Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Press Photo of the Year

Shot at Karlsplatz (Stachus), Munich, on July 22, 2016.

On December 6th, 2016, the Bavarian Journalist Union, for the 17th time, awarded the top press photos of the year.  The above photo was selected as the "overall winner" and "Press Photo of the Year"

The awards are designed to highlight how photography, journalism, and photojournalism, despite worsening conditions, have a crucial place in open, free societies.  The BJV did not position the award winners as competitors, but rather as co-winners and colleagues who excelled in various categories.  The works of my fellow awardees were nothing short of astounding.

The BJV is the Bavarian arm of the German Journalist Union (DJV).  The organization offers mentoring programs and is heavily engaged in improving working conditions for journalists and photojournalists. The award ceremony took place at the Bavarian Parliament, with State-President Barbara Stamm (CSU) and Michael Busch (BJV) as the presentors.

Link to the article via Google Translate (English)


On this day, a disturbed, 18 year old killer lured youths, many of whom had non-German backgrounds, to near the Olympia Einkauszentrum (Olympia [Park] Shopping Mall).  Using a gun he purchased on the Darkweb, he began firing at people near the OEZ McDonalds, killing nine and injuring at least thirty-six more.  Documentation and testimonies revealed that he was under care for psychological illnesses and was also bullied in school.  The killer also had a deep fascination with mass shootings, as well as far-right ideologies and the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

As word of the shooting spread through the city, so did rumors of a terrorist attack and multiple shooters.  Soon after the shooting, police, including counter-terrorism units and helicopters arrived at Karlsplatz.  The combination of their presence with machine guns, lack of proper information, and rumors put people on edge.  After approximately thirty minutes, panic broke out with several thousand people running away from Karlsplatz, abandoning meals, personal belongings, and even strollers.  Numerous people claimed, in tears, that there were gunshots and shooters in the pedestrian area (Fussgaengerzone) between Stachus and Marienplatz.  The police then sealed it as a counter-terrorism deployment area and brought masked commandos in.  At Marienplatz there were three young males that were detained by police.  It appears that they may have been victims of suspicion and paranoia of others, thus the police singling them out and vetting them at the Gloeckenspiel Cafe.  This marked the end of the counter-terrorism deployment in the Fussgaengerzone.  There were no gunshots in this area- only panic and rumors.

The photo displays police looking through Karlstor at the pedestrian zone which, during a normal summer day, would be extremely crowded and full of life.  The eerie calm and emptiness reflects how the entire city of Munich was brought to a standstill on this day- no public transit, roads around the city center paralyzed and blocked, and thousands of people walking away from the city center in all directions to somehow get home.

Ultimately, as police surrounded the killer at the OEZ, it became evident that this was a lone-gunman shooting and NOT a terrorist attack.  The killer then turned the gun on himself and pulled the trigger, thus ending the siege.

It was, and continues to be, a difficult return to normalcy in Munich.


I began photographing some years ago in order to document my overseas travels for friends and family.  Photography not only allowed me to document what I saw, but also what I didn't see.  I became driven by documenting and presenting everything I saw exactly as I saw them.  This meant throwing out the many rules of photography and eschewing technical perfection, smooth textures and tones in order to instill an honesty to the documentation.  Furthermore, this also required dealing with the fact that I wouldn't be documenting the good side of everything, particularly if I wanted my work to benefit society in some way.

In the case of the Munich shooting, while not at the location where the actual shooting took place, I entered the secured counter-terrorism deployment area with the objective to document what I saw exactly as I saw it. This later proved important in reconstruction of the events of that day and to also stem the proliferation of of fake news and conspiracy theories.



From der Spiegel, with usage of another photo from my series:

Reconstruction by Sueddeutsche Zeitung, two photos from my series (five photos used in the Oct. 2nd paper special edition):

Frankfurter Rundschau, usage of one photo from my series:

Photos available for licensure from Zuma Press.  Usage with credit, but no license is still unauthorized.   The above photo is available for editorial usage in connection with the award.  Please contact the BJV for terms.

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