Shereen Rafea | Website Editor
This year the winning photograph of the World Press Photo exhibit is of an 18-year-old Afghan girl named Bibi Ayesha. The picture, taken by South African photojournalist Jodi Bieber had been published last year on the cover of Time magazine. Ayesha, under the ruling of the Taliban, had her nose and ears slashed off after running away from her husband. Her portrait caused controversy over its graphic content.
“ The picture struck the jury at a very early stage, ” said Stephen Mayes, a jury secretary for World Press, at a lecture in Dawson College on Tuesday, Sept.13 . “It was a very extraordinary experience,” he added.
Despite the criticism she received over the photo, Bieber firmly believes in the message of the portrait. “ Women from Afghanistan have thanked me for putting this photo out,” she said, during the same lecture.
“ I think that woman who have been abused in the world can relate to it,” added Bieber, “and that’s whats it’s really about, it’s about violence against women.”
She spoke along with Mayes on the issue of women in photojournalism.
Bieber had been on an assignment in Afghanistan for Time magazine in 2010, and had photographed Ayesha in a woman’s shelter. She says that she noticed Ayesha’s beauty, and had her translator ask Ayesha if she could forget what happened to her for one minute. Instead she wanted Ayesha to think about her inner beauty and power. Ayesha understood right away and Bieber took the photo
“ It almost selected itself, ” said Mayes.
During her assignment Bieber photographed women in a hospital who tried to kill themselves because they were unhappy in their household. She also photographed Afghan politicians, a child bride, and women in Jail. Some women, says Bieber were in Jail because they ran away from their husband.
Her work tries to bring out the natural beauty in her subjects, not matter what their situation is. Bieber’s other projects also involve women and their inner power. She mentions the work of other photographers, and the pictures that were taken of raped women in the Congo.
Bieber and other photographers document women who have been violated. Unfortunately, she says, the situation doesn’t change much after the photograph has been taken.
“ It’s terrible what happens to many many women around the world, ” said Bieber,“ but the only power I have is my photographic power.”