María Clauss wins the 26th Luis Valtueña Prize with a work that makes visible…


If we had to choose one adjective to describe this year’s edition of our Luis Valtueña Award, it would be historic. On the one hand, because of the theme of the winning series, Donde no habite el olvido, by the Spanish photographer María Clauss who invites us through her lens to remember (history) and make visible a past as forgotten as that of reprisals by the Spanish Civil War. The second reason is that, for the first time in the history of the Prize, a woman has won the highest honor.

Inauguration of the sample of the Diputación de Huelva

The the winner María Clauss invites us with her work to do an exercise in memory and reconstruction of the past. In this journey through time, he not only depicts key places in the province of Huelva, but also collects first-person testimonies such as Juan, Dominga or Antonio.

It is precisely this story -in addition to its careful editing- that has won over the people who have been part of the jury of this edition and underline the importance of making visible a close but invisible reality that affects thousands of families and whose damage has not yet been repaired.

“The The Luis Valtueña Prize is the international showcase that demonstrates the importance of photography as an instrument of social transformation. Each award-winning or recognized image is and has been a call for collective awareness to make the world more just, inclusive and sustainable. This award fills me with energy to convince me that I am dedicating myself to the best profession in the world,” said María Clauss after receiving the news.

A this edition 733 applications were submitted (6531 images) and photographic series from 94 countries were received. In this order, the largest number come from Spain (79), Italy (60), India (48), Iran (41), Russia (41), France (31), United States (27), Germany (25), Argentina (24) and Bangladesh (24). The winner will receive a direct prize of 6,000 euros.

Three finalists and a special mention

With her work, Red Black White, Armenian photographer Nazik Armenakyan focuses on another invisible reality: that of women in her country with HIV – contracted by their husbands. They are also doubly victimized since, due to tradition, customs or religion, they cannot talk about what they are experiencing.

The dangerous crossing of the Darién Pass -a steep jungle between South America and Central America- was the theme chosen by Colombian photographer Federico Ríos and who was a finalist in this edition. Migrants crossing the Darién Gap chronicles the dangers and obstacles that thousands upon thousands of people, mostly from Venezuela, face each year in achieving the American Dream.

Santi Palacios, another of the finalists, takes us to Bucha, a Ukrainian town infamous for being a symbol of the rights violations perpetrated during this armed conflict. The Bucha massacre captures the sensations and images immediately after the departure of Russian troops from this city and documents a scenario in which the trace of war crimes is visible.

“In Bucha, the civilian population suffered a month of military occupation by Russian troops, and in Bucha, Russian troops committed war crimes: they raped, tortured and murdered hundreds of townspeople. These photographs bring together scenes that should never have taken place and I am grateful for this opportunity to exhibit them, that they be seen and that they help us not to forget what happened”, emphasizes Santi Palacios .

Once again this year, the jury wanted to award a special mention to the work Jódete Cáncer by Mexican photographer Sáshenka Gutiérrez. The series follows the story of Sandra, a cancer survivor who underwent a double mastectomy due to the disease and decided not to have breast reconstruction. Through her story, she makes visible the scars of this disease and questions the standards of beauty of today’s society.

An edition with a marked feminine role

Photojournalism, like many other disciplines, has traditionally been led by big names in the masculine. But something is changing. In these 26 years of the Luis Valtueña International Humanitarian Photography Prize, we have witnessed how women have gradually conquered this field as well.

Proof of this is this 26th edition, in which the percentage of female participation from last year has been maintained -more than 30%, a figure higher than in other international competitions- and where, for the first time in the history of the Award, a woman was erected with the highest distinction. One of the finalist works and the special mention of the jury was also defended by women.

A high jury

For another year, the Luis Valtueña International Humanitarian Photography Award has featured renowned professionals in the field of photojournalism who have generously donated their time and knowledge to the competition. The jury for the 26th edition was made up of photojournalists Emilio Morenatti, Rodrigo Abd and Walter Astrada; documentary photographers Carole Alfarah and Lurdes R. Basolí; and the general coordinator of Médicos del Mundo, Fran Carrasco.

Exhibition and award ceremony

The exhibition of the winning works and the award ceremony will take place in mid-2023 and, thereafter, the winning images will tour different Spanish cities.

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