Award winning photojournalism from Gaza

Posted on November 12, 2010 by

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Kai Wiedenhöfer

by JENNY STEVENS

The winning entry of the first ever Carmignac Gestion prize for photojournalism went on display this week in Paris. Seeing Stories went to see the collection of works by Kai Wiedenhöfer.

German photojournalist Kai Wiedenhöfer has been working in Gaza for over ten years, documenting daily life in the occupied territories. This collection of work, his winning entry for the new Carmignac Gestion photojournalism prize, which launched last year, went on display at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris last week.

Of the 85 images in the exhibition, 50 are portraits of Gazan people injured in the conflict and 35 are images of destroyed buildings. Ten of these are panoramic landscapes, which offer a wider perspective on the scale of destruction.

Jamila Al-Habash, 16, Gaza City February 2010 ©Kai Wiedenhöfer/ Foundation d’Enterprise Carmignac Gestion

As a fluent Arabic speaker, the attachment and understanding Wiedenhöfer shows towards the people in his portraits is striking. He approaches his portraits from the humanist tradition. They are not styled or dramatised, but use the subtlety of photographing people in their own surroundings to explain the complexity of the reality facing people in Gaza, such as 33-year-old Injud A-Ashkar, who stands in front of a wall in her own home with an amputated hand. There are three bullet holes just centimeters above her head.

The photograph says in one second what an entire paragraph could not encapsulate in print.

The collection focuses not only on the human flesh lost by the brutality of the war, but of the destruction Gaza’s landscapes and infrastructure. The panoramic images emote a sense of reflection – such as the wasteland that once was Gaza’s international airport, which it is now almost impossible to imagine a commercial passenger plane to ever fly out of again. In another image, piles of rubble and scorched wires lay on an idyllic beach, showing us the contrast between the beauty of Gaza’s natural landscape and the devastating consequences of human war.

Gaza Airport 2010 ©Kai Wiedenhöfer/ Foundation d’Enterprise Carmignac Gestion

The judging panel, which was led by which by the photographer, filmmaker and artist William Klein said they chose Wiedenhöfer for his “capacity to be invigorated with fresh ideas” and his ability to delve below the extreme tensions and violence in Gaza, to produce a coherent documentary record which went beyond the news headlines. They praised his  “ reflective photographic style with panoramic compositions in colours conveying an original, bold and highly contemporary style.”

To find out more about how to enter next years prize, visit Carmignac Gestion‘s website.

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