Istanbul Photo Awards 2021 applications open

Anadolu Agency’s international news photography contest to be held for 7th time this year

Applications for Istanbul Photo Awards 2021, Anadolu Agency’s international news photography contest, are open.

In its seventh year, Istanbul Photo Awards aims to award and support photojournalists for their professional dedication. The contest is organized by Anadolu Agency, which has worked with a great number of photojournalists throughout its 100 years in journalism.

The contest receives applications from more than 100 countries every year. Along with many press institutions, a considerable number of freelance journalists also join to the contest.

Participants will be able to join the contest in six categories – Story, Single, Sports Story, Sports Single, Story Daily Life and Story Portrait.

Professional photographers can join the contest with photographs of the events that determined the world agenda in 2020. The jury, consisting of the most prestigious people in the world of photography.

Terms and conditions for the application can be viewed on the website of the contest, where the photographs will be evaluated based on multiple aspects such as technical sufficiency, perspective, composition, action, emotion.

The “Photo of the Year” award will be given to the photograph that is first in rank in the Single News category and the photographer will be awarded with $6,000. The winners of each category will be awarded with $3,000, the second-in-ranks with $1,500 and the third-in-ranks with $1,000. Only the first prize winners will be awarded in Story Daily Life and Story Portrait categories. 

Applications can be made on until March 18, 2021.

In the last six years, awarded photographs were exhibited in various places within Turkey and abroad, from Ankara to Izmir, from Vienna to Tokyo. The photo album with the winning photos has earned a considerable place in libraries in this field.

Award-winning photo series explores loneliness in Italian prisons

Winner of Istanbul Photo Award, photojournalist Valerio Bispuri spent 4 years in Italy's prisons spending time with inmates

The loneliness inside Italian prisons moved photojournalist Valerio Bispuri to create Prigionieri, the set of photos that earned him first place in the Story News category of this year’s prestigious Istanbul Photo Awards.

The contest was organized by Anadolu Agency with the sponsorship of Turkish Airlines, with the winners selected by a distinguished international jury.

In interview with Anadolu Agency, Bispuri said that he worked on the photo series after living in South America for more than a decade capturing the life in local jails.

“I visited 74 prisons in all the countries of South America,” including 10 years in Argentina, said the photographer.

“After this project of the prisons of South America, I went to Italy to present my book Encerrados [Locked Up] in the prisons of Italy,” he said, adding that while there he visited Piggioreale Prison in Naples, southern Italy.

“When the detainees looked at the images of the photos of the jails in South America, they said like, 'Why don't you come to visit the condition in which we live, what we do?'” he added.

Hard prison life

He did not think life in his country’s jails would be so hard, he recalled.

“I thought it was worth it, if this prison was so hard, so difficult, to see other prisons in Italy and I asked for permission to enter four large prisons in Italy,” he said.

Over the span of four years, he visited Ucciardone prison in Palermo, Sicily, Rome’s Regina Coeli prison, and San Vittore prison in Milan, northern Italy.

These visits then spurred him to take a longer tour, visiting small prisons, large prisons, women’s prisons, and new prisons, in order to explore what “a locked person thinks, what deprivation of liberty means, and what it means to be alone, without freedom.”

To get closer to the inmates, Bispuri used to eat with them, without taking any photos.

“I would put myself in the cell eating with them the same food that they ate, which was sometimes very ugly, but it did not matter,” he said, adding that these shared meals helped build trust.

“What came out of this work is how the prisoners are really lonely,” he explained.

“It’s very difficult because they are never alone because there are always people, but they are always alone, and these differences are what impacted me a lot and I started to take pictures of this.”

Finding the unknown

The longtime photographer stressed two important things in his work, starting with looking for a special depth in his photos.

“It is much more difficult to enter into a photographic depth that is not only aesthetics, which is not only light, not only form, but to tell something that is not known,” he said.

To get to this point, he said it is very important to enter intimately into people's emotions.

“All my work is like this, that’s why the work I do always lasts for years. Prigionieri lasted four years, it always lasts years because to go deep, to find the meaning of the images, it is very important to know, to enter, to know.”

The second important thing, he said, is to enter the space between emotion and reality and strike a balance between the two.

 ‘New type of language’

On his winning an Istanbul Photo Awards prize, Bispury said he was glad to help shine the spotlight on a little-known reality like life in prisons.

“I am very happy for this award that they gave me because in these moments, where photography is more attentive to aesthetics and is always looking for a new type of language, sometimes this type of language takes out strength to human depth,” he explained.

The Istanbul Photo Awards 2020 presented a dozen awards in four categories: Single News, Story News, Single Sports and Story Sports.

The winning works addressed major topics from 2019 such as global protests, conflicts, environmental disasters, sports activities, and human stories in various countries, from Palestine to Indonesia.

Details on applying for the 2021 contest will be announced soon.

Istanbul Photo Awards’ 2nd exhibition opens in Istanbul

Exhibition, organized by Anadolu Agency with the sponsorship of Turkish Airlines (THY), will run for a month

The second exhibition featuring a selection of the awarded photographs at the international news photography competition Istanbul Photo Awards 2020 opened in Istanbul.

The exhibition, organized by Anadolu Agency with the sponsorship of Turkish Airlines (THY) will run for a month at Sabiha Gokcen International Airport.

More than 10,000 photo applications were made from around 100 countries to the competition, where the photos that entered the top three were determined by evaluating singular and serial photos in news and sports.

Due to the novel coronavirus, the jury session evaluated the submitted works and determined the winning photos on the Anadolu Agency’s special online platform.

The photograph titled “Hong Kong Protests” taken for the New York Times by photojournalist Yik Fei Lam was deemed worthy of the Photo of the Year Award.

A total of 12 awards were given to works addressing protests, conflicts, environmental disasters, sports activities and human stories in countries ranging from Palestine to Indonesia.

Photo album with winning photos and stories can be reached at

Istanbul Photo Awards exhibition opens in Ankara

Exhibition, organized by Anadolu Agency, will run until Nov. 22

The first exhibition featuring a selection of the awarded photographs at the international news photography competition Istanbul Photo Awards 2020 opened in Turkey’s capital. 

The exhibition, organized by Anadolu Agency with the sponsorship of Turkish Airlines (THY), will run until Nov. 22 at the Ankara High-Speed Train Station ATG Mall, Turkey’s first transportation base.

The photograph titled “Hong Kong Protests” taken for the New York Times by photojournalist Yik Fei Lam won the Photo of the Year Award in the Single News category.

More than 10,000 photographs were sent in from nearly 100 countries for the contest. An international jury convened in June to decide the first three winners in four categories: Single News, Story News, Single Sports and Story Sports.

A total of 12 awards were given for works addressing protests, conflicts, environmental disasters, sports activities and human stories in various countries from Palestine to Indonesia.

Every year, well-known professional photographers from around the world apply for the competition.

Istanbul Photo Awards unites world’s photojournalists

Esteemed jury members Marion Mertens, Yuri Kozyrev share their experiences in selection process

The Istanbul Photo Awards brings together photojournalists from all over the world, and that is what makes it unique, say jury members.

The winners of Istanbul Photo Awards 2020 were announced last week.

The contest, organized by Turkey's top news source Anadolu Agency, is sponsored by Turkey’s flag carrier Turkish Airlines.

The winners of the contest presented a summary of events worldwide in 2019, from Gaza to Hong Kong to Italy.

An international jury convened on June 24-25 to decide the first three winners in four categories: single news, story news, single sports, and story sports.

Esteemed jury members Marion Mertens, a senior digital editor at Paris Match in France, and Yuri Kozyrev, a veteran photojournalist with Netherlands-based NOOR Agency, evaluated the winning photographs and their contribution to Anadolu Agency’s visual news.

2019 from Hong Kong to Palestine through Photo Awards

For Mertens, the "Hong Kong story is very important, and it is still in the news. Lighting in the winner photo is beautiful, and this photo could be from anywhere in the world where the demonstrations are going on. For that reason, it is very elaborate and covers a greater story than just Hong Kong." 

"We had a lot of pictures from Hong Kong. It is one of the main events of the year. It was not easy to decide. It was an emotional process. It shows the whole story, a very powerful composition. It's a classic moment, and the photographer got it," said Kozyrev about the winning photo of the year. 

Mahmoud el Hams' photo titled “Funeral in Gaza” and Ibraheem Abu Mustafa's photo of people breaking their fast at a long table near demolished buildings titled “Palestinian Iftar amongst Rubble” finished in second and third place in the single news category.

"As a woman, the image of these young Palestinian girls and their suffering were specifically important to me. Also, it is notable that the only person looking up at the camera amongst the rubble is a young kid, which shows that you still have life going on in this war-torn country," Mertens said.

Having covered war zones for many years, Kozyrev said: "In Palestine, the conflict is never over. Every year, we see pictures of challenge from there. The second photo is completely about that emotion and the captured moment.” 

"The third photo, on the other hand, shows the reality of the country. Life is still going on with everything that happened there. People still get together, get married, fall in love, and eat," he added.

Photographing crisis, disaster areas

For Mertens, the ability to portray emotions is what makes a photojournalist talented. Capturing a good photograph means understanding what people go through. It is not only a cold statement of what is happening in the world.

For a striking news photograph, the action should be visible, but portraying emotions and composition also play very significant roles, she added.

"For the last 20 years, there is no break to conflict. From my experience, lots of crises happen around the world. People get used to this and stop paying attention. The challenge for any photojournalist is to demonstrate that the conflict still exists and that we need to respond to it," Kozyrev said.

Having a real impact in the world through photography is a complicated issue, according to Kozyrev.

"Today it is different from previous generations, who for instance covered the Vietnam war. There was more responsibility and more respect. There are many people who call themselves photographers, but this contest tells a lot about this issue: if a photographer does the job right, follows the ethics, feels the responsibility of what they're doing, then yes, photojournalists can have an impact in the world," he said.

"Today, photojournalists should also be more domestic. It is very important to have an understanding about the locality, culture, and language of where you are coming from. If you're from Gaza, Iraq, it is difficult to understand other worlds.

“Visual language is very strong and can tell more than a thousand words. The young generation tends to see more than they read, so that's what matters," he added.

Story photos, single photos

For Mertens, one really should tell a story in a story photo.

Valerio Bispuri's photo series titled “Prisoner", depicting an Italian prison, won the first prize.

"For instance, in this story, every single picture tells a story in itself as well, in addition to the totality. Every single picture is strong, and you really get inside the prison and see what people are going through. Prisons are difficult to access in real life, so it is very important [that they are brought in front of us]. You can see the loneliness of the inmates in there," she said.

A good story is a story where every single picture will give you an understanding of the environments in which the photo was taken, she added.

For Kozyrev, there is a huge difference between stories and single photos.

"A whole story can be told in one picture. I am also a storyteller, and I look at the photos from that perspective. I follow the stories till the end. Photographers working for news agencies have that kind of skill," he said.

“In Bispuri's ‘Prisoner’, the photographer captured a whole story in every single photo, but in the overall story as well. This is what matters," he added.

Contribution of Istanbul Photo Awards to global news

"We received pictures from countries that you don't usually see contributions from. It is also great to have an international jury, and great to have an award based in Istanbul. Both our jury and the photographs sent are from all over the world, which is what makes the Istanbul Photo Awards special," said Mertens.

For Kozyrev, each photo award looks for something different.

"The Istanbul Photo Awards have followed a certain tradition for six years. I like to be a part of this. It also helps photographers to improve themselves. The photo chosen as the best can sometimes confuse the photographers, could even be frustrating. But when they understand the tradition, it makes sense," he said.

Sports photos

“In all three winners of single sports [category], we had everything we need: storytelling, action, and artistic features,” said Mertens.

On the other hand, second place in story sports, “Sport Climbing’s Olympic Debut" by Getty photojournalist Adam Pretty shows handicapped sportspeople.

"It was a good mix of news and photography features. In this story, you can see the connection between characters. It could also be seen as a news story. The evolution of this man who helps gymnasts can be seen here," commented Mertens.

Being a conflict photographer, Kozyrev has a slightly different approach on sports.

"Personally, I am a conflict photographer, as we said while launching the NOOR Agency. For me, sports is something I can admire, and sports photographers should be judged mainly by sports photographers. I always look for something different when I judge sports photography. It's all about the moment, and it is very difficult to get it," he added.

Anadolu Agency's online selection platform 'big help'

The jury agreed that the online selection platform developed by Anadolu Agency has been a big help in realizing the Photo Awards during the pandemic.

"The selection platform was very easy to use and [it's] great. We made our selections before we met online with the jury. We could choose photos, go back from there, and do all kinds of changes. Congratulations to Anadolu Agency, and it's a pleasure working with them," said Mertens.

Kozyrev thought it was challenging to be apart from his colleagues while evaluating the photos.

"I felt a little bit isolated. Of course, we had to do it due to the pandemic, but we still made it, thanks to the selection platform, which is incredible. It was really well done, but I wish I had friends around while evaluating the photos," he said.