Latin Americans take home POY Latam awards for photographing life around the globe

By Lillian Michel

Photographers from nine countries in Ibero-America were among the winners of the 2017 Pictures of the Year Latam (POY Latam) contest. The biennial competition awards excellence in documentary and artistic photography across Latin America, Spain, Portugal and the United States. This year, finalists from more than 1,900 entries were judged in Barcelona, Spain, and the winners were announced on May 27.

The competition was started in 2011 by Loup Langton, director of the Western Kentucky University School of Journalism & Broadcasting, and Pablo Corral Vega, Minister of Culture for the city of Quito, Ecuador, to showcase the work of photographers in Latin America. To enter, a professional photographer must be a citizen of an Ibero-American country or live full-time somewhere in the region. When Langton spoke with the Knight Center in 2013, he said it was important for photographers from the area to “tell their own stories.”

This year, winning photographs were taken in Latin America, Spain and Portugal, but also in other regions around the world. In a recent interview with the Knight Center, Langton said there has always been discussion on the scope of the competition, but as the contest has grown, more participants are doing strong work internationally.

“Pablo and I still believe that it is important for Iberoamerican photographers to tell stories about their own communities and countries. Our ideas about that have not changed, but the contest has grown," Langton said. "I have been working with major international contests for decades, and this is not a new question. Judges and contest organizers are always posing the question of how much emphasis should be put on the photography that is done in the ‘photographer's own backyard’ [or internationally].”

The 2017 Photographer of the Year was Daniel Rodrigues, a French-born photojournalist based in Portugal. Rodrigues’ selection of photos spanned Morocco, Mauritania, Turkey, Iran, Mozambique and Malawi. He also won second place in the Portraits (Series) category for his documentation of albinos facing discrimination and abduction in Malawi and Mozambique.

Nacho Doce, a Reuters photographer based in Brazil, won first place in the News (Individual) category for his photograph of a four-month old baby born with microcephaly. Colombian photographer Federico Rios won first-place in the News (Series) category for a series of intimate photographs capturing the everyday lives of FARC rebels in the jungle as leaders from the guerrilla group and the Colombian government were in the process of negotiating a peace agreement.

Patricia Clarembaux, a photojournalist for Univision, was the lone female first place winner in the contest. She was recognized for her contributions to an investigation of corporate control of the multi-billion dollar cruise industry.

Langton said he believed the results of the contest reflected diversity in the jury, which advocated, debated and resolved different perspectives. However, he noted an exception with the Women in Society category that was not present this year. The category "produced very little strong work," Langton said.

“Pablo and I will be sending another message soon to reflect our very strong belief that more women need to enter and win awards in the contest,” Langton said. “In addition, the category, ‘Women in Society’ will need to become stronger, and we will continue to emphasize that idea.”

The contest was made possible by the Province of Barcelona and Casa América Cataluña, according to a release from the organizers.

Galleries of the winning photos are available at the POY Latam site.

The first-place winners in every category are listed below:

Photographer of the Year - Daniel Rodrigues (Portugal)

Daily Life (Individual) - Pablo Blazquez Dominguez (Spain)

Daily Life (Series) - Peter Bauza (Brazil/Germany)

News (Individual) - Nacho Doce (Brazil/Spain)

News (Series) Federico Rios (Colombia)

Portrait (Individual) - Antonio Heredia (Spain)

Portrait (Series) - Carlos Garcia Rawlins (Venezuela)

Sports (Individual) David Ramos (Brazil/Spain)

Sports (Series) - David Ramos (Brazil/Spain)

Indigenous Towns, Traditions and Religion (Series) Andres Kudacki (Argentina/United States)

Migration, Refugees and the Treatment of People (Series) Edu Ponces (Spain)

The Future of Cities Gustavo Minas (Brazil)

Multimedia (short) Victor Parolin (Brazil)

Multimedia (medium-length) - César Rodríguez (Mexico)

Multimedia (website) - Patricia Clarembaux (United States)

Memory and Identity Cesar Dezfuli (Spain)

Carolina Hidalgo Vivar Prize in Environmental Photography Javier Arcenillas (Spain)

Best Photography Book - A-MORCristóbal Olivares (Chile)

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.

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