Istanbul Photo Awards ‘big motivation’ for photojournalists

Sergei Stroitelev, winner of 1st prize in Story Portrait category, receives award at Anadolu Agency’s Istanbul office

The Istanbul Photo Awards is a “big motivation” for photojournalists to continue their careers, according to Russian photojournalist Sergei Stroitelev, who won first prize this year in the Story Portrait category.

Stroitelev, a freelance photojournalist, was presented the Canon camera prize at Anadolu Agency’s Istanbul office from the agency’s award-winning photographer Elif Ozturk.

Asked about his feelings, Stroitelev told Anadolu Agency that winning the Istanbul Photo Awards is a “great motivation” for him and brings “international exposure” as well as “a lot of new contacts.”

Noting that seeing his work being appreciated by a “great jury” consisting of his “role models” is “such an honor,” he said: “It's such a big motivation to continue working.”

He said he was surprised when he learned he won the prize “because I won this contest once some years ago, and I didn't think that it's possible to make it two times.”

“It was really surprising, and a big honor of course,” he said.

Stroitelev said he previously heard from his colleagues about the Istanbul Photo Awards contest, adding “a lot of my colleagues applied before.”

‘The Strongest Bond’

Stroitelev’s work, titled “The Strongest Bond,” covers women in Chechnya and Dagestan whose children left to join the Daesh/ISIS terror group, in which photos of their missing loved ones are superimposed on the figures of their mothers and their surroundings.

Explaining the story behind the photographs, Stroitelev said: “When I was on assignment for one of the Russian newspapers in Dagestan, three mothers came to me. They told me that their daughters are missing somewhere in ISIS (territory) and nobody cared about that.”

“And I became really interested in the issue and decided to give these women a voice,” he added.

He said the hardest part was to find the women and persuade them to be photographed, adding that some parents helped him find more women that are willing to speak.

“The third task was the psychological task,” he said, adding the women were crying when telling their stories.

“It's a challenge for every photographer to work on these kinds of issues,” he said.

Being a freelancer

Asked about his experiences so far as a freelance photojournalist, he said: “When I went to Maidan (Ukraine) in 2014, I started freelancing. I documented the revolution.”

“I realized that I'm going to photograph like all my life because I realized that photojournalism has so much power and is the perfect instrument to raise awareness about issues,” he said.

Noting that he is currently not living in Russia, his advice to younger freelance photojournalists was to “don't give up.”

He said that although there are some moments you won’t have enough money to continue your work, there are also “great moments,” like being awarded “such a great prize.”

* This year, the contest was supported by Canon, the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) and Turkish Airlines (THY), the nation's flag carrier. Besides the cash prizes, this year the first prize winners of all categories will receive a Canon camera.

Information related to the 2022 jury and award-winning photographs can be accessed via the website

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