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The Marilyn Stafford FotoReportage Awards

Stuart Fawcett went along to the After Nyne Gallery to see the Olympus sponsored exhibition that celebrates the Marilyn Stafford FotoReportage Awards as well as female documentary photographers from around the world.

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Ozge Sebzeci & Marilyn Stafford

Ozge Sebzeci & Marilyn Stafford


Marilyn Stafford is a legend in the documentary photography world who first photographed Albert Einstein in 1948, then street children in Paris, Algerian refugees in Tunisia, Indira Gandhi and indigenous tribes in India and now, she now champions present-day female documentary photographers such as Ozge Sebzeci who has just won the 2018 Marilyn Stafford FotoReportage Award. 

Marilyn says that a significant hope for the photographs of her documentary photography work is that 'somebody will do something' after seeing the photographs. She also strongly believes that women are underrepresented and underpaid within photography, and so this annual award is intended to showcase and promote the best of female documentary photography.


Child Marriage in Turkey

© Ozge Sebzeci 


The winner of the 2018 Marilyn Stafford FotoReportage Award was Ozge Sebzeci. Ozge is based in Turkey and has seen millions of Syrian refugees come into the country. The young Syrian refugee girls are sometimes left isolated and with few life choice options. As a result, many are marrying someone from their local community or even a relative in exchange for a dowry and this is occurring with girls as young as 15 despite Turkey having a legal marriage age of 18.

With divorce being as simple as saying ‘I divorce you’ three times, some girls are left pregnant and alone. Ozge exhibits many powerful photographs including one of a girl called Mune whose husband left her 3 weeks after the birth of their child. And another Khadija, engaged at 13, married at 14; her 20-year-old husband divorced her as they did not get along.

Ozge has become drawn into this Syrian community of teenage divorcees as a trusted campaigner who can show the bad situations the Syrian refugee community is finding itself in. She hopes to continue to report more on these issues and she is also keen to find new areas of injustice occurring to women and girls where something must be done to expose and address the situation.


Child's party in a pub

© Mary Turner


One of the two runners up is Mary Turner from the UK with her Dispossed series of photographs based around a previously booming coal mining town in the North East of England. Mary’s goal is to live the life of those in her photographic documentary and understand how and why many people fall into dependency on welfare and drugs. She also shows how the love in larger families and sharing good times lifts the community and creates positive hopeful feelings. She shows how people care for each other and how the opportunities available don’t mentally stimulate the needs of the people involved, leaving some to find new, negative challenges and excitement that can spiral into further community depravation.

The question I see from this is 'who could see the potential opportunity in that community beyond just offering manual labour factory jobs?'


school children

© Simona Ghizzoni


The other runner up is Simona Ghizzoni from Italy with her work – UNCUT. Her photo essay is about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and the fight against it in Africa and France (FGM is said to affect 200 million women around the world). With her investigations including Ethiopia and Somalila, she sheds a light on the differing levels of FGM, including child mutilation. Some remove sensory parts of girl’s genitalia while other FGM practices then resew the girls back up so that only urine and menstrual flow can be passed. The girls would also have their legs tied for days while they heal. When these girls become brides, they need re-cutting before intercourse is possible - this is intended to ensure the wives are faithful.

Simona helps the women tell of their feeling of torture, fear for their children and the mental anguish this has on their lives. One particularly strong photograph, for me, is of a tent full of men with two village women holding up pictures of a surgical procedure showing them what can happen to their sisters or wives if they don’t stop this practice that also makes the death rate of women so much higher than men in those communities. 

These 3 finalists truly demonstrate why documentary photography can be so powerful and how female photographers can, and should, be taking on such important and emotive issues. 



The Marilyn Stafford Fotoreportage Award is run in conjunction with the FotoDocument organisation which aims to bring visibility to positive social and environmental initiatives around the world through visual story-telling. They are also showcasing the work of the 27 strong shortlist. The Marilyn Stafford Fotoreportage Award is reserved for documentary photographers working on projects which are intended to make the world a better place and which may be unreported or under-reported. 

Some of these topics may be difficult to stomach, they may choke your throat with feelings, or call you to take action to suggest answers but don’t let that put you off going to this exhibition, or finding out more about the documentary work these women are presenting. There are fine photographs to see on massively important subjects.




The exhibition is on until 30 July 2019 at the After Nyne gallery. Also, look out for the 2019 award submission announcements in September - as Marilyn says 'There are so many stories to tell, and so many people who care.'

Words and pictures, (unless otherwise credited) by Stuart Fawcett (JackallTog)

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29 Jul 2019 12:06PM
Wonderful to see Marilyn's "Marilyn Stafford FotoReportage Awards" - for female documentary photography. So good to see this celebrated! Well done ladies!

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