Image of Afghan woman wins coveted photo award

Updated: 2011-02-12 07:32

By Toby Sterling (China Daily)

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Image of Afghan woman wins coveted photo award

From top: An 18-year-old Afghan woman who fled back to her family's home from her husband's house, complaining of violent treatment; the old Iron Market burning in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; anti-government riots in Bangkok. [Photos, From Top, Jodie Bieber, Riccardo Venturi, Corentin Fohlen]

Judges said the photo addresses violence against women

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - A South African photographer's portrait of an Afghan woman whose husband sliced off her nose and ears in a case of Taliban-administered justice won the World Press Photo award for 2010 on Friday, one of photojournalism's most coveted prizes.

Jodi Bieber's posed picture, which contrasts the woman's arresting beauty against the results of the violence done to her after she fled an abusive marriage, was published on the cover of Time magazine Aug 1.

Bieber, winner of eight previous World Press Photo awards since 1998, is a freelance photojournalist affiliated with the Institute for Artist Management/Goodman Gallery. She has published two books on her native South Africa.

Jury members said the photo, though shocking, was chosen because it addresses violence against women with a dignified image.

The woman, 18-year-old Bibi Aisha, was rescued by the US military and now lives in America.

"This could become one of those pictures - and we have maybe just 10 in our lifetime - where if somebody says 'you know, that picture of a girl' - you know exactly what you're talking about," said jury chairman David Burnett of Contact Press.

The picture also gains part of its resonance from its similarity with the iconic 1984 National Geographic photograph of a beautiful young Afghan woman with a piercing gaze.

The publication of the picture provoked international debate over the ethics of publishing - or not publishing - such a disturbing image.

"It's a terrific picture, a different picture, a frightening picture," said Juror Vince Aletti, an American freelance critic. "It's so much about not just this particular woman, but the state of women in the world."

In a video commentary on Time's website, Bieber said, "It was more about capturing something about her - and that was the difficult part." She said she did not want to portray Aisha as a victim. "I thought, no, this woman is beautiful."

Aisha posed for the Time cover photo because she wanted readers to see the potential consequences of a Taliban resurgence, the magazine said when it was published.

Although established photo agencies and press bureaus won a fair share of honors for 2010, a trend toward freelancers and unaffiliated photographers continued to grow.

Associated Press


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