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Newports Frontline Photographer Wins Top Guardian Award plus 5000 - Legendary photographer David Bailey has heaped praise on a photograph by a graduate of the University of Wales, Newport which has scooped first prize in a prestigious competition run by the Guardian Weekend magazine.
Its like the classic portrait of Che Guevara. This picture is like a film script, said Bailey about Anastasia Taylor-Linds portrait of a Peshmerga woman soldier fighting on the front line in Iraq. You wonder what shes thinking? Did she kill someone? Or was she killed ten minutes later?
Bailey was one of the judges who selected Anastasia's photograph to be top in the portraiture section and overall winner of the competition which attracted nearly 9000 entries from all over the UK. In addition to having her work published in this Saturdays (April 8th) edition of Guardian weekend magazine, Anastasia wins 5000, a commission from the magazine and a computer.
This is another triumph for Anastasia who last year was the only UK photography student to be selected by World Press Photo to have an all expenses paid trip to Vietnam to take part in masterclasses from some of the worlds top photo-journalists. The photos she took there are in an exhibition that is now touring the world.
Im absolutely thrilled to have won this Guardian competition which attracted thousands of entries, said 24-year-old Anastasia who took the award-winning photo when she was in the final year of her documentary photography degree course at Newport School of Art Media and Design. She travelled to northern Iraq to record the lives of a small band of Kurdish guerrilla fighters called the Peshmerga Force for Women.
The prize money will be very useful as it will fund another two projects I have planned about women at women at war in the worlds hotspots.
Anastasia is already working on one of these projects she is returning to Iraq where a few months ago she experienced bombs, interrogation and mule rides across desert mountains in the pitch black night while photographing women guerrilla soldiers of the PPK on the Turkish border.
Anastasia, who is now a visiting tutor at Newports University, spent a month documenting the lives of the Kurdish women soldiers, and was able to send home sporadic reports of her adventures via email usually written from a military bunker covered in dry leaves on a laptop run off a car battery.
Her journey into danger began with her heavily disguised as a member of an Iraqi family on a drive from a refugee camp through a series of checkpoints. Five hours later she stopped by a remote road to transfer to a mule that would take her over the mountains in pitch blackness.
It was a proper true life adventure, she wrote at the time. Id no idea where I was or how far we were going, but knew it was going to be the furthest from civilisation I had ever been. Surprisingly, I wasnt afraid, but just excited and so happy that I almost cried, because I felt that I have been waiting all of my life for an adventure like this.
Her adventure nearly turned to tragedy when she was stopped by soldiers on the way home and interrogated about the 500 photos she had hidden in the chassis of the car.
I was convinced I was not only going to lose all my photos but end up in a terrible Turkish prison, she said.
Luckily, she managed to talk her way out of it, and was allowed to return home with the photos which she is now hoping will be published my a major international magazine.
Anastasia is the latest in a long line of students from Newport School of Art Media and Design to win a major photography award. Ivor Prickett scooped the prestigious Tom Webster Photographic Award for his moving photos showing the terrible plight of dozens of displaced Kosovan gypsies in refugee camps on contaminated land. Guy Martin, who was runner-up to Ivor in the Tom Webster award, won the Observer Hodge Student Award 2005 for his project about the huge bottleneck of traffic on the road from Baghdad to Istanbul. This is the third year in a row that a student from Newport has won this award.
Vividly contrasting photographs of the Welsh landscape and a shipyard in China won prizes for documentary photography students Danielle Press and Jon Rowley, awarded by the Welsh Livery Guild.
First class honours graduate Dominic Hawgood was commissioned to take a photographic portrait of the Archbishop of Canterbury which will become a permanent part of the National Museum of Wales collection.