June 20, 2019
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Snapshot of a crying girl on the US Mexico border wins World Press Photo 2019

By Imane Rachidi

Amsterdam, Apr 11 (efe-epa).- A migrant girl crying on the US-Mexico border, an image of the migrant caravan that sought to break down walls against the "zero tolerance" policies of President Donald Trump, taken by the American John Moore, won the World Press Photo of the Year on Thursday.

The winning image shows Honduran toddler Yanela Sanchez crying as she and her mother, Sandra Sanchez, are taken into custody by US border officials in McAllen, Texas, USA, on Jun. 12, 2018.

The jury of the 62nd edition of the contest considered the image the world press photo of the year as it created a "public outcry over the controversial practice" in the US to separate immigrant minors from their parents, something that did not happen to the girl Yanela, and her mother Sandra.

"Ideally a (World Press Photo) Photo of the Year would be surprising, unique, relevant, memorable," according to Whitney C. Johnson, the vice president of the jury of this contest, which awards the highest distinction of photojournalism worldwide.

She added that "the details in the picture are interesting. From the gloves that the border patrol officer is wearing to the fact that the shoelaces have been removed."

"It immediately tells you so much about the story. And at the same time, it really makes you feel so connected to it (...). This picture shows a different kind of violence that is psychological," added Alice Martins, photojournalist and World Press jury member.

Moore captured the photograph in southern Texas, in an area known as the Rio Grande Valley on the border between Mexico and the US.

The American photographer was traveling with a group of border agents when he ran into several families, "more than a dozen people" who were marching to the US but were transferred by border officials to an asylum seeker center, Moore explained to Efe.

The main character in the photo is a frightened girl who cried as she was taken into custody by US border agents after walking with her mother from Honduras for a month. She was detained, as were the rest of the migrants, and they were forced to hand over their personal belongings, documents, and even shoelaces, for their desire to reach the US.

Moore, a photojournalist for Getty Images, said that during that night he could see in the eyes of that girl and he could tell "from the beginning, that they were afraid. Because it was late and it was surely an unusual situation for most of them". However, Moore assured that at least in his presence, the Border Guard agents "treated that group of migrants quite well."

When an officer had to search Sandra, the baby's mother, she left her two-year-old daughter on the ground and she began to cry without consolation for fear of being separated from her mother. That's when Moore took the picture that, after appearing on the front pages of major media outlets, including Time magazine, earned him the World Press Photo of the Year.

Moore says about this picture "I think this image touched many people's hearts, as it did mine, because it humanizes a larger story. When you see Yanela's face, and she is more than two years old now, you really see the humanity and the fear of making such a long journey and crossing a border in the dead of night."

For this photojournalist, the image represents "a visual example of the zero tolerance policy" of the US Government and, although nothing ensures that the success of his photo served to pressure the US president Donald Trump to retract his decision to separate the children from their families, the photograph did bother him.

Trump's team considered it "shameful" that the image of a crying girl had been used to denounce that measure.

Moore has worked in photojournalism in at least 65 countries and his photographs were published internationally for 17 years, until he decided to return to his native USA in 2008 to specialize in immigration and borders.

Along the same lines as the winning photograph represents, the World Press Photo jury also chose Pieter ten Hoopen's series "The Migrant Caravan" as World Press Photo Story of the Year, which is documenting "the largest" march of immigrants of the year, with up to 7,000 travelers, including at least 2,300 children, according to UN figures.

The caravan, organized through a campaign on social networks, left San Pedro Sula, in Honduras, on Oct. 12, and as word spread people from Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala joined. Their story occupied front pages all over the world and raised criticism against Trump's xenophobic policies.

"The editing of the story itself had to be quite strong, and the storytelling had to be there, there had to be different elements of the scenario," Johnson said about the photographic series produced by Ten Hoopen, a photojournalist specializing in wars and humanitarian crisis since 2004 and who is a member of the Agency VU in Paris.

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