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.

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