The Feature Photography Award 2019

Rena Effendi. Photo: Maria Ionova Gribina

Best feature photography on an international theme published in any medium

AWARD NAME: The Feature Photography Award 2019
AWARD HONORED WORK: “He lost a daughter to the Islamic State. Can he save his grandchildren?”
AWARD SPONSOR: Sponsor: Sony Images

Patricio Galvez travels by bus across the border from Northeast Syria to Iraq on April 9, 2019. Mr. Galvez journeyed to Syria following the death of his daughter, Amanda González—and the collapse of the Islamic State—seeking to rescue her seven children from the al-Hol refugee camp, where they are kept with thousands of others from the fallen caliphate. Mr. Galvez cannot see why his grandchildren, or any other children, should be punished for the crimes of their parents. “They are innocent,” he said, “belief is not transmitted by blood.” Photo: Rena Effendi

Patricio Galvez (not pictured) shares a photograph on his cellphone of his daughter Amanda González on April 11, 2019.  When Ms. González converted to Islam at age 18 she destroyed almost all photographs showing her face. She would soon marry Michael Skråmo, a Norwegian convert to Islam who was born and raised in Sweden. In 2014 the two travelled to Syria with their 4 young children to join the Islamic State. They would have three more children. When she was killed in Syria in January 2019 Amanda was 28 years old, a mother of seven, and her father, Mr. Galvez, had not seen a new photograph of her face in 10 years. Photo: Rena Effendi

In a hotel room in Dohuk Iraq, on April 3, 2019, Patricio Galvez shows the contents of his suitcase - children’s clothing, a dietary supplement for malnourishment and a Swedish national football team t-shirt for his eldest grandson Ibrahim. "I brought it with me because it's symbolic,” he says. For his own journey he brought simply a backpack of essentials. Photo: Rena Effendi
Patricio Galvez waits outside the Security chief's office of the Syrian Democractic Forces (SDF) to request permission to visit his grandchildren in al-Hol refugee camp in northeast Syria on April 5, 2019. After Mr. Galvez found out his grandchildren were among the 70,000 people being held in the al-Hol camp, he began a long and challenging process to get access to them. As the father of an Islamic State member, Mr. Galvez would have to overcome the suspicions of local officials about his loyalties. Photo: Rena Effendi
Views from Patricio Galvez's car window during the drive to Qamishli, Syria, from the Iraqi border, on April 4, 2019. After he arrived in the Middle East from Sweden, Mr. Galvez's journey was delayed for several days in Dohuk, Iraq. Heavy rains had made a border crossing impossible. Once he crossed into Syria, Qamishli would be his base as he tried to gain access to his grandchildren. Photo: Rena Effendi
Patricio Galvez aboard a crowded minibus with Syrian families and others crossing the border from Iraq to Northeast Syria on April 4, 2019. The floating bridge over the river Tigris had been washed out, delaying his initial plans. The ride itself to cross the border is just a couple of minutes long. When crossing, the border staff who searched his suitcase were surprised to find only children’s clothing and supplies. Photo: Rena Effendi
Patricio Galvez holds his youngest grandson, Mohammed, in a hospital in Hasakah, Syria, on April 5, 2019.  Undeterred by bureaucratic roadblocks, Mr. Galvez travelled south to Hasakah, when he learned that the infant was in hospital being treated for a lung infection and malnutrition. He wept in the reception area as he waited for a nurse to bring him to his grandson. When he finally picked up the child, Mr. Galvez laughed and wept all at once. “I thought of my daughter,” he said later. “I felt at the same time I was embracing her.” Photo: Rena Effendi
Patricio Galvez cradles his youngest grandchild, Mohammed, in a hospital in Hasakah, Syria, on April 5, 2019. Mohammed is one year old and too weak from malnutrition to hold up his head. He is being treated in a room with many children of diverse origins, reflecting the global appeal of the proto-state in which they were born. Their heads were shaved to prevent lice spreading. Some slept soundly, oblivious to the commotion around them. Others stared blankly, drips feeding into the backs of their minuscule hands. Photo: Rena Effendi
Patricio Galvez and his grandchildren wait in a hotel in Erbil, Iraq, for permission to return to Sweden, on May 10, 2019. After meeting his infant grandson Mohammed in a hospital in Hasakah, Syria, Mr. Galvez had to return alone to Iraq, where he would work to retrieve all the children from Syria - and then struggle with Swedish authorities to bring them back to his home in Gothenburg. As they waited for clearance the challenges of caring for seven children became a reality. Mr. Galvez was often exhausted as he contended with tantrums and cases of chickenpox. “It’s really difficult,” the 50-year-old said. “There are so many of them.” Photo: Rena Effendi
Patricio Galvez (not pictured) and his grandchildren, several of whom have chicken pox, travel by plane to Gothenburg, Sweden, from Frankfurt, Germany, on May 15, 2019. Mr. Galvez told the children they were going home to Sweden, but it didn’t seem to mean anything to them. For Mr. Galvez, his return would mark the end of an ordeal he could never have imagined. As the plane finally lifted off on Tuesday afternoon, his whole body shook with sobs drowned out by the din of the engine. Photo: Rena Effendi
Patricio Galvez looks at the last picture he received of his daughter Amanda González—an unmarked grave in Syria – on April 21, 2019. She was mortally wounded in an airstrike in January 2019 and buried somewhere in Northern Syria. After Ms. González moved to Syria and joined the Islamic State with her husband and children she wrote her father, “Hello Father. First of all, I want to apologize for not being honest with you, I am in Syria with Michael and the children. I know you will think it’s crazy…but the truth is it’s better for us here.” After he had retrieved Amanda’s orphaned children from Syria Mr. Galvez says, "Maybe one day I could go back to Syria and visit her grave". Photo: Rena Effendi
Al-Hol refugee camp, where the seven grandchildren of Patricio Galvez were held, pictured in northeast Syria on Dec. 10, 2019. Roughly 9,500 children from 40 countries live in this and other Syrian camps, almost half of them are under the age of 5. Mr. Galvez began his quest to save his grandchildren from al-Hol camp nearly a year earlier. In that time his seven grandchildren have become only a small fraction of those freed from the camp. Now with further uncertainty in northern Syria, the fates of these other children remain even more precarious. Photo: Rena Effendi



Citation for Excellence recipient: Adam Ferguson
Affiliation: TIME Magazine
Honored Work: “A Harbinger of Things to Come: Farmers in Australia Struggle With Its Hottest Drought Ever”

Citation Page >>