UNICEF Photo of the Year 2016: Award Winner Arez Ghaderi



Each year, UNICEF Germany grants the “UNICEF Photo of the Year Award” to photos and photo series that best depict the personality and living conditions of children worldwide in an outstanding manner. Here are the winner 2016. Text: Peter-Matthias Gaede, UNICEF.


Iran: Defending the right to smile

Smiling against all odds. A brave smile, maybe even a moment of real joy. It is the resilience, the radiance of a girl in an Iranian garbage dump which turns this photo by Arez Ghaderi, a photographer still not well known in the West, into a symbolic image: the “UNICEF Photo of the Year 2016”. An expression of a sometimes desperate hope. The hope that even the worst living conditions cannot fully destroy the vitality of children. 

© Arez Ghaderi (Freelancer)

Iranian freelance photographer Arez Ghaderi met the beaming girl in a camp somewhere in the Razavi Khorasan Province. Baluchi families from the border region near Pakistan and Afghanistan migrated here in search of a new life. While the adults look for work in the nearby villages, the children stray through plastic mountains looking for things that could still be useful. They take care of their little siblings and their families’ animals. And they play. No – poverty cannot make people happy. Nowhere. But the photo taken by Arez Ghaderi reveals a fundamental children’s right: the right to sometimes simply be carefree no matter what.

Over the last 25 years, the country of Iran has managed to reduce child mortality from 54 to 16 deaths per thousand births. In the same period, Iran’s literacy rate has increased from 54 to 85 percent. As in other emerging countries, however, many children here have an extremely harsh childhood.

Curriculum Vitae: Arez Ghaderi (Freelancer)

UNICEF Foto des Jahres: Arez Ghaderi

© Arez Ghaderi (Freelancer)

My name is Arez Ghaderi and I am born on July 31th, 1987 in Sanandaj, Iran.
I started my professional job as a photojournalist in 2003. I had three personal and more than 30 group exhibitions in photo galleries in Iran and further countries.

I am a member of the Society of Iranian Photographers and used to work as a photojournalist at Iran News Agency. It has been two years I am teaching photography at Sanandaj art centers and other institutions.


Winner of Portugal Tranversalidades in the cultural section, 2016.
Winner of honorary medal in the 9th International Emirates Photo Competition, 2015.
Winner of the 35th Nikon Photo Contest, 2015.
Winner of the gold medal in the 9th International Biennial Exhibition of Child Photography Poland 2014.
Winner of honorary medal in Slavonia International Mask Photo Contest 2012.
Winner of the 17th International Youth Photography Contest Iran 2010.
Winner of gold medal from PSA Norouz Tajikistan 2016.
Winner of 14 awards in national photo festivals.


Greece: The hour of enchantment | © Ali Nouraldin (laif)

2nd Prize: Ali Nouraldin

The hour of enchantment: Ali Nouraldin, born in Gaza, shows an improvised open-air cinema entertaining the refugee children in Idomeni. Read more

Syria: The children who must endure | © Mohamad Badra (epa)

3rd Prize: Mohammed Badra

The children who must endure: Mohammed Badra, born in Syria, had to witness the war first-hand. He became engaged in the psychological support of victims. Read more

Lebanon: Mohammed loves to swim | © Laura Boushnak (Freelance Photographer, Rawiya Collective)

Honorable Mentions

In addition to the winning photo series, the independent jury also awarded seven honorable mentions. The stories show children from many different countries all over the world. Honorable Mentions

UNICEF-Photo of the Year


Renowned photographers from all over the world take part in the contest. An independent jury decides upon the winner.

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Defending the right to smile. UNICEF awards the first prize of the “UNICEF Photo of the Year 2016” contest to Iranian photographer Arez Ghaderi.

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