World Press Photo 2012 Samuel Aranda

Mis à jour le 14 février 2015 par Michel PuechSpanish photographer Samuel Aranda was awarded the World Press Photo Award 2012 for his picture taken while covering the revolution in Yemen. A new “Pieta” to reassure Western public opinion?

Samuel Aranda’s prize winning picture, published by the New York Times, was taken in the Yemen capital city of Sanaa on October 15, 2011 in a mosque converted into a hospital to care for the injured fighting against President Ali Abdallah Saleh. “I believed in this picture and I think it is fantastic that the Christian audience can identify compassionately with it without prejudice to the Muslim world” commented American photographer Nina Berman, member of the jury at the British Journal of Photography.

“This new “Islamic Pieta” was an immediate hit in the worldwide press. We had the same experience with AFP photographer Hocine Zaourar’s “Bentalha Madonna” from the Algerian civil war… It seems that when nations are overwhelmed by internal events, and Western nations worry about the “Arab Revolutions”, a good way to calm public opinion is to show the human side of the “barbarians”!
Let me make myself clear, I am not criticizing the quality of Samuel Arand’s photographic work. The reader can see, by visiting his personal website, five dozen pictures from his story in Yemen, and appreciate his courage and the point of view of this Spanish photographer represented by Corbis and working for the New York Times and the Spanish daily La Vanguardia. Magnificent. Without a doubt: Bravo!

One can however question this 55th WPP jury’s selection. Last year we discovered the barbaric nature of extremist Afghan Muslims with South African photographer Jodi Bieber’s picture of a woman with her nose cut off.

A picture that provoked a strange ceremony on May 7th at the Muziiekgebouw on the occasion of the awards ceremony in Amsterdam. The WPP showed this “exclusive” and praised the merits of the aesthetic surgery performed on this young woman thanks to the generosity of Western Christians. This year were they hoping to show that a “barbarian”, entirely draped in a veil and gloves could show human compassion?

It leaves doubts… The World Press Photo Jury rewards and aesthetic work, or provides a Messianic message? A photographic work on current events or a Western vision of the world?
The “Arab Springs” this picture is supposed to feature have transformed into Syrian winters before which Western nations, strongly represented in this jury, are powerless. As they were, and remain, in regards to the Japanese nuclear catastrophe. The Fukushima Nuclear Plant is absent from these WPP results, despite the consequences this tragedy will have on our descendents for thousands of years. Only pictures of the tsunami were selected. They remain eager to show pictures of repairable damage, but nothing about the irreparable.

Michel Puech

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