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:

Istanbul Photo Awards ‘stops time, makes you reflect on 12 months’

Head of jury says contest’s strength comes from passion of photographers worldwide, universal nature of photography

"What is great about the Istanbul Photo Awards is that every year, you stop the time and you realize, you take time to just really see what went on for 12 months," said the head of the contest's jury this year.

Marion Mertens, a France-based visual storyteller, gave her impressions on this year's winning photographs to Anadolu Agency.

Mertens said the Photo of the Year, titled Mom Love and taken by Bangladeshi photographer Mohammed Shajahan, was "a very strong picture," and its strength derived from harboring news and human and personal qualities at the same time.

Noting that the photograph appeals to the viewer and reminds them of the occasions that were "stolen" from loved ones during the pandemic, she added that "a lot of people, myself included, had a lot of moments where we were thinking about our parents, and we couldn't see them, or we had to get organized to see them."

"And I think it's the reason why it's a strong picture," she said. "Because it's a very human picture."

Mertens commented on the outstanding technicality of the picture, which was taken in black and white with an unclear background.

"It brought more strength to the picture because, for some reason, it stood out. I also think what was interesting about that picture is that we don't see much; it's a very close-up picture. So you don't really know which country it is. So it's a matter of relating more; you don't think it's far away, in a way. It's mom, and there's a heart, and the flowers... and I think it's universal, isn't it?"

In her fifth year on the jury, Mertens touched on the variety of perspectives deriving from different backgrounds within the jury.

"We all are very different. We all come from different countries. We all have different skills," she said.

"What is interesting about the contest is that we get more photos from more places. There are different contests all around the world, and we always are different," Mertens continued.

"Not being from the same country or the same department or the same area of expertise makes the jury really strong," she added.

Excited to have two more awards -- Story Daily Life and Story Portrait -- in the contest's seventh year, she said: "So what is interesting about the Istanbul Photo Awards is that we are allowed to pick a little bit of everything."

"If you look at the sports winners this year, you have action, but the first prize is the COVID supporters, the supporters in the Czech Stadium, frustrated not to be able to attend. So it's more of a human picture. But there's also the motorbike crash, which is an action picture. And then you have the third prize. It is more of a very visual sports picture with [the photo titled] 'Log Pile Bouldering.'"

Mertens also gave insight into the criteria that the jury adopted while selecting the winners. Thinking of the most significant criterion, she said: "It's the story. It's what it tells. But it's also what it shows. It's also what it makes you feel in a way. So it's always a mixture of those three or more things."

"But I think, for me, what makes a photo really strong is what it tells you and how you connect as a human being to the picture," she remarked. "The human side is always what I find the strongest to get attracted to a picture."

Regarding the winner of the Single News second prize picture, which shows inmates in a hard-to-enter prison in El Salvador where dangerous gang members were incarcerated, Mertens said access is a crucial criterion for photography as well.

"You have your way, your talent as a photographer, but one of the tenets of photography is to be at the right place," she emphasized.

"For example, for Yuri Cortez, the photographer, I think we all agreed that the picture was really good, but the access was amazing. And I think it's when you can combine access and a good photo, it's amazing," Mertens said.

Mertens said despite the coronavirus pandemic that has been raging worldwide for over a year, the variety of pictures and subjects submitted for the contest was impressive. She said the number of photographs amid battling a pandemic was notable.

"We have a lot of people from every single part of the world and a lot of photos -- photos that we've never seen, that were not published."

Stating that the jury received a great number of photographs reflecting the life with the novel coronavirus, Mertens underlined, "What was interesting about COVID is that the pictures were never the same."

"We didn't realize there were pictures of young people with COVID and doctors, and then medical research, and sports and COVID... But in different parts and different levels of society… It made you travel all around the world... And it's not the same picture. Never," she said.

Mertens congratulated all the participants, who made it "very difficult" for the jury to choose winners.

She called on photojournalists worldwide to participate in the contest, regardless of whether they work for big agencies or are freelancers.

"We were very happy when we realized that there were a lot of freelancers that were winners. Because it's interesting; it shows that independent photographers show their work, and they can win," she said.

"It's not only big organizations that can have awards and that produce material."

She expressed her disappointment, however, that the world of photography is different than when she started shooting 35 years ago, in that "the agencies pay less than they used to [for photographs]."

"I think the industry is in trouble and is suffering. The industry of photography is suffering. But I think the photographers have their passion and their desire to shoot," she noted.

"I think watching a photo is always something that changes you. It opens up your worlds. Sometimes it shocks you, sometimes you don't agree, sometimes you're surprised, but I think it's something that doesn't leave you intact, or doesn't leave you. It has an effect," Mertens said.

"I love photography, I think every single person should keep shooting photographs and showing what the world is, and not feeling afraid of showing reality," she said. "Because photography is the best language in the world. It's universal."

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

2021 Winners Video

Istanbul Photo Awards 2021 winners announced

Bangladeshi photojournalist Mohammed Shajahan wins Photo of the Year award with his work 'Mom Love'

Bangladeshi Mohammed Shajahan's photo titled "Mom Love" won the Photo of the Year Award in the Istanbul Photo Awards, the seventh edition of the annual international photography contest held by Anadolu Agency to support photojournalists.

The COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world has shown one more time how photojournalists and press members continue doing their jobs with devotion under challenging conditions.

In this challenging period, Anadolu Agency's Istanbul Photo Awards contest keeps supporting the sector in the best terms.

The winners of the Istanbul Photo Awards, revealing its quality by being a global platform where 12,000 photographers have registered in its seventh year, have been chosen by the international jury consisting of the prestigious names of the world of photography.

Bangladeshi photographer Mohammed Shajahan's photograph titled "Mom Love," selected from among nearly 15,000 photographs submitted from different parts of the world, won the Photo of the Year 2021 award.

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.

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.

The photographs by Cortez and Giannakouris have shown that different agendas take place in the world as well.

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

Reuters photojournalist Goran Tomasevic, NOOR Agency photojournalist Yuri Kozyrev, visual storyteller Marion Mertens, AFP Former Director of Photo Business Development Michel Scotto, author and photojournalist Deborah Copaken, Getty Images chief sports photojournalist Cameron Spencer, photojournalist Ahmet Sel, Anadolu Agency Visual News Editor-in-Chief Hasan Oymez, and Anadolu Agency Photo Editor Firat Yurdakul took seats in the jury.

The jury members selected the winners through a platform that was designed exclusively for the contest by the Anadolu Agency Information Technologies team due to the pandemic.

'By taking the contest to the next level each year, we support news photography which witnesses the moments'

Regarding the contest, Anadolu Agency Chairman of the Board and Director-General Serdar Karagoz emphasized that the COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken hold of the whole world, once again revealed how difficult conditions photojournalists and press members continue to do their jobs with devotion.

"As Anadolu Agency, we continue supporting the sector with all-out strength through Istanbul Photo Awards contest. By taking the contest to the next level each year, we support news photography which witnesses the moments," he said.

Stating that nearly 15,000 photographs from different parts of the globe competed in the contest, Karagoz said, "Some 1,206 photographers of 96 different nationalities joined the contest with a total of 14,740 photographs.

Karagoz noted that the quality of the photographs submitted increased every year, and the jury members had great difficulty in selecting among them, and he continued:

"Becoming a platform where 12,000 photographers have registered in the seventh edition of the contest highlights the quality of Istanbul Photo Awards. Our jury -- consisted of the prestigious names of the world of photography -- selected the winners on a platform that we prepared specially due to the pandemic. I thank each of them for their contributions to the contest."

Istanbul Photo Awards jury set to select 2021 winners

Jury of Anadolu Agency’s international news photo contest gathers online to review over 15,000 photos

The jury of the international news photo contest Istanbul Photo Awards 2021 have started to work on reviewing the works of participants on Tuesday.

For the seventh round of Anadolu Agency's contest, the jury sessions are held online due to the novel coronavirus measures.

The members of the jury, attending from six different countries, gathered to select last year's best photos.

This year's jury, involving prestigious names of the world of photography, comprise Reuters photojournalist Goran Tomasevic, NOOR Agency photojournalist Yuri Kozyrev, visual storyteller Marion Mertens, AFP Former Director of Photo Business Development Michel Scotto, author and photojournalist Deborah Copaken, Getty Images chief sports photojournalist Cameron Spencer, photojournalist Ahmet Sel, Anadolu Agency Visual News Editor-in-Chief Hasan Oymez, and Anadolu Agency Photo Editor Firat Yurdakul.

The sessions, held on a platform organized by Anadolu Agency exclusively for the contest, will last for three days.

Applications, with works reflecting global events, were submitted by March 18. The participants submitted nearly 15,000 photos in six categories: Single News, Single Sports, Story News, Story Sports, Story Daily Life, and Story Portrait.

The winners of the contest will be announced on May 11.

The winner of the Photo of the Year, also the Single News category first prize winner, will be awarded $6,000.

The winners in other categories will be awarded $3,000 for the first prize, $1,500 for the second, and $1,000 for the third. Only first place will be awarded in Story Daily Life and Story Portrait categories.