04 The Olivier Rebbot Award 2020

Best photographic news reporting from abroad published in any medium

AWARD DATE: 2020

AWARD NAME: The Olivier Rebbot Award 2020

AWARD RECIPIENT: Nanna Heitmann

AWARD RECIPIENT AFFILIATION: National Geographic

AWARD HONORED WORK: “COVID Russia”

AWARD SPONSOR:

One of the many challenges for photographers in 2020 was how to capture the seismic shifts all around us, and the profound fear and loss that accompanied them, from a distance, with faces covered, through layers of plastic and hazmat suits. Heitmann’s stunning photographs documented the ravages and contradictions of the pandemic in Russia with a powerful but sensitive visual voice, pairing images of crowded churches, with portraits of isolated elderly, and mournful, surreal scenes of hospitals battling the virus. The gentle, intimate approach to the painful subject matter was a testament to the way that a light touch can produce a resounding impact.


  1. Inside one of the churches of Tver, a centuries-old city on the banks of the Volga River, worshippers gather for overnight services celebrating Orthodox Easter, Russia’s most important religious holiday. Easter is normally the occasion for outdoor processions and group singing but this year’s services were cancelled in some places, and in others modified by distancing and mask orders—which were not universally followed. Photo: Nanna Heitmann

  1. Inside a tented meal kitchen set up by an Orthodox church charity, homeless and other needy people line up to register for food and drink. Workers at the organization, whose Russian name translates to “Mercy,” say that numbers at this tent—one of many such service projects—have tripled since the onset of the pandemic. Photo: Nanna Heitmann

Faithful, masked, and un-distanced, Orthodox worshippers gather for procession and prayer outside a church in Tver, two hours from Moscow. Russian Orthodox religious leaders feuded openly this spring over orders to follow pandemic safety measures, with some pastors arguing—as they have in the U.S. and elsewhere—that guided group worship must take precedence over quarantine orders. Photo: Nanna Heitmann

A deeply Russian collage of hardship, history, and faith: one corner of a Moscow food kitchen tent run by the Orthodox service organization called Mercy. The man in military uniform is Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich Romanov, founder of the Martha-Mariinksy monastery. Photo: Nanna Heitmann

A young patient, newly admitted and suffering from grave lung problems, is sedated and intubated in the COVID wards of Moscow’s Hospital No. 52. Photo: Nanna Heitmann

Inside Moscow's Hospital No. 52, a patient recovering from COVID-19 breathes in the oxygen that is helping him try to return to health. Photo: Nanna Heitmann

A Moscow intensive care patient lies prone, a position researchers say can improve oxygenation for patients in acute respiratory distress. Photo: Nanna Heitmann

On the day of this year’s subdued public events for Victory Day, hazmat-suited medical workers arranged tributes for veterans and their family members under treatment at Moscow’s Hospital No. 52. One doctor stripped his gloves off to play his guitar and walked from room to room, serenading patients and moving many of the elderly to tears. Photo: Nanna Heitmann

Nurse Margarita Sokolova, after working the so-called Red Zone—the most potentially contaminated areas of the hospital—for 24 hours straight. Photo: Nanna Heitmann

An indoor swimming pool was emptied and repurposed as an employees’ dining area at Moscow’s Hospital No. 15, a city medical facility that was converted into a COVID-19 specialty hospital. Photo: Nanna Heitmann

On Victory Day, a patient at Moscow’s Hospital No. 52 holds an honorary bouquet close to her heart. Photo: Nanna Heitmann

Sister Natalia Georgivna, a helper from the Russian charity called Mercy, brings daylight into the flat of Ludmilla Alexandrovna. The visiting nun looks after the elderly, lonely, and sick; she comes to Alexandrovna's home three times a week, and says her caseload increased significantly as the pandemic intensified. Photo: Nanna Heitmann

Citation for Excellence:
Chris McGrath
Getty Images
“In the Aftermath of the Blast”