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Egyptian photographer Roger Anis wins Thomson Reuters Foundation-Nokia Photo Award

by Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 2 April 2014 16:56 GMT

Cairo-based photojournalist Roger Anis has been unveiled as the winner of the first Thomson Reuters Foundation–Nokia Photo Award.

Roger’s work has been selected from over 500 submissions received from 84 countries as diverse as Bangladesh, Kenya, the Philippines and Russia and showcasing issues such as female leadership, courage, passion, opportunity, innovation and motherhood.

The competition, launched on Dec. 3 at the Trust Women Conference, challenged aspiring photographers and photojournalists around the world to document women’s empowerment through the power of images.

In March, 10 finalists were selected by a distinguished panel of experts and asked to submit a portfolio of images illustrating women’s empowerment. From these 10 outstanding portfolios, the judges picked the winner, Roger Anis.

“Roger has created a body of work that captures, with intimacy and imagination, the struggle of Egyptian women to assert their rights at a critical time in the nation’s history,” said Tim Large, award judge and editor-in-chief at Thomson Reuters Foundation. “His images shun cliché and forge empathy.”

“What I like about Roger’s work is his ability to capture the struggles and aspirations of Egyptian women from different walks of life and to show that photos can trigger social change. I love his professional approach to black and white” said Monique Villa, CEO of  Thomson Reuters Foundation.  “I was extremely impressed by the quality of all the finalists’ portfolios, especially the work of Giovanni de Angelis from Italy and Thena Faroq from Yemen.”

In addition to the Award, Roger Anis will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to attend a week-long professional training course on Mobile Journalism organised and run by Thomson Reuters Foundation, a Nokia Lumia 1020 smartphone, and the opportunity to have his work published on Thomson Reuters Foundation’s award-winning website, www.trust.org .


Special congratulations also to Rajneesh Bhandari from Nepal, who received the People’s Choice Award for the image with the most votes.

Check out Roger’s incredible portfolio of photos from Egypt, and read his interview on the challenges of documenting women’s empowerment in Egypt.


As a photojournalist based in Egypt, what do you think is the biggest challenge facing women in your country?

Egypt is facing a real disaster with regards to women’s rights. We have a lot of challenges. One of the biggest is the persisting stereotype of women as having fewer rights, less freedom than men. Sexual harassment is happening all the time. A lot of the women I know - my family, friends and colleagues - fear walking down the street. It’s their right to walk safely, but when harassment happens, they cannot find the support they need.

On the positive side, I think things are changing, though slowly. I see this across the media, and in the way women are beginning to behave. A lot of women are starting to speak out and find alternatives to facing these challenges.

Do you think photography and photojournalism can empower women? How?

Photography can definitely empower women in so many ways. Photos can expose trends and show the achievements of women to their own communities and the world, as well as revealing the problems and hardships they face.

Let me give you a real example. Two years ago, a male colleague of mine was driving down the road and had his camera with him. In front of him, he saw a girl crossing the street, and a group of small boys were following the girl, harassing her and trying to touch her inappropriately from behind. This was really shocking.

He took a picture on the spot and distributed it to several international press agencies. This picture hit the mainstream news and people couldn’t stop talking about it. There were even demonstrations. In our globalized and super-connected world, pictures like this can have a huge impact.

Mobile phones are everywhere now. How are mobiles changing the field of photography?

I believe that mobiles are really changing the photography industry. In countries like Egypt, where situations can quickly get tense or even violent, having a small mobile device makes reporting much easier and safer. You can take it with you anywhere. I think the mobile phone makes it easier for me to reach people, to research and see what’s around me.  Mobiles are really strengthening the idea of citizen journalism. In Egypt, a lot of the big stories in the media are the result of pictures or videos taken on a mobile phone.

Has this competition changed your work as a photojournalist?

After four years working for a daily newspaper in Egypt and taking photo after photo of clashes, conferences and demonstrations, I really wanted to do something different. I’d been meaning to work on a long-term project, and I always had women’s empowerment in mind, because when I looked around me, I saw women who had great stories to tell: empowering and inspiring stories, but problems as well. 

This competition brought new inspiration and energy into my work as a photojournalist. I feel completely refreshed.

Do you have a favourite photo?

I have lots of favourite photos, but my favourite is the one I took of a group of female students during a university demonstration at Ain Shams University in Cairo. The students were protesting the imprisonment of their friend and became aggressive toward the media. They banned photographers from taking pictures and covering the events. But as I had my Nokia phone with me, I was able to take high-quality pictures, and these pictures were published in one of the biggest newspapers in Egypt, Al Sharouk. So I was the only photographer who got pictures from the event, just because I had a mobile phone!


We hope this competition will help spark positive debate on women’s rights and help foster social change. What should we do next? Send your thoughts to media.foundation@thomsonreuters.com

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