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PHOTOJOURNALIST WINS PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR AWARD FOR AFGHANISTAN PICTURE 'THE VALLEY'

By Antoine du Rocher

PARIS, 28 JUNE 2008 - Hungarian photographer Balazs Gardi has been named Photographer of the Year in the Px3 Prix de la Photographie, Paris 2008 and Human Condition Competition. Mr. Gardi took first place in the categories of Professional Photojournalism and General News for his image The Valley in which an Afghan man holds a wounded young boy in front of a house on 20 October 2007 in Yaka China village, Kunar province, East Afghanistan. According to the caption, the boy received several shrapnel wounds from a rocket as a U.S. airstrike targeted a suspected insurgent position in a nearby house the previous night. The air strike also killed five other civilians and injured at least seven villagers including children. This year's prize is worth 3.000 Euros.


Balazs Gardi: The Valley
© Balazs Gardi | All Rights Reserved
Photo courtesy of Px3 Prix de la Photographie, Paris

On view until 28 June at the Acte 2 Galerie in Paris, the winning work of varying quality by both professional (those who earn, or have earned, the majority of their income from taking photographs) and non-professional photographers is divided into seven categories: Advertising, Photojournalism, Book, Book Proposals, Fine Art, Nature and Portraiture. These are further divided into such subcategories as General News, Wars, Feature Story, Fashion, People, Architecture, Beauty, Sports, Annual Reports, Food, Music, Nudes, Abstraction, Landscapes, and Other.

Manifestly, there was no shortage of quality material from the major war zones. In addition to Balazs Gardi's The Valley, Bertrand Meunier's Where the Jihad Lives Now series for Newsweek took second place in General News. A provocative and at times seemingly manipulative set of images shot in Pakistan, Meunier's photos could trigger fear, if not outright Islamophobia, in the uninformed viewer.


Bertrand Meunier: Where the Jihad Lives Now
© Bertrand Meunier | All Rights Reserved
Photo courtesy of Px3 Prix de la Photographie, Paris


Bertrand Meunier: Where the Jihad Lives Now
© Bertrand Meunier | All Rights Reserved

Photo courtesy of Px3 Prix de la Photographie, Paris

Equally impressive is Brent Stirton's reportage by Getty Images for Newsweek. Awarded third prize in Professional Photojournalism and entitled Slaughter in the Jungle, Mr. Stirton's shocking and heart-wrentching pictures document the mysterious murders of mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park in Eastern Congo in July 2007. According to the caption, a silverback alpha male, the leader of a group, and three females were shot and killed. Two of the females had babies and the other was pregnant. The two babies were not found and it is presumed they subsequently died of stress and dehydration. The motivation for the killing is not known, but it is suspected that there were political motivations. The local illegal charcoal industry clashes with conservation efforts in this very poor area and Rangers have been threatened, tortured and killed as a result of this clash of political and economic wills. Over 100 Rangers have lost their lives in the efforts to protect the gorillas of Virunga, one of the world's most endangered species .


Brent Stirton: Slaughter in the Jungle
© Brent Stirton | All Rights Reserved
Photo courtesy of Px3 Prix de la Photographie, Paris

Presumably because of the robust market for such material, many photographers seek out the horrors and cruelty of human conflict and devastation (wars and war-related rape, genocide, floods, famine). Gillian Laub won first prize in the Book category for portraits of Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs, displaced Lebanese families and Palestinians. Among her most powerful images are those of teenage boys without limbs and the matter-of-fact portrait of a young woman enveloped in scar tissue and a burn-recovery suit, with a framed reproduction of Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin's Jeune homme nu assis au bord de la mer (Nude Youth Sitting by the Sea) in the background.


Gillian Laub: Portrait
© Gillian Laub | All Rights Reserved
Photo courtesy of Px3 Prix de la Photographie, Paris

Images exploring crime, ignorance, poverty, teen idols as sex objects and racism in the United States have long been monnaie courante, albeit exploitative terrain, as more photographers made the transition from the documentary-style photojournalism of the 1950s to the more personal and investigative photographic explorations of the 1970s and 1980s. Still, some capture the existential devastation better than others. Italy's Nicola Majocchi won first prize in Professional Political Photography for his series Wrongly Convicted about an American who was accused of a crime he didn't commit, was tortured for 12 hours until he signed a forged confession, sentenced to death, spent 19 years in jail and then released.


Nicola Majocchi: from the series Wrongly Convicted
© Nicola Majocchi | All Rights Reserved
Photo courtesy of Px3 Prix de la Photographie, Paris

Ted Sabarese's Evolution series (2nd place Other) is a wry comment on America's intensifying debate over evolution vs. creationism .


Ted Sabarese: Evolution series
Second place: Other

© Ted Sabarese | All Rights Reserved
Photo courtesy of Px3 Prix de la Photographie, Paris

And in view of this week's affirmation of gun rights by the United States Supreme Court, one could hardly ignore Steve Simon's first place in the Other category for his book America At The Edge.


Steve Simon: America At The Edge
First place: Book, Other

© Steve Simon | All Rights Reserved
Photo courtesy of Px3 Prix de la Photographie, Paris

One of the goals of the Paris competition is to introduce photographers from around the world to the artistic community of Paris - hardly a new idea, but a necessary mission in view of the overwhelming predominance of western European and American photographers in both commercial and fine art photography. One hopes that such projects will improve aesthetic literacy worldwide so that the average person may appreciate and contemplate beauty in all its diversity, rather than the sole aesthetic standards, traditions, prejudices and deconstructions of western-European-descended white culture (European painting, Hollywood, Madison Avenue, television, digital culture).


Agata Stoinska: Mirror
Second place: Fashion
© Agata Stoinska | All Rights Reserved
Photo courtesy of Px3 Prix de la Photographie, Paris

That said, Indian photographer Jatin Kampani from Mumbai won second place for Beauty. The entre-deux-guerres sensibility that merges with the staggerng millenia-old expression of beauty from the subcontinent is a welcome change and long overdue in western mass media.


Jatin Kampani: Portrait
Second place: Beauty
© Jatin Kampani | All Rights Reserved
Photo courtesy of Px3 Prix de la Photographie, Paris

Mr. Kampani also took first place in the Professional Advertising / Calendar category for a delightful series for Marriot hotels.


Jatin Kampani: Marriot Hotels
First place: Professional Advertising/Calendar
© Jatin Kampani | All Rights Reserved
Photo courtesy of Px3 Prix de la Photographie, Paris

Equally striking was Reimar Juul's Hijra: Neither man nor woman, a series that documents the hijras of India. Hijras are born as men, but dress as women. They have been recognized as a third gender in the subcontinent from the earliest times.


Reimar Juul: Hijra: Neither man nor woman
First place: Culture
© Reimar Juul | All Rights Reserved
Photo courtesy of Px3 Prix de la Photographie, Paris

William Huber's thoughtful series, Abu Dhabi, took first place for Travel and Tourism.


William Huber: Abu Dhabi
First place: Travel/Tourism
© William Huber | All Rights Reserved
Photo courtesy of Px3 Prix de la Photographie, Paris

Although some may consider photography a second rate means of creative expression, it has, nonetheless, become one of the most competitve within the art world, as art photography enters important national and international collections and regularly achieves top prices at auctions . The relatively young German photographers Andreas Gursky and Thomas Struth are notable examples. Advertising, which is highly lucrative but equally as competitive, demands virtuosity as the prix d'entrée .


Heinz Baumann: More than Food series
First place: Food
© Heinz Baumann | All Rights Reserved
Photo courtesy of Px3 Prix de la Photographie, Paris

Stan Musilek's third place win for Fashion is also very much par for the course in the industry today.


Stan Musilek: SF Magazine: Trend
Third place: Fashion
© Stan Musilek | All Rights Reserved
Photo courtesy of Px3 Prix de la Photographie, Paris

In the non-professional Advertising category, the jury awarded Los Angeles-based Ryan Schude First Category Winner, as well as the more prestigious PX3 Best New Talent Award for his single entry entitled, The Saturn.


Ryan Schude: The Saturn
PX3 Best New Talent Award: Advertising
© Ryan Schude | All Rights Reserved
Photo courtesy of Px3 Prix de la Photographie, Paris

Another non-professional, Faisal Almalki of Saudi Arabia, won first place for his eloquent portrait, A Thousand Stories.


Faisal Almalki: A Thousand Stories
First Place: Portraiture Non Pro
© Faisal Almalki | All Rights Reserved
Photo courtesy of Px3 Prix de la Photographie, Paris

Surprisingly though, categories such as performing arts, nudes, family, music, abstraction among others were less felicitous or simply derivative in their achievements. Despite the first place of Howard Schatz for his Portraits of Actors in black and white, or Elliott Erwitt's (Magnum) second place for his series Adult Video Awards for Newsweek , the category of Personality / People also proved a challenge. Entertaining and fun, but no match for the glamour and wit of Bettina Rheims, Guy Bourdin, or the celebrity portraits of Annie Leibovitz among others.


Patrick Wilen: Dita Von Teese, series
Third place: Personality
© Patrick Wilen | All Rights Reserved
Photo courtesy of Px3 Prix de la Photographie, Paris

The Human Condition Photography Competition, a seperate contest, carrying cash prizes and promises of shows in New York and Los Angeles, awarded first prize to Stephanie Sinclair for The Bride Price, a series depicting child marriage in Afghanistan.


Stephanie Sinclair: The Bride Price series
First prize: Human Condition Competition
© Stephanie Sinclair | All Rights Reserved
Photo courtesy of Px3

The goal of this competition was to document the existential condition and diversity of human life - an ambitious idea for both jury and judged.

Still, the Px3 Prix de la Photographie, Paris and Human Condition Competition are young awards. As their prestige, career-building power and influence increase for their laureates, the competitions will no doubt attract the best and most ambitious talent among professionals and amateurs in all categories.

Antoine du Rocher is managing editor of Culturekiosque.

Px3 2008 Exhibition
Until 28 June 2008
Acte 2 Galerie
41, rue d'Artois
75008 Paris

Title photo above: Patrick Wilen: Dita Von Teese, series
Third place: Personality
© Patrick Wilen | All Rights Reserved
Photo courtesy of Px3 Prix de la Photographie, Paris

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