UNICEF Photo of the Year 2013 Features Syrian Girl
Swedish photojournalist Niclas Hammarstrom has won UNICEF Germany’s award for the top image of 2013, with a picture of Dania, an 11 year-old Syrian girl wounded in a bomb attack. Dania was injured by shrapnel while playing in the street outside her home in Aleppo. The image came as part of the Swedish photojournalist’s series on children in Syria’s civil war.
“The Photo of the Year shows the face of the Syrian civil war: the face of an injured and severely traumatized child,” said Daniela Schadt, patroness of UNICEF Germany and partner to President Joachim Gauck. “The look on the child’s face is an appeal to the international community to strengthen its diplomatic and humanitarian efforts in order to prevent the loss of an entire generation of children.”
In November, Hammarstrom, of Sweden’s Kontinent photojournalism agency, was kidnapped in Syria along with the freelance reporter Magnus Falkehed and held for several weeks. The two were released at the beginning of this year.
The photojournalist met Dania in the hospital, where she was recovering from the bomb attack. Dania was eventually able to return home from the hospital, which was destroyed in combat months later.
Hammarstrom photographed his series from October 2012 to January 2013 in Aleppo. Though Syria has become one of the most dangerous countries for journalists to work in, as Hammarstrom can attest to after his own abduction, the photojournalist has made several trips to the country since its civil war broke out as a series of peaceful protests against the government in 2011. UNICEF estimates that about half the children in Syria live in an acute state of danger from the civil war and that 3 million no longer attend school.
“Too many Syrian children are growing up without an education, without skills, scarred mentally as well as physically – yet these same children are the teachers, the doctors, the engineers, and above all, the peacemakers of tomorrow, upon whom the hope for a stable and peaceful future in Syria and the region will depend,” said Tom Koenigs, member of the board of the German National Committee for UNICEF. “Their faces are captured in Niclas’ powerful images, and for whom more investment in education and protection is critical.”
About Niclas Hammarström
Niclas Hammarström was born in Sweden in 1969. When he was 14, he started to take pictures at the Solvalla horserace track. He later studied photography in Stockholm. After his studies, he worked at various newspapers in Sweden. In 1993, he began working as a contract photographer for the Swedish daily Aftonbladet, as their US-based photographer. While living in New York City, Hammarström photographing events in the US, Canada, and South America for almost five years. He covered major events, such as the siege in Waco, the World Trade Center bombing, the Oklahoma City bombing, the 1994 soccer World Cup, and the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, as well as numerous Mike Tyson fights in Las Vegas.
In 1997, he returned to Sweden and joined the Aftonbladet staff, covering primarily sports for the next five years. In 2002, after the Olympics in Salt Lake City, he left Aftonbladet, stopped working as a photographer and joined the family business selling and manufacturing handicap aid tools. In 2010, he sold the company and stayed home taking care of his family for a year, before realizing that he wanted to return to photography. In March 2011, he returned to Aftonbladet as a freelance photographer for the newspaper.