The Luis Valtueña International Award Humanitarian photography does not focus on the images that have illustrated the news of the year. Its focus is precisely on what is out of focus. The winning work of 2020, Older Solitudes, from Santi Palacios (Madrid, 35 years old) found one of those forgotten issues while recording the news. Their access for months to Catalan nursing homes in the middle of the first wave of the coronavirus deepens a structural problem, that of neglect of our elders. It is news that should have been news before.
Calcografia Nacional, at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando in Madrid, exhibits for free until April 18 the photographic series that Palacios gave to the contest organized by the NGO Doctors of the World, in honor of the photojournalist who gives name to the award and three other colleagues of the association who were assassinated in Bosnia-Herzegovina (1995) and Rwanda (1997) while carrying out international cooperation work.
Image Gallery: Luis Valtueña International Photography Award 2020
In the days before the start of the State of Alarm in March 2020, the photojournalist was traveling the world. He had decided to stay in Barcelona due to mobility restrictions and the health risk, but the natural impulse to record what was happening on camera brought him face to face with a ghost town, as was Madrid and the rest of Spain. At first, he could only portray empty streets. “What is very serious is that after wandering through those streets, trying to enter the places without being able to because they did not give access, he put the news when he got home and saw a colleague in front of a hospital, in a clean street where there was no nothing happened, telling how disastrous the situation was without the viewer being able to see it in images. And, although the coronavirus had left us all out of the game, I did not even see that in those first days there was a debate about this lack of access to information, “he recalls by phone.
Palacios managed to enter senior centers, mostly privately run, through the Open Arms organization, which loaned its volunteers to carry out massive tests in them. What he found was two different levels of loneliness. “On the one hand, the one imposed in a timely manner by the confinement. On the other, the permanent one, the one faced by these older people even when there are no mobility restrictions, which is the one that impacted me the most ”. Portraying a concept as complex as this one was made especially complicated by the limited time she had on her visits accompanying the NGO and her decision not to show faces in her images. “I tried to capture subtle moments, paying attention to details and representing a certain universality. Most of the days I went without any images, “he recalls.
Other finalist looks
An independent jury to Doctors of the World, made up of photography professionals such as Arianna Rinaldo (Italy), Emilio Morenatti (Spain), Federico Ríos (Colombia), Gorka Lejarcegi (Spain) and Silvia Omedes (Spain), among others, have selected to the winner and finalists of this edition, whose works can now be seen in the Madrid exhibition.
Older Solitudes It also reflects the unprecedented challenge that Doctors of the World Spain has faced in 2020. “We have headquarters in 14 autonomies, but the NGO had never worked on a health emergency of this caliber within the country, so all the experience gathered in projects in other parts of the world it has had to be put into practice within our own borders ”, points out Eliett Cabezas, spokesperson for the organization and curator of the exhibition.
They were finalists of the award, and their works can be seen in Madrid these days, the Italian Nicoló Filippo Rosso, for his black and white series Exodus on Venezuelan migration; Nigerian Ebeke Obanor with the project Heroines, with which she tells the story of a group of girls who survived the kidnapping of Boko Haram and the Chilean Luis Sergio with Eyes, composed of portraits of a group of protesters who lost their vision in recent protests against the government of their country. A Special Mention from the jury is dedicated to Sergei Stroitelev, who in I’m not afraid anymore? show russian women who have survived or are still fighting breast cancer.
All of them are recurring themes for these awards: the reality of migration and inequality in the world in matters of education, security and health. “Let’s not forget that if vaccines do not reach developing countries, the problem of covid-19 will not be solved,” says Cabezas.
This year, the 6,000 euros of the prize endowment, which is added to a Leica Q2 camera, is given directly to the winner instead of being linked to the production of a new photographic series as was the case in previous editions. It is a way of supporting “an increasingly precarious group, without a means or an agency behind it to carry out its work properly. They are professionals very committed to their work, who play the game and do not get rich doing publicity photography or selling works in art galleries ”, defends the NGO spokesperson.
INFORMATION: When: until April 18. Schedule: Tuesday to Friday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Weekends and holidays, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Where: National Calcography of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando. Calle Alcalá 13, Madrid. Price: Free.