Polish photographer Jędrzej Nowicki has won the Luis Valtueña International Award for Humanitarian Photography in its 25th anniversary year. Awarded by the NGO Médicos del Mundo, which created it in memory of its aid workers murdered in the 1990s, the award confirms its global character with a trio of winners from four different countries and works from more than 90.
Nowicki won with his entry The Scars about the repression of the 2020 protests in Belarus against President Lukashenko’s regime. It deals with physical and psychological wounds inflicted on hundreds of people and, at the same time, speaks of scars that deepen the social division of a country. The protagonists of this series are opponents of the regime, relatives of those tortured and imprisoned, and young soldiers dragged into a conflict they never wanted.
The jury praised its innovative graphic approach to the conflict and the different edges it explores, avoiding the obvious, and brilliant editing, which gives even more strength to the message.
“I feel personally connected with Luis Valtueña’s values and the Prize’s approach to human rights,” said the winner of the competition on receiving the news in Warsaw.
The finalists were the Italian photographer living in Peru, Alessandro Cinque, the Venezuelan photographer Alejandro Cegarra, who lives in Mexico, and the French photographer Jérémy Lempin. With his work Peru, a Toxic State, Cinque shows the consequences of mining on the environment and indigenous communities in the country, the primary producer of gold, silver, and lead in Latin America. Cegarra’s The Two Walls deals with the militarization of the border between Guatemala and Mexico to prevent the advance of Central American migrant caravans. At the same time, Lempin, with his original Doctor Peyo and Mister Hassen, tells the fresh story of a competition horse turned “therapist” for seriously ill people.
“I am very happy to know that there is room for photography that tries to humanize and dignify migrants,” Alejandro Cegarra told us when he received the call from Médecins du Monde. Cinque was working in the Ecuadorian Amazon, which confirms his interest in the lives of indigenous communities. For his part, Lempin would like to dedicate this award “to all the caregivers, everyday heroes who sometimes work in difficult conditions.”
Record number of entries for the 25th edition of the competition
A record number of 808 entries (6,979 images) from 94 countries were submitted for this year’s competition, 100 more than the previous year, which had already been the most popular. In that order, the most significant number came from Spain (103), Brazil (74), Iran (74), India (65), Russia (42), Mexico (36), the United States and Italy with 31, Bangladesh (28) and Colombia (26). Once again, the participation of women stood at 30%.
The winner will receive a direct prize of 6,000 euros, a Leica Q2 camera valued at more than 5,000 euros, provided by the sponsoring company Leica Camera Iberia, and ten photobooks published by La Fábrica.
A top international jury
This year’s jury was made up of active photojournalists, graphic editors, and curators who gave their time and knowledge selflessly for the benefit of the competition. The jury for the 25th edition was made up of Alessandra Sanguinetti (USA), Ana María Arévalo (Venezuela), Claudi Carreras (Spain), Fiona Shields (UK), Francisco Carrasco (Spain) y Susana Vera (Spain). They have viewed the images blindly, without identifying their authors until the end of the process.