He took the best press photo of the year: we had no idea what terrible things had yet to happen

Photos from Ukraine as well as from Luník IX (Košice) awarded in the annual press photo competition. Winning photos on display in Bratislava's centre for another month.

Photo of Ukrainian high-school graduates by Michal Burza won the Current Affairs category as a single photo. Photo of Ukrainian high-school graduates by Michal Burza won the Current Affairs category as a single photo. (Source: Michal Burza)

In a small square, six couples of young people are in a dancing pose. The girls wear white dresses, the boys wear white shirts. They look innocent, but not carefree. Behind them is a building, a piece of it missing. This is a scene of current Ukraine.

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The photo is called High School Graduates at a Time of War, and its author Michal Burza won first place in the News - Individual Photo category in the Slovak Press Photo competition.

The winners in the nine categories of the journalistic photography competition were announced on Wednesday.

Ukraine resonated

The Grand Prix winner, SME photojournalist Marko Erd, was announced at the end of August. Erd also became winner of the Reportage category. In this case also with a series of photos that capture refugees at the border in Vyšné Nemecké the day after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

"I saw the hopelessness of those women who did not know where they were going and what awaited them. Some children just sat obediently, some cried. I also had tears in my eyes, I couldn't imagine that my wife and our two-year-old son would have to run away like that. It was very powerful. And it was only the second day of the war. Neither the women nor we had any idea what terrible things were going to happen in Ukraine," Erd recalls.

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"The most characteristic thing about this year was that we saw the war live. We had a member of the jury from Ukraine next to us. For me, one very important moment was when, at the final press conference, a Russian member of the jury translated the Russian of his Ukrainian colleague into English, which our interpreter translated into Slovak. It was a symbol of the fact that you don't need to condemn people across the board and you need to help each other," Slovak Press Photo director Jana Garvoldtová said.

Long-term documentary excelled

According to the chairman of the jury, World Press Photo prize winner and Dutch photographer Kadir van Lohuizen, the Long-term Documentary category was the best represented. He said the category offered the best stories.

Damian Lemański won in this category with the series of black and white photographs called Children of Luník IX. They capture varied situations from the life of the Roma community in the Košice housing estate, from family portraits in the authentic environment of their apartments to snapshots depicting the dynamics of action. For example, during a mass bathing in a stream to a refined shot of a Roma boy slightly looking into the camera and debating police officers above him.

Roma are also central characters in the photograph series About Us, Without Us by Boris Németh. They present several people standing before a small screen on a housing estate street, the photographer's attention focused on the Roma while others observe them. Németh's series won in the category of Portrait - Series.

Medical staff members as well as goalkeeper

Winner of the Everyday Life - Series category, Jana Mašterová, captured the work of nurses in her photographs. She aptly called her collection Angels of Help. More important than the faces in her photos were the hands handing over a drinking glass, washing a patient's body or spreading clean white linen on a bed. An unsettling loneliness is evoked by the photograph of bare, strangely bent feet - belonging to no one knows whom - with a hunched seated figure in the background.

An unfortunate moment for the photographed goalkeeper, but an extremely happy one for the photographer. He captured the moment a soccer goalkeeper contorted into a seemingly physically impossible position. However, the goalkeeper did not catch the ball. 2:1 is the name of Ivan Kováč's photo, which won first place in the Sports category.

Combativeness on the ice and the winning moments of Slovak hockey players were captured by Jaroslav Novák in the Bronze Boys winning series.

A remarkable play of black and white, light and shadow combined with the elegance of ballet dancers are depicted in the Danzamea 2022 photos by Hugo Kollár. He won in World of Art and Culture, along with being declared Young Talent of the Year. Petra Bašnáková tried to capture the atmosphere of a distant sandy landscape and the character of the people in the Born from the Sand and the Sun series. She won first place in the Students and Young Photographers Under 26 international category.

The competition winners at the exhibition

"We are very happy that despite the global Covid-19 pandemic, with Slovakia experiencing a two-year lockdown as well as cultural and sports events disappearing from our lives for a long time, we received a huge number of photos, even more than last year," Jana Garvoldtová said.

This year, 142 photographers from five countries participated in the competition with 1,463 pictures entered.

The photos were evaluated by a five-member international jury consisting of Kadir van Lohuizen (Netherlands), Yuri Kozyrev (Russia), Alexander Chekmenev (Ukraine), Jindřich Štreit (Czech Republic) and Jana Hojstričová (Slovakia).

The chairman of the jury expressed his disappointment with the Environment and Nature competitive category, also in view of the ongoing climate changes affecting everyone. After all, they did not even award first places in the category. However, Slovak Press Photo drew attention to the topic of climate change, highlighting the Arctic: New Frontier photo exhibition among other things. The exhibition presented a photographic exploration in the Arctic region, carried out by Kadir van Lohuizen and his Russian colleague Yuri Kozyrev.

Slovak Press Photo director, Jana Garvoldtová, also cites the ecological dimension of the competition. Slovak Press Photo exhibitions are organized in open-air public spaces without energy consumption. This also pertains to the exhibition of the 11th-year competition winners, taking place from September 21 to October 31 on Hviezdoslavovo Square and free-of-charge.


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