Istanbul Photo Awards exhibition kicks off in New York

Photographs covering major events around the world over past year being exhibited at UN headquarters until Oct. 29

An exhibition featuring a selection of photographs from the international news photography competition, the Istanbul Photo Awards 2021, kicked off in New York on Monday. 

An opening ceremony was held at the newly-inaugurated Turkevi Center, or Turkish House, in New York City.

Anadolu Agency board member Ismail Caglar, and Oguz Enis Peru, the agency's deputy director-general, also attended the ceremony.

As many as 40 photographs covering major events around the world over the past year are being exhibited at the UN headquarters until Oct. 29.

Feridun Sinirlioglu, Turkey's permanent representative to the UN, said the exhibition is the first cultural event at the Turkevi Center.

He said they are pleased to know that interest in the photography contest, annually organized by Anadolu Agency, has increased over the years.

Stressing that the exhibition includes photographs reflecting the devastating effects of COVID-19 from different perspectives, as well as creativity, self-sacrifice, and determination, he said that some photos reveal the suffering of those who lost their loved ones in wars and disasters, and the effects of climate change.

“I hope the exhibition strengthens our collective will to resolve a multitude of issues fairly, inclusively and quickly,” he added.

In his speech, Peru said last year's most important event was undoubtedly the coronavirus pandemic that affected the entire world.

Bangladeshi Mohammed Shajahan's photo titled "Mom Love" won the Photo of the Year Award.

Explaining that award-winning photographers have revealed developments in different parts of the world with their works in war, conflict and disaster regions, including Azerbaijan, Syria, and Lebanon, Peru said: "We believe that photography has the power to reach all borders, and as Anadolu Agency, we attach great importance to photography."

The Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations helped open the exhibition that is sponsored by Turkish Airlines and the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA).

The seventh edition of the awards and the exhibition are both organized by Anadolu Agency.

The international jury of nine, including photojournalists and a visual storyteller, decide the winners every year.

Alain Schroeder won the first prize in the sports story category with his “Dead Goat Polo” entry depicting the Kyrgyz national sport Kok Boru. 

The Belgian photographer told Anadolu Agency that he visited Kyrygyztan in 2020.

“I was only going to stay for three weeks, but when the COVID-19 pandemic started, I had to stay for six months,” he said.

“… I traveled to mountainous, beautiful areas again. I took some photos. In winter, I went there again in November and December and took these photos,” he added.

Schroeder said that he was extremely happy to have won an award with the photographs he took while he was locked in Kyrgyzstan during the pandemic.

James Wellford, who was among the jury members of the Istanbul Photo Awards 2016 and is currently the senior editor of National Geographic, said: "Thank you for your invitation to the exhibition. I am pleased to come here and see the exhibition. It is extraordinary that you have so many categories,” he added.

The opening ceremony was attended by Turkey's Consul General in New York, Reyhan Ozgur, as well as foreign mission representatives and foreign journalists.

Hakan Copur, Washington Bureau Chief for Anadolu Agency, showed the guests around the exhibition.

More information about the awards and the winning photos can be found on the event’s website,

Istanbul Photo Awards exhibition kicks off in Ankara

Selection of 74 photographs covering major world events over past year on display at CerModern Arts Center

An annual international photography exhibition, the Istanbul Photo Awards 2021, kicked off in Turkey’s capital Ankara on Monday.

Anadolu Agency Chairman of the Board and Director-General Serdar Karagoz began his speech with a sound of intensive care unit to mark the story of the winning photo from Bangladesh.

“Mahmuda, 44, who is in quarantine, is trying to smell the birthday flowers left by his daughter from the other side of the door,” Karagoz said.

He said the coronavirus pandemic, which affected everyone's lives, broke up many families and caused social isolation -- also affected many participants' perspectives.

Karagoz emphasized the significance of photojournalism by saying: “A hundred years from now, the photograph will make people feel the same things.”

On the fact that photographers won awards for their work in war, conflict, and disaster zones such as Azerbaijan, Syria, and Lebanon, he said photography has no borders.

Next week, the exhibition will take place in New York, he said, and hoped that it would also be organized in Japan and the other parts of the world if the pandemic conditions allow.

Exhibition featuring best shots of 2020

A selection of 74 photographs covering major events around the world over the past year is on display at the CerModern Arts Center until Oct. 24.

They include entries and winners of the news photography category of the awards, ranging from snapshots of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on human life to disasters such as the August 2020 Beirut port blast.

The seventh edition of the awards and the exhibition are both organized by Anadolu Agency.

National flag carrier Turkish Airlines and state-run aid group Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) were the official partners for the awards, which saw some 15,000 entries and 14 eventual winners from 12 countries.

Bangladeshi Mohammed Shajahan's photo titled "Mom Love" won the Photo of the Year Award.

The international jury of nine, including photojournalists and a visual storyteller, decide the winners every year.

More information about the awards and the winning photos can be found on the event’s website, 

Istanbul Photo Awards increases ‘visibility, audience’

Prize winner says competition gives opportunity to disseminate work to wider audience

Winning at the Istanbul Photo Awards contest gives photographers an opportunity to publicize their work, thus increasing its visibility and audience, said photojournalist Fabio Bucciarelli, this year’s first prize winner in the Story News category.

As the world struggled amid the difficulties that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought with itself, Anadolu Agency’s Istanbul Photo Awards drew attention to what has been going on throughout the globe with the power of photos.

Bucciarelli is among the photojournalists who spoke to people from all around the world about how the deadly virus affected everyday life with the photos he took in Italy in early 2020.

“I gained exclusive access to Red Cross workers who were going from door to door to check on those who were infected,” he said. “It was an intimate view of the devastating way the coronavirus was tearing apart family after family.”

Mentioning that he visited hospitals full of COVID-19 patients, he described his connection with the families as “so intensive that, in the most tragic cases, they allowed me to follow them to cemeteries for the pared-down yet poignant ceremonies that only the closest relatives could attend.”

Stressing that he has always tried to draw empathy to the people he photographed while also caring for human rights, he said: “My main focus has always been the interpretation of this feeling and the creation of a coherent iconography.”

Talking about the importance of independent, visual journalism, he said one would have never known what is happening in Syria or Libya had photographers not “documented the war at their risk.”

He sees professional, independent journalism as “the key to fight ignorance, fake news, and propaganda.”

“Winning an award is always an important gratification and recognition of the work done. But the main objective remains the ultimate goal of the journalistic work, which is to spread information and knowledge by bringing the content to public attention.

“Winning at the Istanbul Photo Awards gives a further important diffusion to the work done, increasing visibility and audience,” said Bucciarelli.

'All I want is to reflect truth'

Ugur Yildirim, a photojournalist at Turkey’s Sabah newspaper, won second prize In the Story News category for his work in Nagorno-Karabakh. He visually recorded the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia from the war zone.

Sharing the story of his winning photograph, Yildirim said even though most people describe being in the war zone as “madness,” his only desire was to “reflect the truth” without a pre-shooting plan or scenario.

“I wanted to show the destruction of this war through civilian deaths,” he said. “Photographing the story of civilians left behind is more valuable for me.

“In this series, I tried to capture the traumas of people kilometers away from war zones because of the devastating effect of brutal deaths. I photographed the people who faced the bitter reality of war at an unexpected moment.”

Speaking on the purpose of photojournalism, Yildirim said: “The responsibility of a news photographer is to stay loyal to these real-life scenes.”

“A photograph may not change the world, but it can create awareness in the society we live in. It can shape public opinion to a better or to a worse point. It can mobilize states, and the masses,” he added.

Yildirim said he has been following the Istanbul Photo Awards contest from the very first day.

“With its jury and award-winning photographs, it really does have a special and a respectable place among world-class competitions.

“Winning an award at this competition was also an important goal for me. I’m enjoying the pride and happiness of winning an award from this respectable competition.”

Global conversations through factual, truthful information

In the same category, Getty Images photojournalist Chris McGrath won the third prize for his work on the massive Beirut Port explosion in August 2020.

“I was especially affected by the story of the 10 firefighters from Platoon 5, who were the first responders on the scene of a fire at the ports warehouse 12. All were killed in the explosion,” he said.

He recalled his desire to follow their stories as closely as possible, saying he mainly focused on reflecting “the huge community funerals given to these men and women.”

“In these times of fake news and social media, it is more important to have photojournalists and journalists reporting factual and truthful information from events around the world and distributing these works through respected news organizations,” he said.

For McGrath, photojournalism “has the power to start global conversations around current affairs” to bring a change in people’s lives.

“As with any award, it is always a great honor to have the images and the story recognized in the industry and it allows the story to continue to be viewed for years to come in the awards archives,” he concluded.

More information on the award-winning photographs can be accessed via the website They will be included in the contest’s photobook, and also displayed at exhibitions for visitors.

Istanbul Photo Awards ‘one of most prestigious awards in world’

Photo of year award winner Mohammed Shajahan says this award will bring him great significance in photography community

Istanbul Photo Awards competition is accepted as one of the most reputable awards across the world, said Bangladeshi photojournalist Mohammed Shajahan, this year's Photo of the Year winner.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world upside down, photojournalists continued working with dedication to demonstrate the events worldwide with photos as one of the most effective ways.

In such a harsh period, Anadolu Agency's Istanbul Photo Awards contest has continued showing everyone how important photos are to actually have a sense of the incidents.

As the winners were announced in all categories, Bangladeshi photographer Mohammed Shajahan shared the story behind his award-winning photo "Mom Love" and expressed how he feels after being deemed worthy of the award.

Mentioning that he went to Halishahar district of southeastern Chittagong province of Bangladesh to attend a funeral resulted from coronavirus, Shajahan said there he saw a "teenager standing by the door of the next house, putting some flowers on the glass door with scotch tape."

"She drew the sign of 'Love' and wrote 'MOM' on the side. A little later, Mahmuda Khanam came to the door with an oxygen mask on her face and desperately tried to smell the flowers!" he stated.

Recalling that, he then understood the difficulty that the 44-year-old woman had as she couldn't breathe and also couldn't smell the flowers due to the virus.

Having such a strong story behind it, the photo "Mom Love" made him the man who told the world how the deadly virus affects the everyday life of people from all around the world with just the demonstration of a single moment.

"A photojournalist can never avoid social responsibility no matter what the situation is," underlined Shajahan, stressing that "He has to work in any difficult situation."

Mentioning that reaching out to everyone with just a photo of a single moment is "the greatest strength of photography," he stated: "I think this kind of emotional picture during coronavirus epidemic will send a message to others to be careful."

He also emphasized how important this award was for him; he said: "The Istanbul Photo Awards competition is now considered one of the most prestigious awards in the world."

"It is a matter of great pride. This award will bring me a lot of importance in the photography community and encourage me to do better."

Responsibility, organization, discipline, professionalism

In the Single News category, AFP photojournalist Yuri Cortez deserved the second prize with his work in which he pictured the prisoners in the Quezaltepeque prison in El Salvador.

Sharing the story of his photo, Cortez said he was at that prison in the photo upon the invitation of the prison authorities for him to take a tour around.

I was shocked when I entered the first block of cells and saw how overcrowded that place was, said Cortez.

"Perhaps the first great challenge was the little time to think about doing a job under the pressure of being inside a maximum-security prison full of highly dangerous prisoners," he stressed, adding that trying to do his job effectively while also trying to adapt to such an environment he was in really pushed his boundaries.

Describing the photographers as the "generators of opinion," Cortez stated that it is not important whether a photo tells a likable story or not since the most important thing for it is to deliver the message properly.

"One of the principles that I always assume when I do my work is responsibility, organization, discipline and professionalism that my teachers taught me in college," Cortez underlined.

He told Anadolu Agency that receiving that award was a "pleasant surprise" and said that he felt thankful with the recognition that the prize was "important and prestigious" for him.

"I feel committed to continue giving my best, which is what I always try to do when I am taking photos," he stated.

"I speak with young people and try to motivate them to never give up and to face life and adversity with courage because they give us nothing.

"Especially in a society that often marginalizes us or even discriminates against us for being 'the photographers'."

Photos to make change

AP photojournalist Petros Giannakouris won the third-place award with his photograph reflecting the difficulties faced by the refugees who fled the camp they had been located in Greece.

He also told Anadolu Agency about his experiences, the story of his photo and how he feels about his award.

Taking a picture of multiple fire zones at the Moria refugee and migrant camp, he said he felt "the incredible force of that moment."

"The picture was filled with emotion," stressed Giannakouris, emphasizing that "You could sense the drama in the faces of the people fleeing the camp as it was again engulfed in flames."

Mentioning that he has been in this profession for about 30 years, he describes himself as a "romantic" as he believes that "a picture can make a change."

"People must be informed, and one strong moment can stir the news audience," he stated.

He said he feels "lucky and happy" to be honored with such an award and perceives the award as "an opportunity for people to see the picture and learn about the issue."

While also praising the jury, he admitted that he admires "their work for so long."

Information related to the 2021 jury and award-winning photographs can be accessed via the website

Istanbul Photo Awards ‘top quality competition’

Goran Tomasevic of Reuters calls on everyone to apply for next year’s contest

A member of the jury for Istanbul Photo Awards 2021 said he was “honored” to be a part of the “top-quality competition.”

“It is amazing. And it's a top-quality competition and absolutely loved, and I'm honored to be a member of the jury this year,” said Goran Tomasevic, a seasoned photojournalist for Reuters.

“I would encourage everyone to apply. I should apply also next year, when I'm not the judge. I love to compete. I love it.

“Everyone should apply; especially [those] with such precision or lucky single photos. And I would encourage everyone to attend every spot [category of the competition] because there are many of my colleagues, and I tell them to get this [participate in it] next year,” he said.

In his first year as a jury member of the competition, Tomasevic gave his impressions on the jury.

“The jury -- some of the people I knew, some people I never met. But we simply clicked. It was very quick. And we even noticed that we didn’t agree about certain things, and everyone was easy[going] and supportive and positive. And it was easy to come to the conclusion of what we [the jury] believed was the best. So there were really great things too. All the jury members were really impressive. And I really enjoyed it and it was easy for me as a professional to contribute with my judgment because everyone did a fantastic job.”

Praising the quality of the photographs submitted in the seventh round of the competition, he said: “I saw some amazing works. Surely, we could not give awards to everyone. That's why it's a competition.”

“But I just want to say that if somebody didn't get an award, they shouldn't be disappointed, because there were lots of really, really good works. It was really hard for us to decide.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has been running rampant worldwide for over a year, the jury evaluated and selected the winning photographs through an online platform developed by an Anadolu Agency team exclusively for the contest.

“We were living in a time of coronavirus. So it was frustrating not ‘seeing’ the brains, not meeting [them], while sitting next to each other and discussing pictures. From the first moment taking pictures apart in the competition, it was perfect. Everything was simple and clear. And I'm not a technical person, but I didn’t have troubles. It was easy to follow the pictures, easy to judge,” Tomasevic said.

He congratulated Bangladesh-based photographer Mohammed Shajahan for his shot titled Mom Love for being awarded Photo of the Year.

“It's always been difficult for me to describe and explain for some pictures why they're the best or the why we love them,” he said.

“It's difficult because simply, they just stand out, and they just shine when you look at and judge a competition, or even it can be my pictures or pictures of others,” he said, adding “my colleague did a very good job.”

He said one of the reasons he loved Mom Love was that despite its vague background and black-and-whiteness, “it was very clear that this is the time we are living in, with the virus and everything, and the picture is emotional. For me, it could not be more clear.”

Regarding Shajahan’s picture, he said “it was simply that the picture just shines, you know, and it's perfect. It’s in focus. It's nicely composed.”

“That's hitting you in the face. This is it.”

Tomasevic said there is no certain criteria for him in choosing among the submitted pictures. He said photographs that are technically flawed can still be good.

“Sometimes in the past, I would like some pictures. They were not technically perfect, but they were still good. So it’s perfect,” he added. “As for good pictures, you shouldn’t need to describe them. You either see them immediately or not.”

Tomasevic also touched on the beginning of his career.

“War hit my country when I was really young. So there was no other choice than to go into this direction in a business. Sadly, this happened. I wish it never happened here.”

He went on to compare the past and present of photojournalism, telling how the sector became more demanding with the developments in technology.

“When I started for Reuters and the first pictures I [took when I] moved on as a freelancer in the ‘90s, I was still printing pictures in my hotel rooms and typing scripts with a typewriter, and we would send one, two or three pictures per story maximum. And then when we started getting all those scanners and laptops, we would have to file more.”

Congratulating the winners of all categories, Tomasevic draw attention to the challenges of shooting a single and series of photographs.

“How I have been trained by the best professionals is that you can say more with one single photograph -- the whole story. I believe a single shot is the most challenging,” he said.

“To describe it, you remember I was telling you about when we should file two pictures in the ‘90s, for example one horizontal for the front page and one wide for the article inside. So with these two pictures, we were challenged to describe the biggest events in the world at that time,” he said.

Highlighting the importance of the message in a photograph, Tomasevic said: “A group of photographs, [even if they are] good, it doesn't mean that they are telling the story. So this is the challenge: how to present your story.”

“So I believe both things are challenging. For me personally as a photographer, the challenge was single, but stories are also not easy and how you package it that is very important,” he said.

“That is how I see, and that is how I was trained. And then with the start of this new kind of technology, we have now to start the day with a slideshow with so many pictures, and it's a totally different dynamic.”

Tomasevic said he is content with the development of quality cameras in smart phones and their widespread use.

“I truly believe in today's world of the phones and tablets. People are more looking at and going through the pictures than in the newspapers in old times. So because of that, I'm saying that photography has been more important than ever before.

“I think it is more important than it has ever been. The more we look at it, there are more effects on the people than in the past.”

Critical about employers who demand that their photographers shoot videos, Tomasevic said: “I think that pushing people to do videos and photos at the same time is absolutely killing photography."

“This is not good for us, and either once or twice [by chance], these are good pictures; and I hate it. But I also understand that this is the time we are living in,” he said.

“Certainly, this is in news photography. There are moments [where] if you miss them, they will never come back,” Tomasevic said. “If you want to have a picture to be remembered, then [you need] to be focused in work, and you have to work hard.”

Tomasevic reminded Anadolu Agency’s audience that photojournalism comes with certain responsibilities and challenges and talked about the most challenging moments he has faced as a photographer.

“I have a few [challenging moments], but one of them definitely happened in Iraq in 2003, when the US Army or Marines accidentally killed and injured some of our colleagues,” he said.

“Sadly, these kinds of things are happening sometimes. And this was maybe the most striking or the hardest moment in my career -- and I lost a good friend, and colleagues,” he went on.

“This is often the thing I'm thinking about; where is this thin line of doing some good photography or fighting for basic survival sometimes? So with every assignment I go [for], after the assignment, it is always some sadness and happiness in some moments when we are telling friends we are back.”

Mentioning another of his challenges, Tomasevic said: “I was in Kosovo, ‘99, it [a conflict] was happening in my country, and I was presenting their story from my perspective. Because everyone was judging you because you were from that area. So I can stand proudly and say yes, I did very well in my pictures then.”

“So this is the challenge. However, it's hard to go traveling to other places for conflicts,” he said. “But it is the hardest when the stories are in your home. It hurts the most.”

He said the variety of pictures submitted was “super” despite the COVID-19 pandemic and congratulated his colleagues across the world for the “amazing” works of an impressive variety in this period.

“I understand why we had so many of these [COVID-19 pictures] because it’s not a story which lasts two to three weeks. It was all year, and it’s more. But there was some amazing other work. I mean it’s super,” he said.

For photographers who would like to improve themselves, Tomasevic advised: “Work harder than anyone else did. This is what I did.”

“I believe I am waking up earlier and staying in the field longer than anyone else still. It's just working hard,” he continued. “To be talented is not enough. I believe in hard work.”

As a photographer who is still passionate after 30 years of experience, he said: “I want to turn around, I want to shoot more. I'm still happy to do it. Working for new challenges. And I can't wait to go back for some good story.”

Information related to the 2021 jury and award-winning photographs can be accessed via the website: