What's your most innocent photo



Once a year, UNICEF Germany awards the award "UNICEF Photo of the Year" to photos and photo reports that document the personality and living conditions of children around the world in an outstanding way. Here are the 2017 winners. Texts: Peter-Matthias Gaede, UNICEF.


Syria: the face of a battered childhood

© Muhammed Muheisen, Jordan (AP / dpa)

It's Zahra's face. The face of a five-year-old Syrian girl in a refugee camp in Jordan. Zahra's parents fled the war with her and seven other children in 2015. Since then they have lived in a tent. The father, who used to drive a taxi and work on his farm, is looking for work in the fields of the Jordan Valley; School attendance is not possible for his children.

When the photographer Muhammed Muheisen, born in Jerusalem in 1981, met Zahra for the first time, she was by no means the first refugee child he met. The tragedy in the Middle East, also in Pakistan and Afghanistan, is all too familiar to the photographer, who has already received many prestigious awards and who has been on the road for the AP agency for many years.

But in Zahra's face, in her eyes, he saw the fate of hundreds of thousands of girls and boys concentrated: the silent sadness of the most innocent victims of war, loss of home, uprooting. The traces of an experience of violence to which children initially have little else to oppose than powerlessness and bewilderment. The face of a childhood that may have been lost forever.

Biography: 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 the award winner Muhammed Muheisen

UNICEF employee Katharina Kesper met photojournalist and Pulitzer Prize winner Muhammed Muheisen in Berlin shortly before Christmas and asked him questions about his work and his encounters with the five-year-old Syrian girl Zahra.

»To the interview with Muhammed Muheisen


2nd place: K.M. Asad

The Exodus of the Rohingya: Born in Dhaka in 1983 and working for international media, K.M. Asad captured the seemingly peaceful arrival of a Rohingya refugee woman with her child on the beach at Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. Continue reading

3rd place: Kevin Frayer

Nothing but pure despair: the photographer Kevin Frayer witnessed the moment when a crying little boy climbed the truck with the supplies, wrapped around the legs of a helper, then stretched out his hand, sought eye contact with the hoped-for rescuer. Continue reading

Honorable mentions

In addition to the first three places, the independent jury of experts awarded honorable mentions to seven photographers in the UNICEF Photo of the Year. The reports show the life situation of children from different countries around the world. To the photo reports


The internationally renowned competition is aimed at professional photographers. A jury decides on the award of the prizes.

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