UNICEF Photo of the Year Winner Hartmut Schwarzbach


Each year, UNICEF Germany has awarded 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 winners 2019. Text: Peter-Matthias Gaede, UNICEF.


Philippines: Garbage, the Children and Death

UNICEF Picture of the Year: Garbage, the Children and Death 

© Hartmut Schwarzbach, Germany (Argus Photo Agency) 

Only the rats like it here. The harbor of Manila’s Tondo district: here, the children make a living by fishing plastic bottles out of the bay’s polluted water and selling them to recyclers. With a bit of luck, they can earn 50 Philippine pesos a day, about 90 euro cents. 

Although child labor is officially prohibited in the Philippines, this law is mostly ignored in the country’s largest slum here in Tondo. A place where 70,000 people live in just one square kilometer. Their shacks are made from corrugated iron, cardboard or waste wood and they have neither electricity nor drinking water. With Dengue fever, diarrhea, Leptospirosis and skin diseases running rampant, malnutrition widespread and life expectancy low, children also have to help earn a bit of money for their families. 

Girls like 13-year old Wenie Mahiya, seen in the picture, but also children as young as 10 or even 7. Sometimes they paddle across the filthy water of the bay on bamboo rafts or refrigerator doors, a particularly dangerous undertaking during typhoon season. But people here also die, as German photographer Hartmut Schwarzbach learned, from food poisoning. Grinding poverty, child labor and oceans overflowing with garbage: In his haunting photos of Tondo, Schwarzbach portrays the convergence of three different disasters.

Curriculum Vitae: Hartmut Schwarzbach, Germany (Argus Photo Agency)    

Portrait: Hartmut Schwarzbach

© Hartmut Schwarzbach

Hartmut Schwarzbach, born in 1956 in Elmshorn, studied photo design and photojournalism at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Dortmund. For almost 20 years now, the living conditions of children in Asia and Africa have been his main focus as a photographer and documentary filmmaker.

Schwarzbach has worked for a variety of aid organizations and his material has been published, for example, in German news magazines Spiegel, Stern and Focus. He has won numerous awards in international competitions including twice at UNICEF Photo of the Year, where Schwarzbach has been awarded First Prize this year.