14 February, 2012 15:07

The work of renowned South African photographer for the Ukrainian photo project named one of the best photos of 2011

On February 10, 2012 in Amsterdam, the results of the most prestigious international competition in photojournalism - World Press Photo - were announced. The first prize in Contemporary Issues Singles nomination won the work of renowned South African photographer Brent Stirton, part of the AIDS. Opened Faces photo project run by Elena Pinchuk ANTIAIDS Foundation and presented at the eponymous exhibition in Kiev City Art Gallery Lavra in December 2011. This is the seventh World Press Photo award in the career of Brent Stirton, leading author of one of the world's largest photo agencies Getty Images, and the first one during his work in Ukraine.
The work of renowned South African photographer for the Ukrainian photo project named one of the best photos of 2011 / Elena Pinchuk Foundation
Author: Brent Stirton | Getty Images | Elena Pinchuk ANTIAIDS Foundation

There were no Ukrainian photographers among the awardees of the 2012 World Press Photo Contest, though Brent Stirton's photograph was one of the three works made by foreign photographers in Ukraine and won in the competition.

32-year-old Marina (Krivoy Rog, Dnepropetrovsk region) is captured in this dramatic and challenging photograph. At the time of participation in the AIDS. Opened Faces photo project in August 2011, Marina was not a HIV-positive. She has been injecting drugs, and served men in a room rented from an elderly lady. Her husband died of a drug use. She had been to prison. Marina has a young daughter, who is under the guardianship of her mother-in-law. Marina needed money to support herself, her habits. And her daughter.

In this expressive image the striking contrast between the physical suffering of a human, as a consequence of her lifestyle, and will power, done in terms of her eyes expression. These are the eyes of a human, caught on the edge of life. A person, who has nothing to lose.

Brent Stirton: "Drug addiction in Ukraine often combines with a genuine lack of economic opportunity that makes many young Ukrainian women that much more vulnerable to HIV infection. There are few choices available to them in terms of making a living, that is even more of a reality if they are single parents with the pressures of trying to raise a child. This image is of a young woman caught in a cycle of desperation, trying to provide for her child and at the same time catering to an addiction she can't control. People like her require our understanding and our compassion. She is someone's daughter and someone's mother. At the time of this photograph, she was HIV-negative and she cared about remaining that way. The danger is that the less society care about these people, the less they are likely to care about themselves. Social compassion and support combined with HIV education are the solution for now. Economic empowerment for all Ukrainians is certainly part of the solution down the road. The more we have to live for, the more we will care about ourselves and each other".

The World Press Photo Contest is held annually since 1955 by non-profit organization World Press Photo Foundation with support of the Dutch royal family. This year the jury has done a tremendous job: more than 100 000 photos by 5 000 authors were presented in the contest. The winners of this most prestigious competition for photojournalists were 57 photographers from 24 countries worldwide. The main prize went to a Spanish photographer Samuel Aranda for a photograph of a woman holding a relative wounded in Sana'a (Yemen) during one of many protests. All the works by the winners are available at the World Press Photo web page.

AIDS. Opened Faces photo project was presented by Elena Pinchuk ANTIAIDS Foundation in Kiev City Art Gallery Lavra to the International AIDS Day at the exhibition, held from 1st to 17th December, 2011. The photo project was devoted to Ukraine and the people whose lives were changed by HIV/AIDS epidemic: it reflects the stories of people caught in the epicentre of the epidemic. These are the stories of HIV-positive children without parental care, women engaged in commercial sex, people who are addicted to IV (intravenous) drugs, etc. Brent Stirton together with the Foundation staff and affiliate organizations travelled all over Ukraine, photographing street children in Odessa, gypsy settlements and a family of 44 HIV-positive children, injecting drug users, street girls, prisoners, orphans. Thousands of people, among which were many high school students, witnessed the tragedies of life, visiting the exhibition, dozens have left comments about the works that impressed them:

"The skill of the photographer is to show the world in a way we can not see it. Here are the works that show the world in a way most of us do not want it to be: close your eyes and turn away from the mud in which the same human beings like ourselves are buried".

"The exhibition is very impressed, so scary... I thought that all this was somewhere very far away. But actually it is right behind the corner. I'll be much more careful now...".

"This exhibition fascinates with its horror of real life and real disease".

"I'm over 60. Thought I knew all about AIDS. The exhibition showed that AIDS is also a tragedy, inhuman suffering, indescribable horror".

"The photographs left a big mark in my heart. First of all, we want to help and understand those people, do not turn away from them".

"It's just shocking, we live and do not see what is happening behind our windows and walls. Thanks to the organizers for this enormous project and their non-indifference about the situation".

Each of the guests of the exhibition had the opportunity to get free and anonymous rapid HIV test. More than 850 people took it during the exhibition, the blood test results of 12 of them were positive. Student volunteers who received a grant from Elena Pinchuk ANTIAIDS Foundation to conduct an information campaign in Kiev universities, answered visitors' questions about HIV/AIDS.

Brent Stirton visited Ukraine for the first time in 2005 with The Picture of HIV/AIDS in Ukraine project for the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS. Most of his meetings in 2005 were the meetings with people who have been deprived of strength and needed constant care. In 2011, the situation in Ukraine has changed - ten times improved access to testing, there were eight times more people who were receiving antiretroviral therapy, the drug-dependent patients had access to substitution therapy. But the situation still remains severe.

Brent Stirton Biography

Brent Stirton, 42, South Africa, is the chief staff photographer of Getty Images (New York), the world's largest photo agency. He specializes in documentaries and is known for his recognizable style of work. On average, nine months a year he spends in the mission, shooting military action in different parts of the world.

Brent's works were published in National Geographic Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, The New York Times Magazine, The London Sunday Times Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, The Discovery Channel, Newsweek, Le Express, Le Monde, Le Figaro, Paris Match, GQ, Geo, Stern, CNN and many other respected international publications and information services.

Brent is the official photographer for the Global Business Coalition against Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria. He has been a long time photographer for WWF, the World Wide Fund for Nature, shooting campaigns on sustainability and the environment. He works for the Ford and Clinton Foundations, the Nike foundation and the World Economic Forum.

Brent has received awards from the Overseas Press Club, the Frontline Club, the Deadline Club, Days Japan, several times he was named Photographer of the Year in the U.S., three times he received the award from China International Photo Awards, and Lead Awards Germany, Graphis USA, American Photography, American Photo, the American Society of Publication Designers as well as the London Association of Photographers. Brent has received five Lucie Foundation awards and six World Press Photo Foundation awards. He has also received 2 awards from the United Nations for his work on the environment and in the field of HIV.

His images are in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London, the Museum of Modern Art in New York as well as the Johannesburg Museum of Modern Art.

HIV/AIDS in Ukraine

Ukraine remains a leader in Europe in terms of HIV infection. WHO/UNAIDS experts estimate that more than 1% of the population is HIV-positive, and only every second of them is aware of his diagnosis. In 2011 more than 17 000 new HIV cases were registered in Ukraine. Another 56 people learned that they were HIV-positive every day. Eight people a day have died from AIDS.

AIDS is no longer a problem of risk groups. The Ukrainians are increasingly becoming infected through unprotected sex. In 2010 almost every second HIV case was caused by sexual contamination.

According to expert estimates, Ukraine is also a country with the highest number of HIV-positive pregnant women in Europe. The increasing number of women diagnosed with HIV will invariably lead to an increase in the number of children with HIV infection, which require expensive treatment and support. According to forecasts by international experts, by 2014 the number of children who have lost both parents due to HIV/AIDS can reach 42 000.

ANTIAIDS Foundation was founded by Elena Pinchuk in September 2003. This is the first and only Ukrainian charity for AIDS working with private funds. For over eight years of operation the Foundation is constantly engaged in HIV/AIDS and provides assistance to people living with HIV/AIDS. The Foundation seeks to work at all levels, from national projects to targeted assistance for people affected by the AIDS epidemic. The Foundation also regularly provides assistance to orphanages with HIV-positive children and medical institutions. Mobile clinics have been established by the initiative of the Foundation to provide care to HIV-positive children living in remote areas of Ukraine. Elena Pinchuk ANTIAIDS Foundation also develops and implements social and preventive education programs aimed at youth audiences. Among them is The project for homeless girls and young women vulnerable to HIV infection (in collaboration with the Elton John AIDS Foundation). The Foundation implements innovative and interactive projects using web-technologies: social services maps.antiaids.org together with Google, the online auction of "Stars on Sale" with Korrespondent.net, Fashion AID, a joint project with The Coca-Cola Foundation - Safe Connection.

World Press Photo is an international competition held since 1955 that became for the time of its existence the largest and most prestigious within photojournalists around the world. Its main goal is a reflection of new trends in world photography. Prizes are awarded in ten different categories, including "Everyday Life", "Sporting Event", "Nature," "Portraits" and also a key nomination - "The Photo of the Year". The World Press Photo Foundation non-profit organization exists under the patronage of the Prince of the Netherlands. In 2010 the World Press Photo Foundation celebrated its 55th anniversary.

For detailed information, please, contact Pavel Piminov, Communications Director, Elena Pinchuk ANTIAIDS Foundation on e-mail: P.Piminov@antiaids.org.

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