedicating his award to all photographers in Burma who work at risk of their lives.
Photographers targeted by the Burmese military
The pictures in the exhibition, powerful, portray civilians, sometimes “Armed” slingshot, facing soldiers firing live ammunition. The photographer also focuses on the wounded or bereaved families in a country in chaos since the junta overthrew the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. The bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters has claimed more than 1,000 lives, including dozens of minors in recent months.
“Since the 1er February, I am in the streets every day. I encountered many difficulties, having to work in the midst of gunshots, tear gas and stun grenades ”, explains the Burmese photographer in a text. “In the field, we stopped wearing our helmets marked “PRESS” when we realized that the soldiers were targeting the photographers ”, he adds, saying he is aware of ” risking his life “.
The other three nominees were the Greek Angelos Tzortzinis (AFP) for his report on the last days of the Moria refugee camp in Lesbos, the American Erin Schaff (The New York Times) for his photos of the invasion of the Capitol in Washington in January, and finally the Indian Danish Siddiqui (Reuters) for his coverage of the health crisis in his country. The latter was killed in July while covering fighting between the Taliban and Afghan forces.
In 2020, the festival presented the Visa d’or News, its most prestigious award, to Italian photographer Fabio Bucciarelli for a report in Bergamo, an Italian city at the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic. The year before, it was the Mexican Guillermo Arias (AFP) who had won this prize for his work on the caravans of migrants from Central America trying to reach the United States. He succeeded the French Véronique de Viguerie for her coverage of the war in Yemen (2018), the Belgian Laurent Van der Stockt (battle of Mosul in 2017) and two AFP photographers, the Greek Aris Messinis (2016) and the Turkish Bulent Kiliç (2015), for their work on the migrant crisis.
Visa of honor for Sebastião Salgado
During this 33e edition, the festival wished to pay tribute to the famous Franco-Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado, by awarding him the Honorary Visa of Figaro Magazine.
“It’s a great pleasure and honor”, said the 77-year-old photographer who has spent his life immortalizing with his lens the condition of the poorest and their degraded environment. He received the prize in the company of his wife Lélia and with a “Standing ovation” public.
The Visa d’or Magazine was won by Jérémy Lempin, that of the international daily press went to Asger Ladefoged, the ICRC humanitarian Visa d’or to Antoine Agoudjian, the Visa d’or of digital information France Info has award-winning Tyler Hicks, Julie Turkewitz and Manuela Andreoni.
The Canon de la femme photojournalist scholarship goes to Acacia Johnson, the Pierre and Alexandre Boulat prize went to the work of Mary F. Calvert, the Camille Lepage prize went to Ana Maria Arévalo Gosen and the city of Perpignan Rémi Ochlik prize went to Fatima Shbair.
The 25 festival exhibitions are free and open to the public until September 26.