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AFP photographer wins agency’s first Pulitzer

AFP: Agence France-Presse has won its first Pulitzer Prize, with Afghan photographer Massoud Hossaini scooping up the honour in breaking news photography.

Hossaini, 30, was awarded the most prestigious US journalism prize for his “heartbreaking image of a girl crying in fear after a suicide bomber’s attack at a crowded shrine in Kabul,” the Pulitzer committee said Monday.

Hossaini’s picture of an Afghan girl standing among a pile of dead bodies captured the devastation in the immediate aftermath of the attack on a Shiite shrine and was published in newspapers and on websites around the world.

Tarana (R), 11, cries while surrounded by the bodies of men, women and children who died after a suicide bomber detonated a bomb during a religious ceremony in Kabul in 2011. (AFP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)
Tarana (R), 11, cries while surrounded by the bodies of men, women and children who died after a suicide bomber detonated a bomb during a religious ceremony in Kabul in 2011. (AFP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)

Hossaini — who joined AFP in 2007 — was just meters (yards) away when the bomb went off on December 6, 2011, killing at least 70 people.

AFP chief executive Emmanuel Hoog congratulated Hossaini on winning AFP’s first Pulitzer.

“The Pulitzer Prize committee has honoured one of our bravest and best photo-journalists, Massoud Hossaini, and the award is recognition of AFP’s insistence on quality and commitment across the range of journalistic pursuits,” Hoog said. “Bravo and congratulations to Massoud.

“Today, in the news arena, words without images are impoverished and pictures without text are not enough,” he said. “The two complement each other and images — fixed or moving — are essential to the journalism of the 21st century.”

Hossaini, who is based in Kabul, said Tuesday he was “shocked and happy” to receive the news.

“This is not just about winning an award because I know I have become a voice for the Afghan people and those who lost their lives in the suicide attacks and for all victims of the war,” he said.

The image brings back such painful memories that he now avoids it, he said.

“I don’t look at it any more because my heart beats faster and it brings back the emotions of that day.”

“I know that whoever sees this photo will think about the photographer but I hope they don’t forget the pain Afghanistan’s people have in their life.”

Hossaini has already picked up first prize in the spot news section of the Pictures of the Year International competition and second prize in the spot news category of the World Press Photo awards.

In an interview with AFP conducted after his picture appeared on newspaper front-pages around the world, Hossaini described what happened that day.

“I was just looking at my camera when suddenly there was a big explosion,” he said. “For a moment I didn’t know anything, I just felt the wave of the explosion as a pain inside my body. I fell down on the ground.

“I saw everybody running away from the smoke. I sat up and saw my hand was bleeding but I didn’t feel any pain,” he said.

“It’s my job to know what is going on so I ran in the opposite direction to everybody else,” Hossaini continued. “When the smoke went away I saw I was standing in the centre of a circle of dead bodies.

“They were all together on top of each other. I was standing exactly where the suicide attacker had been.”

Hossaini said he was in “shock” and initially “didn’t know what to do.

“I just started clicking,” he said. “I know that I was crying. It was really weird crying, I’ve never reacted like that before.

“I didn’t help anybody, because I couldn’t, I was really in shock,” he said. “I knew I should cover this, record everything, all the pain, the people running, crying, shouting, beating their chests, shouting: ‘Death to Al-Qaeda, death to the Taliban!'”

 

AFP photographer Massoud Hossaini is seen in Kabul in 2011. He won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for his wrenching photo of a girl crying in the aftermath of a suicide bombing. (AFP Photo/Farzana Wahidy)
AFP photographer Massoud Hossaini is seen in Kabul in 2011. He won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for his wrenching photo of a girl crying in the aftermath of a suicide bombing. (AFP Photo/Farzana Wahidy)

Hossaini said he turned to the right and saw the girl, Tarana, who is now aged 11.

“When Tarana saw what had happened to her brother, her cousins, uncles, mother, grandmother, the people around her, she was just shouting,” he said.

“She did a lot of things, but if you see my pictures she was just shouting. This shocked reaction was the main thing I wanted to capture,” he said.

Published Date: Monday, April 16th, 2012 | 10:26 PM

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