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Anonymous Burmese photographer risked life for prize-winning photo

visa pour l'image
(Image credit: Visa Pour l'Image)

A Burmese photographer who captured a powerful image of Myanmar's 'Spring Revolution' has won a top award at the French photojournalism festival Visa Pour l’Image. Due to security reasons, the photographer chose to stay anonymous during this turbulent time. 

Supported by The French Ministry of Culture, the biggest annual festival of photojournalism took place on 04 September in Perpignan, South West France. The €8,000 award was accepted on the photographer’s behalf by Mikko Takkunen, the Asia photo editor for The New York Times.

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The winning image was taken in Burma in Myanmar, which has been in a state of disorder since the military seized power on 01 February 2021. The military detained and ousted civil leader Aung San Suu Kyi causing subsequent demonstrations, work stoppages and civil disobedience. There have been a series of deaths linked to the “Spring Revolution”, a movement attempting to re-establish democracy in the country.

In the photo, civilians are shown protesting on the streets of Burma, urging the police to show their support of the National League for Democracy. Taken on 06 February 2021, the photographer explains the difficulties he had on the streets as he was “working between bullet shots, tear gas and deafening grenades.” 

Mikko Takkunen told the  Agence France-Presse, “keeping the anonymity of the photographer is not a decision we take lightly, and it is always linked to the safety of our employees which is a priority."

Having collaborated with the Burmese photographer for years, Takkunen said, “when I learned that a coup d’ete had just taken place in Burma on the 1st February, it was obvious to call on him, he is probably the best photographer in the country.”

Over 1,000 people have lost their lives in the fight for democracy, including dozens of minors. The photographer’s body of work also focuses on the injured and bereaved families living through the chaos since the junta overthrew the elected government. 

Other nominees include Greek photographer Angelos Tzortzinis, who was nominated for an award at Visa Pour l'Image for his report on the Moria refugee camp in Lesbos. American photographer Erin Schaff was also nominated for his photos on the invasion of the Capitol in Washington. Sadly, fellow nominee Danish Siddiqui was sadly killed while documenting the fight between Taliban and Afghan forces, but was recognized for his work covering the health crisis in India.

You can discover more about the Visa Pour l'Image awards at the official website.

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Hannah Rooke

Having studied Journalism and Public Relations at the University of the West of England Hannah developed a love for photography through a module on photojournalism. She specialises in Portrait, Fashion and lifestyle photography but has more recently branched out in the world of stylised product photography. For the last 3 years Hannah has worked at Wex Photo Video as a Senior Sales Assistant using her experience and knowledge of cameras to help people buy the equipment that is right for them. With 5 years experience working with studio lighting, Hannah has run many successful workshops teaching people how to use different lighting setups.