Samuel Aranda image is World Press Photo of the Year
February 14, 2012
Corbis contributor Samuel Aranda’s poignant image of a veiled woman comforting an injured relative was named the World Press Photo of the Year. The photograph — shot in a Yemen field hospital during demonstrations against President Ali Abdullah Saleh — was noted for its depiction of human compassion in the midst of an enormous event. Samuel worked anonymously in Yemen for weeks, the only western photographer to witness the country’s volatile struggle against dictatorship.
The World Press Photo Contest honors outstanding photojournalism in a number of categories. An international jury selected Aranda’s winning image from more than 100,000 entries.
Originally from Spain, Samuel has spent many years covering conflict and social issues in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. He received the Spanish National Award of Photography in 2006, and his work has been featured at Visa Pour L’Image, at the Cervantes Institute, on the BBC, and in The New York Times. He is currently based in Tunisia.
CORBIS: ON FEBRUARY 13, 2012, THE YEMEN TIMES FOUND FATIMA AL-QAWS, THE WOMAN YOU PHOTOGRAPHED WHILST COMFORTING HER SON ZAYED AL-QAWAS. WILL YOU TRY AND MEET WITH THEM ON YOUR COMING TRIP IN YEMEN?
SAMUEL: This is one of the first things that I want to do, because they are the most important for this award – the ones who fight for a change – I´ll meet them at the end of this week in Sanaa. The New York Times is supporting me in everything since the beginning of this project, and is really important that media like the Times still support photojournalists.
CORBIS: ON OCTOBER 15, 2011, THE PRECISE DAY WHEN YOU TOOK THAT PICTURES, TWELVE PEOPLE WERE KILLED BY THE SECURITY FORCES WHILST PROTESTING THE RULE OF PRESIDENT ALI ABDULLAH SALEH. DO YOU REMEMBER THE CONTEXT ON HOW YOU GOT INSIDE AND THEN OUTSIDE OF THE MOSQUE CONVERTED TO A FIELD HOSPITAL?
SAMUEL: Yes, I´ll never forget this day, it was calm in the morning, but the demonstrations started and half an hour later the government snipers started to shoot the protestors, and also bombing near the square with mortars was horrible. Then I took shelter in the mosque that they were using as a hospital and Fatima arrived at the hospital with her son Zayed, they were waiting a few seconds at the entrance of the mosque for medical treatment.
CORBIS: LATER YOU WENT TO TAIZ WITH JOURNALIST LAURA KASINOF AND YOU CAME UNDER FIRE FROM GOVERNMENT SOLDIERS. WHAT HAPPENED?
SAMUEL: We were working in Taiz and driving to a government checkpoint. They were nervous because there was a demonstration nearby, and they started to shoot our car without any reason. We just drove away from the area, but at least one protestor was killed that day.
CORBIS: YOU ARE ONE OF THE RARE FOREIGN JOURNALISTS WHO HAVE BEEN ABLE TO ENTER AND TO STAY IN YEMEN FOR SEVERAL WEEKS. YOU ASKED THE NEW YORK TIMES FOR WHO YOU WERE ON ASSIGNMENT TO NOT MENTION YOUR NAME. NOW WITH THE FALL OF SALEH, ALTHOUGH DEBATE IS OPENED ABOUT HIS IMMUNITY AND THE COMING ELECTIONS, DO YOU THINK THE CONDITIONS OF WORK WILL BE BETTER?
SAMUEL: Well, we were really few photographers this year in Yemen, Yuri Kozirev, Antoine Gyori, Karim Ben Khalifa and Lindsay Mackenzie, the ones that I remember now…, and yes, in the beginning of the assignment I asked the NYT to not publish my name because I was working without permission, and yes, I hope now with the new government in Yemen it will be more open to the media.
CORBIS: DO YOU THINK THAT YEMEN IS NOW READY TO ENTER IN A DEMOCRATIC ERA?
SAMUEL: I think people in Yemen are one of the greatest people on the planet, so I hope that they can reach a fair democracy, because they deserve it.
A mother comforting her son, injured while protesting the dictatorship of Yemen. Living true commands a price from all of us. Freedom is worth that price.