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Colombian Photographers Win Pulitzer Prize


Colombian photographers Fernando Llano and Ivan Valencia received the Pulitzer Prize for Best News Photography on May 7. Credit: Mack Male, CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED/Flickr

Colombian photographers Fernando Llano and Ivan Valencia have been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Best News Photography in their work for Associated Press (AP). The Colombians, along with six other photographers, are part of the AP’s team of photojournalists honored by the Pulitzer Prize Board, which announced the winners on Tuesday, May 7.

The team was recognized for their coverage of migrants traveling from South America (specifically from the countries of Venezuela, Colombia, and Haiti), crossing Mexico to reach the United States border. The jurors praised AP’s work “for its poignant photographs, an unprecedented chronicle of mass migration and their arduous journey north from Colombia to the United States border.”

Alongside the Colombians, photographers Eduardo Verdugo, Christian Chavez, Felix Marquez, Marco Ugarte, Eric Gay, and Gregory Bull were also awarded. All of them were under the direction of Argentine Ricardo Mazalan.

Pulitzer Prize for Colombian photographers’ migrant reporting

The prize in this category, which comes with a US$15,000 award, was given in honor of a series of photographs or individual images addressing newsworthy topics in depth. The photographers’ work began in May 2023, just three days after the United States government announced the end of Title 42, a migration policy that restricted the basic right to seek asylum at the border between the United States and Mexico for 38 months.

“I spent a week on the Mexico-Texas border, on the banks of the Rio Grande (or Bravo). It was very impactful to see how people, whole families, threw themselves into the river to cross. This is a dangerous river, its waters rise unexpectedly and take away whatever is there,” Fernando Llano told El Tiempo newspaper.

The other photojournalists were deployed to different critical areas of migrant passage, such as the dense Darien Gap, which lies between Colombia and Panama, and cities like Huehuecota, Veracruz, Irapuato, or Ciudad Juarez, all of which are in Mexico, and Jacumba in California.

The photographers’ final report consists of 16 images revealing the migrants’ heartbreaking drama as well as moments of their everyday lives. “Reaching that point is seen as a desperate measure, but they all agreed they wanted a better future. I spoke with many people, and most of them were Venezuelans,” Llano explained.

Additionally, Colombian photographer Federico Rios was selected as a finalist for the prestigious Pulitzer Prize in the International Reporting category for his migrant coverage of the Darien Gap, alongside reporter Julie Turkewitz of The New York Times. The jury described it as “an immersive and ambitious portrayal of the migrant purgatory” experienced in the jungle enclave between Colombia and Panama.

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