The international jury of the 55th annual World Press Photo Contest has selected a picture by Samuel Aranda from Spain as the World Press Photo of the Year 2011. The picture shows a woman holding a wounded relative in her arms, inside a mosque used as a field hospital by demonstrators against the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, during clashes in Sanaa, Yemen on 15 October 2011. Samuel Aranda was working in Yemen on assignment for The New York Times. He is represented by Corbis Images.
While I agree that the photo is beautiful and the photographer did a brilliant job capturing that very moment, I am not totally convinced that it’s good enough to be the ‘photo of the year’.
First of all, I don’t think the photo really captures the significance of the Arab Spring. The shot could have been taken anywhere in the world and at any time. If someone told me it’s been taken 10 years ago in Saudi, or Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iran, or France, or Belgium, or Canada, I would still have believed them. Okay, maybe not in France, Belgium or Canada, since they have banned Niqab.
More importantly, the photo was chosen because it shows a different image of how Niqabi women are preconceived. Basically, it humanizes them … and it is exactly that argument that I am opposed to. Just because a woman opted to wear a Niqab does not rid her of feelings. They are mothers, sisters and daughters, who have feelings and emotions. They are humans! The photo challenges a stereotype that in 2012 should no longer be a stereotype.
American documentary photographer, Nina Berman, commented on the photo:
“In the Western media, we seldom see veiled women in this way, at such an intimate moment. It is as if all of the events of the Arab Spring resulted in this single moment – in moments like this.”
Having said that, the photo of the year, and rightly so, could have reflect the Arab Spring in a better way, and I personally think there are dozens of photos out there that succeeded in illustrating the Arab Spring more gloriously. Here are my top 10 Arab Spring photos: