Image of child who survived catastrophic earthquake in Haiti wins Czech Press Photo

Vítězný snímek s názvem Dívka hospitalizovaná v nemocnici se zraněným okem a tváří při zemětřesení

The winners of this year’s Czech Press Photo – a competition recognising the very best in Czech and Slovak photography – were announced on Monday. This year the prestigious main prize, known as the Crystal Eye, was awarded to freelance photographer Martin Bandžák; the international jury chose as the winning entry his portrait of an injured girl in hospital, a survivor of the devastating earthquake which hit Haiti this year.

Photo: Martin Bandžák
A little earlier I spoke to Martin Bandžák and asked him for background on the B&W photo:

“I came to Haiti with a medical team from the humanitarian organisation Magna Children at Risk and was one of the members of the team. I spent about three weeks in the country but was not there immediately after the earthquake – it was about two or three weeks after. I found this little girl in a community hospital in Port-au-Prince; it hadn’t been completely destroyed but there was a huge amount of chaos in the hospital.

“Still, operations were being conducted - and this little girl was in a back room. She was just staring at the wall without any emotion or movement in her face. I sat across from her. She said nothing, she wasn’t talking or moving at all; she had probably lost her parents and wasn’t saying anything. That was when I took the picture.”

Martin Bandžák,  photo: CTK
The jury members indicated that for them this picture largely symbolises the tragedy in Haiti as a whole. Is it a symbol for you as well?

“Yes, absolutely. This was the kind of image that I tried to find. It is about the innocent and I was looking for an iconic image.”

Many would comment that it also captures the terrible unfairness of the situation...

“Exactly. And the situation persists even after eight months. I’m going back soon and the situation still remains unresolved. It is totally unfair, especially for children, many who suffered amputation. It is a continuing problem and the catastrophe still has to be tackled and discussed from a humanitarian perspective.”

Does the little girl in the photo remain anonymous to you?

“In this situation there was no chance of asking her anything. There was no chance: all I know is that she was about 10 or 11 years old.”

And as you mentioned soon you’ll be going back...

“I’m going back to see how people are surviving in the camps. From the news we know that there is a great amount of violence fuelled by gangs and once again it is the innocent who come last and no one cares.”