The Washington Post photographer Salwan Georges felt a kinship with the Ukrainians, but he said he had never been there.
“I’m not from Ukraine, but this war is a kind of personal thing to me,” Georges said. “I’m from Iraq.”
Georges is the 2020 International Photographer of the Pictures of the Year Competition at the University of Missouri. He was one of the photographers honored at the All-day Awards at the Reynolds Journalism Institute’s Smith Forum on Friday.
Lindsey Adario is the 2021 International Photographer of the Year. Adario was unable to attend the all-day awards because he was assigned to New York Im, Ukraine.
He said Georges was in Kharkov in eastern Ukraine when the war began.
“The bombs continued to fall,” Georges said. “I remember hearing it in Iraq, but I haven’t heard it since I was eight.”
He said he had the opportunity to show his childhood experience by taking pictures of Ukrainians.
He said people went to the subway when the war began.
“This was the first day and was full of people,” Georges put a photo on the back screen. “I’m trying to talk to people. I’m trying to connect with them.”
A photographer who focuses on people, not battle scenes
His most famous photo was taken at the train station in Odesa. George Kebria, outside the train, is looking through the train window as his wife Maya and his children are preparing to leave for Lviv.
“It’s like another flashback to me,” Georges said.
He said he remembers that he and his mother left on the train because the Iraqi army’s father stayed behind him.
Kebria was safe in Odesa, and his wife and two children were safe in Germany, George said.
He didn’t get permission before taking the picture, but Kebria admitted him and said he nodded. He got the photo and later decided to ask for permission.
Georges saw a photo of the funeral of a Ukrainian soldier and said he remembered the funeral of his uncle’s army.
“I was looking at grandma, mom and dad,” he said on the Ukrainian face.
Another photo shows a girl celebrating her fifth birthday in a bomb shelter.
He said the Ukrainians were all great and didn’t seem to care that he didn’t speak Ukrainian.
“What really happened, and what’s happening now, is definitely a genocide,” Georges said.
He was asked about focusing on people, not the battle scene.
“I’m convinced that it’s the people who are paying the price of these wars,” he said.
He said he wanted to go back.
Ruri wins for the second consecutive year
Photographer of the Year, local winner Gabriel Ruri, is a photographer of the San Francisco Chronicle. She has won the championship for the first time in 50 years for the second consecutive year.
She explained that she had filmed the boy Theo and his mom for several months. They were homeless.
“They have their own strong voice and they know their story is powerful,” Ruri said on her subject.
Knowing where they were was sometimes a challenge, she said.
“I had to find them,” Ruri said. “She had a phone. Sometimes it was on, and sometimes it wasn’t.”
She said Theo managed to become a child.
“Like all kids, it was a playground everywhere,” Lully said.
She wasn’t perfect, but his mom did her best, Lurie said.
“When it comes out, it takes a kind of its own life,” she said. “They weren’t self-conscious. Some people are.”
Other missions included a trip to Oklahoma with an obstetrician and gynecologist from Berkeley, California, who went there every month to perform an abortion.
“At the end of the day, every woman approached me and said,’Thank you for coming here,'” Lully said. “Even protesters.”
She also said she took pictures of the exiled family, centered around 10-year-old Brianna.
“They didn’t really see it coming,” Lully said of the peasant.
She said her mom was ill, but Brianna had an idea.
“I kept saying she was going to understand it all,” she said of Brianna.
It didn’t work.
“Everything collapsed for them,” Ruri said. “It soon became miserable.”
Brianna’s mom and dad broke up and there was a custody dispute over Brianna. After that, Brianna’s mother died.
It’s not easy to get involved in people’s emotional lives so closely, but Lully said she feels she has to do it.
“I think work is what drives me forward,” she said. “For me, that’s the only power I have.”
RJI exhibits works by Ukrainian photographers
Also on Friday was Irynka Hromotska, who organized an exhibition of works by Ukrainian photographers at the Reynolds Journalism Institute.
“Today is the 59th day of the Russian war against Ukraine,” she said.
Born in an independent country, she is facing invasion and oppression from a series of empires, including the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire.
Many times in the history of the country, she said it is illegal to speak Ukrainian.
She said she was “very happy” with the opportunity to present the work of a Ukrainian photographer.
“I really wanted the Ukrainian voice to shine,” she said. “They live it.”
She said the Russian invasion was a colonial and imperialist effort.
“This is a war of ideas,” Hromotska said. “It’s imperialism vs. democracy. It’s fear vs. freedom. It’s a story of resilience. It’s a battle for dignity.”
Originally from Denmark, Valdemar Stroe Ren is a college photographer of the year. CNN Digital’s cinematographer Bernadette Tuazon has been awarded the Angus McDougall Excellence in Editorial Award. This year’s documentary storyteller is Ed Ou.
Roger McKinney is an educational reporter for Tribune. You can contact him at [email protected] or 573-815-1719. He is at @ rmckinney9 on Twitter.