Russian photographer Sergey Ponomarev has won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for news photography for a series of pictures on the refugee crisis for The New York Times.
The award makes Ponomarev the second Russian photographer to win the Pulitzer Prize in recent decades after Alexander Zemlianichenko.
The name Ponomarev might sound familiar, as he was one of the photojournalists who participated in the 2015 World Press Photo exhibition at London’s Southbank Centre. With his series on the conflict in Gaza, he had been awarded 3rd prize story in the General News category of the competition. In his series, he had photographed nine different aspects of how the conflict is affecting civilians.
He won this year’s Pulitzer “for photographs that captured the resolve of refugees, the perils of their journeys and the struggle of host countries to take them in”.
Ponomarev has always covered conflicts and humanitarian crisis, he covered attacks in Russia, the Israel-Hezbollah war as well as the Arab springs in Egypt, Bahrain and Libya.
He was already nominated last year as a finalist for the Breaking News Photography category of the Pulitzer Prize for “capturing key moments in the human struggle in Gaza and providing a fresh take on a long, bloody conflict”.
War being at the forefront of Ponomarev’s work, it is without surprise that his series for the WPP is about the on-going Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The first image of his series presented at the WPP shows two brothers mourning their father, killed during the bombardment of the town of Khan Yunis, in southern Gaza.
Although his composition is carefully thought, Ponomarev said, in an interview for Vice, that he would never stage an image: “I would never ask a person to pose or move in a certain way. I think the presence of a photographer irreparably interferes in the situation, it is already more than enough,” he said to Vice.
When comparing his series for both the WPP and the Pulitzer to the rest of his work, it becomes clear that his interests lie in human emotion. Whether it is in Russia, Syria or Gaza, Ponomarev captures portraits of those in critical situations reflecting deeper social issues on the 21st century.
In brief, the work he presented for the Pulitzer Prize resembles in technique, form, and content what he has done in the past, showing how Ponomarev was able to create his own defining style of war photography.