At a glance: Germany

In Germany, UNICEF awards Photo of the Year to an image of stark contrasts

© Loeffelbein/UNICEF Photo of the Year 2011
A boy scavenges electronics scraps at a dump in Agbogbloshie, Ghana. The image was named UNICEF's 2011 Photo of the Year.

NEW YORK, USA, 21 December 2011 – Kai Löffelbein’s photograph of a boy scavenging electronics scraps at a dump in Ghana was named the ‘UNICEF Photo of the Year 2011’ at an awards ceremony in Berlin, Germany, yesterday.

Mr. Löffelbein’s winning image shows a boy at the infamous electronics dump in Agbogbloshie, preparing to throw a computer monitor to the ground to extract its valuable contents. Only at first glance does his pose seem triumphant; on closer look, he is standing against curtains of smoke, surrounded by the hazardous high-tech waste of industrialized countries.

A portrait of stark contrasts

The world produces million tons of electronic waste each year, and much of it is shipped to developing countries for disposal. There, scavengers – many of them children – work in junk yards and dumpsites to extract valuable materials from the waste. They are exposed to lead, mercury and other hazardous substances in the process.

© Lopez/UNICEF Photo of the Year 2011
In eastern Guatemala, 6-year-old Marisela weighs just 9 kg. This photograph took second place in the UNICEF Photo of the Year competition.

“I assume that approximately 800 people work at the toxic waste dump, Agbogbloshie,” said Mr. Löffelbein. “More than half of them are children.”

Mr. Löffelbein’s image captures the stark contrast between rapid technological advancement and its ruinous effects on the environment and the impoverished. Coincidentally, the boy in his photograph is wearing an FC Barcelona jersey with the UNICEF logo.

Mr. Löffelbein is a student of photojournalism at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Hannover, Germany. “What impressed me the most was the children's very strong desire to live and their positive attitude,” he said.

Picturing inequality

Second place went to a photograph of severely malnourished Marisela, a 6-year-old girl weighing just 9 kg in eastern Guatemala. The image, by J.M. Lopez of Spain, is a vivid illustration of the effects of poverty and persistent inequality.

© Calvert/UNICEF Photo of the Year 2011
Children are vaccinated against polio in Nigeria’s northern Kano State. Mary Calvert's photograph placed third in the competition.

Third place was awarded to an image, by American photographer Mary F. Calvert, of children being vaccinated against polio in Nigeria’s northern Kano State. There, weak health infrastructure and widespread rumours about vaccine side effects contributed to the spread of the crippling virus. Public health campaigns, including those supported by UNICEF, have since helped increase immunization coverage in the country.

Honouring documentary photography

Held since 2000 by UNICEF Germany, the annual ‘UNICEF Photo of the Year’ competition honours documentary photography of children around the world. Candidates must be recommended by internationally renowned photography experts. This year, experts nominated 119 photographers from 32 countries. The nominees submitted 1,228 images for consideration by a jury of esteemed photo editors, photojournalists and art directors.

“The UNICEF photo contest opens our eyes and makes us realize how strong children need to be – under unbearable and, to us, unimaginable conditions,” said Bettina Wulff, wife of German President Christian Wulff and a presenter at the ceremony. “The ‘Photo of the Year 2011’ appeals to our sense of responsibility. It shows the dark side of technological advancement and it shows how electronic waste can be a threat to the lives of children on other continents,” she said.

In addition to the three winners, the jury also awarded six honourable mentions. For placing first, Mr. Löffelbein received a Leica camera and will be published in GEO Magazine. The competition is supported by Leica Camera AG and GEO Magazine, published by Gruner + Jahr AG & Co KG.



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