05 The Feature Photography Award 2020

Best feature photography on an international theme published in any medium

AWARD DATE: 2020

AWARD NAME: The Feature Photography Award 2020

AWARD RECIPIENT: Cheryl Diaz Meyer

AWARD RECIPIENT AFFILIATION: NPR with support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and Yunghi Kim

AWARD HONORED WORK: “Comfort Women”

AWARD SPONSOR: Sony Images

The jury was immediately moved by Cheryl Diaz Meyer’s powerful and emotional work documenting the survivors of World War II sexual enslavement. She captured heartbreak, humanity and healing in the expressions of this incredible community of survivors. This body of work is the perfect example of an impactful story amplified through the caring and intentional eye of the photographer.


Fedencia Nacar David holds her photo for an application to work as a maid. She was 15. A year before, a Japanese soldier sliced her ear and threatened to behead her if she didn't go to a garrison with him; she was raped over 10 days. "It still hurts," she says. "I was innocent. Why did that happen to me?" She kept her past from her children until "comfort women" began speaking out in the 1990s. Photo: Cheryl Diaz Meyer


Remedios Tecson (from left), sisters Estela Adriatico and Narcisa Claveria, Felicidad delos Reyes and Estelita Dy were teens when they were sexually enslaved. Many of the estimated 1,000 Filipinas who served as "comfort women" died of injuries or illness. Survivors suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Many went on to marry but said their wartime experiences made them societal outcasts. Photo: Cheryl Diaz Meyer

Maria Lalu Quilantang was 9 years old when her village of Mapaniqui was attacked by the Japanese during World War II. Her parents were killed, and she was taken to a building known as the "Red House," where girls and women were raped by soldiers. "We had a deeply painful experience in this house," she said. "Whenever I pass by it, my mood always changes." Photo: Cheryl Diaz Meyer


Photo: Cheryl Diaz Meyer

Maria Lalu Quilantang was 9 years old when her village of Mapaniqui was attacked by the Japanese during World War II. Her parents were killed, and she was taken to a building known as the "Red House," where girls and women were raped by soldiers. "We had a deeply painful experience in this house," she said. "Whenever I pass by it, my mood always changes." Photo: Cheryl Diaz Meyer


"I'm afraid here. This is not a good place," said Teresita Bermudez Dayo as she visited the remains of the Belo Mansion, where she was imprisoned and forced to serve as a "comfort woman" during World War II. Japanese soldiers had stopped her family when the family was traveling, declared that the 12-year-old was pretty and took her to their armored vehicle. Photo: Cheryl Diaz Meyer


"We will not forget what happened until the day we die. It has been engraved in our hearts," said Francia Aga Buco (center). On Nov. 23, 1944, Buco was one of the girls and women raped in the village of Mapaniqui. Buco, who became a seamstress, was not eligible for Japanese compensation for "comfort women" because she was not held over an extended period. Photo: Cheryl Diaz Meyer


Isabelita Vinuya, Belen Alarcon Culala and Maria Lalu Quilantang clasp hands. The three women were repeatedly raped as children by Japanese imperial soldiers in their village of Mapaniqui. Photo: Cheryl Diaz Meyer


“There was nothing I could do. They were going to kill three of our relatives if I didn’t cooperate,” said Estelita Jarce. She was 14 when she was sexually enslaved for a month in Roxas City by Japanese soldiers. Today, she is frail and cared for by her daughter, Rosemarie Jarce. Photo: Cheryl Diaz Meyer


Isabelita Vinuya prays nightly for peace and forgiveness. She was 12 years old when a mass rape took place in her village of Mapaniqui. Photo: Cheryl Diaz Meyer

Pilar Quilantang Galang and Oscar Galang both survived the raid on their village of Mapaniqui on Nov. 23, 1944. “My body was ravaged before I was released,” she said. Years later, she accepted an arranged marriage with Oscar. He would say to her, “You are just a leftover of the Japanese. Why would I get mad?” she asked. “It really happened.” Photo: Cheryl Diaz Meyer

Felicidad delos Reyes, 90, died of pneumonia on Feb. 1, 2020. Here, she was photographed with her great-grandchildren on the family property in Antipolo, outside Manila, in the Philippines. As a student in Masbate during the Japanese occupation of World War II, delos Reyes was asked to sing with her class for visiting Japanese soldiers — with dire consequences. Photo: Cheryl Diaz Meyer

Citation for Excellence:
Emilio Morenatti
The Associated Press
“Covid: Devastation and Death on Spain’s Elderly”