National Press Club

AFP presents Pulitizer-winning photo to Club

July 12, 2013 | By David Barnisin and Monica Link | dcbarnisin@email.wm.edu, mrl@udel.edu

Mladen Antonov of Agence France-Press presents Javier Manzano's Pulitzer-winning photograph of fighters in the Syrian conflict to National Press Club President Angela Greiling Keane at a July 10 meeting of the Photography Committee.

Mladen Antonov of Agence France-Press presents Javier Manzano's Pulitzer-winning photograph of fighters in the Syrian conflict to National Press Club President Angela Greiling Keane at a July 10 meeting of the Photography Committee.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

Mladen Antonov, director of photography for Agence France-Presse North America, presented to the National Press Club on July 10 the 2013 Pulitzer Prize winning photograph taken by Javier Manzano, an AFP freelancer.

During a lunch meeting with members of the Club's Photo Committee, Antonov gave the shot to Club President Angela Greiling Keane. It will hang with other Pulitzer photos that adorn the Club’s halls.

The image is a shot of Syrian opposition fighters surveying the surrounding area from the dusty quarters of their sniping hideout. The photograph features the profile of two fighters in a dark room, pierced with beams of light through a shrapnel-riddled wall.

Initially criticized as “staged” due to the rifle's safety being in the "on" position, the photo proved to be genuine because the original caption states that the experienced soldiers were not attempting to fire. Instead, they were surveying the surrounding area.

At the time of the shot, Manzano was shoulder-to-shoulder with a fellow Spanish photographer, who won third place in the prestigious Picture of the Year contest for his shot.

The photographers used different exposures and angles, which created two stunning but completely different images. The Pulitzer-Prize-winning photo was taken on the second day of Manzano’s assignment and depicts a tense moment in war.

During his meeting with the Photo Committee, Antonov, who has covered conflicts in Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Kosovo, discussed the logistics and financial needs of freelance war photography.

The AFP, founded in 1835, is one of the three major wire services, along with the Associated Press and Reuters. Consisting of 200 bureaus with about 2,500 journalists in 189 countries, it handles more than 3,000 photos daily produced by about 300 staff photographers and many freelancers.

Freelancers are playing an important role in war coverage, according to Antonov. As many as 80 percent of photographers in Syria are freelance. The AFP coverage from Syria during 2012 included more than 3,100 images shot by freelancers and 2,400 images captured by staff photographers.

The AFP uses freelancers not to save money or due to a lack staff volunteering but to achieve a greater diversity of general production, Antonov said.

First aid is an invaluable skill for freelance photographers, so that they can save colleagues' lives in the field, Antonov said. Equally important is for freelancers to have someone to come home to and support them when they return from war.

AFP helps freelancers obtain insurance, provides bulletproof vests and helmets to regular stringers and offers hostile-environment training. AFP will only work with freelancers who have insurance, which can be purchased for about $12 per day.

Recently, AFP organized a training course for Syrian stringers in Turkey not far from the border between the countries.

In the midst of civil strife, AFP makes safety a priority for its freelancers. The agency has passed up shots of alleged chemical weapon attacks in Syria because the risks the freelancer took to capture the images violated company security standards.

Cultivating a relationship with freelancers is a important for AFP, according to Antonov. The agency tries to demonstrate that it cares more about their lives than it does award-winning photography.