UNICEF Photo of the Year Winner Muhammed Muheisen

UNICEF Photo of the Year 2017

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 2017. Text: Peter-Matthias Gaede, UNICEF.

Muhammed Muheisen

Syria: The face of a tormented childhood

Zahra’s face. The face of a five-year-old Syrian girl in a refugee camp in Jordan. In 2015, Zahra’s parents fled the war in Syria with her and seven other children. They have lived in a tent ever since. Her father, who used to work as a taxi driver and farmer, is looking for work on the fields of the Jordan Valley; his children have no chance of attending school. Zahra was far from the first refugee child photographer Muhammed Muheisen, born in 1981 in Jerusalem, had met.

Syria: The face of a tormented childhood. © Muhammed Muheisen/AP/dpa

Syria: The face of a tormented childhood by Muhammed Muheisen, AP/dpa

© Muhammed Muheisen/AP/dpa

The humanitarian tragedies in the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan are something the renowned photographer, who had worked many years for AP, knows all too well. But for him, Zahra’s face and her eyes, in particular, were symbolic for the fate of hundreds of thousands of girls and boys: the quiet sadness of the most innocent victims of war, displacement and exile. Having experienced an unspeakable amount of violence, these children initially have nothing else to cope with it than helplessness and disbelief. The face of a childhood lost forever.

Curriculum Vitae: Muhammed Muheisen

UNICEF Foto des Jahres: Muhammed Muheisen
© Muhammed Muheisen

Muhammed Muheisen is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist. He has been documenting the refugee crisis around the world for over a decade, he is a National Geographic Photographer and the founder of Everyday Refugees Foundation.

Muheisen was born in Jerusalem in 1981, graduated with a B.A. degree in journalism and political science. As the former Associated Press Chief Photographer for the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan he covered conflicts across the region as well documented major events in Europe, Asia, Africa and the U.S. He spent four years in Pakistan as AP’s Chief Photographer for the region, and for the last several years has been documenting the refugee crisis across Europe. Most recently his work has focused on the issue of stranded unaccompanied refugee minors for National Geographic Magazine.

Muhammed has covered major events in the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the funeral of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, the US led -war in Iraq, including the capture of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, the Yemeni revolution, the Syrian civil war as well as events in Saudi Arabia, China, Afghanistan, Egypt, Jordan, France, The Netherlands, Serbia, South Africa including the funeral procession of Nelson Mandela.

His work has received numerous international awards, including:

Picture of the Year in 2007’s POYI, in 2014 the Oliver S. Gramling Award for journalism, and the same year he was named TIME Magazine’s Best Wire Photographer. Muheisen also won multiple prizes in: the APME News Photos Award, the John L. Dougherty Award, Asia Media Awards, National Headliner Awards, the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar, Festival Du Scoop, China International Press Photo Contest, NPPA Best of Photojournalism, Sigma Delta Chi Awards, Xposure International Photography Festival Award and the MCF Engaged Journalist Award. As well, he was a participant of 2012 World Press Photo Joop Swart Master Class.

Muheisen served as a jury member in the 2016 Picture of the Year International, the 2015 World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass and the 2013 Visa D’Or for Visa pour L’image and the 2017 LensCulture Emerging Talent Awards.

He is a member of the Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Award advisory committee at the International Women Media Foundation, the founder and Chairman of Everyday Refugees Foundation and a member of the nominating committee selecting the participants for the World Press Photo Joop Swart Master Class.

Among other exhibitions, a collection from a decade of his work about life in a war was exhibited in the French photo festival Visa pour L’Image in Perpignan, France. His work about refugees was exhibited at Festival des Libertes in Brussels, Belgium and work about the displaced people was shown at THE FENCE in Brooklyn, Atlanta, Boston and Houston, USA. Most recently a selection of his work was exhibited at Xposure International Photography Festival in Sharjah, UAE.

Interview with 2017's award winner Muhammed Muheisen

Katharina Kesper from UNICEF Germany met two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Muhammed Muheisen shortly before Christmas at the official award ceremony in Berlin and asked him a few questions about his work and about Zahra.

» Read more about the story behind the UNICEF Photo of the Year