Filipino Photojournalist wins 5th Annual FCCT/On Asia Photojournalism Award on Environmental Issues

Associated Press photographer and PCP officer Aaron Favila wins the top prize of the 5th Annual Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand and On Asia Photojournalism Award - Special Category on Environmental Issues. PCP congratulates Aaron Favila for this impressive feat.

FIFTH-ANNUAL FCCT / ONASIA PHOTOJOURNALISM CONTEST PRESS RELEASE BANGKOK - The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT) and OnAsia, the region's leading stock photography and assignment agency, announced the winners of this year's FCCT/OnAsia Photojournalism Contest.

Some 316 photographers submitted more than 5,500 images from across the region. Judges selected winners in four categories: Spot News, Feature Photography, Environmental Issues (a special category sponsored by the Delegation of the European Union to Thailand) and Photo Essay. In addition, the judges selected a Photographer of the Year, the contest's top prize.

This year's winners are:
Photographer of the Year:
Athit Perawongmetha

Spot News
First Place: Salil Bera (West Bengal leopard attack)
Honorable Mention: Altaf Qadri (Kashmiri intifada)

Feature Photography
First Place: Graham Crouch (artificial limb therapy in Kabul)
Honorable Mention: Muhammed Muheisen (day laborers in Pakistan)
Honorable Mention: Edwin Koo (Pakistan's Swat Valley)

Environmental Issues
First Place: Aaron Favila (Philippines typhoon)
Honorable Mention: Jashim Salam (Bangladesh tidal surges)
Honorable Mention: Erik Messori (Indian coal mining)

Photo Essay
First Place: Diego Verges Requejo (Indonesian "Ludruk" theater)

The FCCT/OnAsia photo contest has solidified its position as one of the most important photo contests in Asia since its inception in 2007. The quality and range of the photographs submitted each year continues to grow, underscoring how Asia's photographers remain committed to reporting difficult and important stories despite economic pressures in the international media industry that are making it harder for photojournalists to earn a sufficient working wage.

The judges expressed special commendation for the work of Athit Perawongmetha, a photojournalist based in Bangkok, who won the year's coveted Photographer of the Year award. Since starting out in photography as a hobby in the late 1990s, Mr. Athit has emerged as one of the most prominent and celebrated shooters in Bangkok's busy photojournalism scene. His dramatic images of Thailand's Red Shirt protests in 2010 - including one that won First Place in the Spot News category of the 2010 FCCT/OnAsia Photojournalism Contest - garnered international attention and propelled his work to another level. In 2011, he covered several of the region's biggest news stories, including the devastating tsunami in Japan and Thailand's mid-year elections. The result was a body of work that impressed the judges for its breadth, diligence and bravery, including a series of haunting images shot within the 20-kilometer "exclusion zone" around Japan's Fukushima-Daichi nuclear power plant. All his images showed the careful attention to detail and sensitivity to human suffering that were evident in his widely-recognized work from the 2010 Red Shirt protests, and further established Mr. Athit as one of Asia's top photographers.

The judges were also highly pleased with the submissions for the Delegation of the European Union to Thailand's Environmental Issues category, a special category established this year focusing on the environment in Asia, including issues important to the European Union such as natural resources and waste; climate change; nature and biodiversity; and the environment and public health. The EU sponsored a similar special category in 2010 focusing on human rights that chronicled abuses in Cambodia, Myanmar and elsewhere.

Judges were especially impressed with the prize's top winner, Aaron Favila, whose winning image captured the devastating impact of natural disasters whose increasing frequency in recent years is widely linked to climate change. The dramatic image showed a man hanging on to what remains of his home on stilts as he tries to recover his belongings after powerful Typhoon Nesat wiped out homes along a coastal village north of Manila in September 2011.

Other photographers recognized in the category documented the challenges posed by tidal surges in coastal areas of Bangladesh affected by climate change, and the growing toll of coal mining in Asia, which is shortening the lives of mine workers while releasing more carbon monoxide into the air."The European Union is proud to associate itself with this prize," said Ambassador David Lipman, Head of the EU's Bangkok-based Delegation to Thailand, Laos and Myanmar.

"These pictures tell stories of the interaction between human behaviour and the world we live in. They illustrate the causes of environmental degradation as well as its consequences. Looking at Aaron Favila's photos of people trying to hold on to their possessions in the face of the devastating forces of nature, it is hard to avoid thinking of the floods that struck Thailand last year. The European Union is a leader in the fight against climate change and the global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through improving energy efficiency and increasing the use of clean technologies. These images remind us why this is such an important undertaking."

"For the fifth year in a row, we are awed by dedication, skill and imagination of photographers working in Asia despite the massive challenges they face," added Patrick Barta, an FCCT board member and an organizer of the event. "We are very proud to celebrate their work, and hope that by promoting the best photographs in Asia, we can do our part to help protect photojournalism for the years ahead."

Winners in the spot news, feature photography and photo essay categories won $1,000 cash and 1 round-trip ticket for economy-class air travel in Asia, courtesy of Star Alliance, the global airline network whose members include Thai Airways and other carriers. The winner in the environmental issues category won $2,000 cash, courtesy of the Delegation of the European Union to Thailand. The Photographer of the Year won a $3,000 cash prize and round-trip ticket for economy-class air travel in Asia.