World Press Photo is an independent, non-profit organisation founded in 1955 and based in Amsterdam. It aims at promoting and developing photojournalism and organises several workshops, seminars and educational projects such as the "Joop Swart Materclass" to encourage transfer of photography knowledge and educate young photography talents. But first and foremost, it organises the largest and most renowned press photography competition in the whole world. We're talking about something like over 4000 photographers enrolling from over 124 countries. More than 78,000 images... The winners' photos are gathered in a travelling exhibition seen by over 2 million people in over 45 countries. Now, if you do the math equation and add the title of this article to what we've just explained, you'll have an astonishing result: Mashid Mohadjerin won a prize at the 2009 edition of World Press Photo!!
Of Iranian origins, Mashid has been working as a freelance photographer since 2004 and received her MFA in photography from the Royal Academy of Arts in Belgium. Her work has been featured in several magazines and newspapers around the world, from the New York Times to De Morgen, La Repubblica, The Bulletin and many more. She is a special ITS photography finalist. She reached the ITS#PHOTO finals by winning the first edition of ITS#PHOTOweb, the online branch of our photography competition. At ITS#SEVEN she presented a project focused on migration, with a series of powerful portraits depicting the faces of women in Tajikistan waiting for their men to come back home from work abroad.
The picture she enrolled in the 2009 World Press Photo Competition is a shot of the Italian Adriatic Sea Coast Guard spotting a boat with refugees off the island of Lampedusa on 30 July. That was about 10 days after her presence in Trieste for the ITS#SEVEN finals. She was travelling towards Sicily at the time and had arranged for permission to shoot, but it was not easy to actually get aboard the Coast Guard boat. The reason she wanted to get on board was because she thought that searching for a lost boat with refugees was something that would show more raw emotion and give a different perspective to the problem of migrants coming into Europe. And she wanted to be there to capture the moment of the first encounter with her camera.
The reason why she chose this particular shot for the World Press Photo contest is that it communicates a very powerful mix of emotions. There's the first interaction between a lost migrant boat and the Coast Guard authorities. You can see how small and fragile the boat is in the dark, in the middle of the ocean. A guard is waving, giving the signal that the migrants are safe at last.
The prizes of the competition will be assigned in April in Amsterdam. It is an important step in Mashid's career. She told us that as a teenager she always admired the yearly World Press Photo books and visited their travelling exhibitions. Winning such a prize confirms the importance of her work and gives her even more strength to carry on. Knowing that her picture is going to be featured in the competition's world travelling exhibition is equally important. The more people see the shot, the better.
This is not the time to say "We discovered her first!" or "We knew it! We knew she was great!" This is just the time to celebrate Mashid's hard work and be proud for a member of the ITS family.