UNICEF Photo of the Year Winner Angelos Tzortzinis


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 2020. Text: Peter-Matthias Gaede, UNICEF.


Lesbos, Greece: The flames of misery

Lesbos, Greece: The flames of misery 

© Angelos Tzortzinis, Greece (AFP) 

It was a catastrophe within a catastrophe: On September 9, 2020, the refugee camp Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos burned to the ground leaving 13,000 people, including 4,000 children, without shelter. They had fled the war in Syria, the violence in Afghanistan, the fear in Iraq. They endured appalling living conditions, many of them for years. The camp was hopelessly overcrowded, diseases ran rampant, food and clean water were regularly in short supply. And then came the flames. With the fire rapidly spreading, the only option left for the refugees was to grab whatever they can and run. 

Among the many pictures of this inferno, the most impressive images of the children’s suffering were taken by Greek photographer Angelos Tzortzinis. Images of children with breathing masks, walking hand in hand through clouds of smoke. Images of moments of shock and collapse, of horror and crying. 

And the photo that shows escape and bravery, disbelief and the readiness to help others in dire need, all in one single image. The strength of a young boy saving an even younger one. The young savior’s eyes full of hope that another, better life may come. According to UN estimates, there are currently around 79.5 million refugees worldwide, including approx. 32 million children and young people. 

Photographer: Angelos Tzortzinis, Greece (AFP)  

Portrait: Angelos Tzortzinis

© Vasso Balou

Born in Athens, Angelos Tzortzinis studied at the Leica Academy of Creative Photography and since then has worked mainly as a freelance photographer. He reported from Georgia and on the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, the ‘Arab Spring’ in Cairo and the war in Libya. His biggest concern, however, is the situation of the refugees in his home country. 

Tzortzinis has been published in, among others, the ‘New York Times’, ‘Herald Tribune’, ‘Time’ and ‘Newsweek’ and received awards in Greece and various other countries. However, he says he does not like being interviewed. He believes that the personality of a photographer is best expressed through his pictures.

This year's winner Angelos Tzortzinis talks about his winning photo