Barat Ali Batoor’s winning photograph shows a group of asylum seekers bound for Australia and was entered as part of his “Hazara Exodus” photographic essay series. The image was published in The Global Mail.
An image of a group of asylum seekers emerging from a makeshift gap in the deck of a timber boat bound for Australia has been named inaugural “Photo of the Year” in the 2013 Nikon-Walkley Awards for Excellence in Photojournalism. The winning photo was taken by asylum seeker Barat Ali Batoor and published in The Global Mail.
This year is the first time a “photo of the year” has been selected from all entrants to the Walkley awards, and precedes the announcement of the full list of 2013 Nikon-Walkley photojournalism winners, which will be made at a ceremony in Brisbane on 28 November.
Walkley Advisory Board member Nick Moir, a photographer with The Sydney Morning Herald, said the new award was added to acknowledge a single image of standout quality and impact.
"He is a photographer who has put himself at great risk and come away with an image of thoughtful composition and of the terrible voyage which has killed hundreds," Moir said. "The image immediately stood out as it is an image of fear, hope and curiosity of a people held far back from the Australian media; the faces convey the anxiety as the viewer’s eye bounces from face to face."
Batoor began documenting the displacement of his own Hazara people in 2005 as they fled from Afghanistan and Pakistan. In September 2012, he became part of the story, fleeing Kabul with his camera in hand. Travelling with 92 other passengers hidden below deck to escape detection by the Water Police, he shot a selection of images capturing the long route through Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and by sea to Australia.
"It is a journey of sudden midnight departures, long road trips, surreptitious transactions, treks through jungles, and terror at sea," Batoor said, of his essay.
"It is a journey that mixes fear, boredom and extreme loneliness. A journey that sometimes ends in joy, sometimes in despair and sometimes in death. Few people – except for the refugees themselves – ever get to see this reality."
Batoor’s boat ran aground on the rocks and his camera was ruined but remarkably, his images survived. He was then detained and robbed by Indonesian authorities but escaped. Many of the other people he met on his arduous journey didn't survive.
"In the end, I was one of the lucky ones,” he said. “Unlike most Hazaras, I was quickly found to be a refugee and resettled in Melbourne. In the meantime, I kept taking photos … my hope is that, at the very least, these pictures can tell their story."
Moir said the judges had seen some great photo essays from a diverse range of subjects but the standard of international stories was particularly high this year, with huge effort and commitment shown to rarely covered events.
Other winners announced in the lead-up to the Walkley photojournalism awards include Brendon Esposito (Nikon-Walkley Portrait Prize) and Marc McCormack (Nikon-Walkley Community/Regional Prize).
More winners will be announced at the 2013 Walkley Awards on 28 November 2013. Finalists are published below:
Nikon-Walkley Press Photographer of the Year, 2013 finalists: • Brian Cassey (The Weekend Australian, The Global Mail, The Courier-Mail and AAP) • Kate Geraghty (Fairfax Media) • Quinn Rooney (Getty Images)
News Photography, 2013 finalists: • Kate Geraghty (Fairfax Media) • Chris McGrath (Getty Images) • Colin Murty (News Corp Australia)
Feature/Photographic Essay, 2013 finalists: • Barat Ali Batoor (The Global Mail) • Ed Giles (Getty Images) • Steve Tickner (The Irrawaddy News Group)
Sport Photography, 2013 finalists: • Wolter Peeters (Fairfax Media) • Quinn Rooney (Getty Images) • Cameron Spencer (Getty Images)
Barat Ali Batoor (The Global Mail), Nikon-Walkley Photo of the Year Winner: Asylum seekers emerge from below decks to catch a breath of fresh air on a boat bound for Australia.
Brendan Esposito (Fairfax Media), Nikon-Walkley Portrait Prize Winner: "Dini Coral." Witchcraft and sorcery have long been practised in Papua New Guinea, but many now oppose the old traditions. Women accused of being witches are the target of brutal attacks. There have been cases of murder, torture, and rape. Some victims have even been burned alive. In Esposito’s image, Dini Coral, from Kundiawa in Simbu province, stands with her husband. Accused of being a “sanguma” or witch, she shows her scars from a brutal attack.
Marc McCormack (The Cairns Post), Winner Nikon-Walkley Community/Regional Prize: "Marc McCormack showed creativity in covering the range of stories regional photographers are faced with every day. From illustrating a heat wave with an acrobatic dog, to sporting action at a rodeo and coaxing a tiny newborn turtle from his shell, McCormack brings the stories of his Cairns community to life."