2001 — professional winner
Jan Dago was born and grew up in Denmark, and it was here during his childhood that his interest in visual expression began, at first making short movies.
The power of the still image however, proved more exciting and as a result photojournalism, particularly exploring the human aspect in a story, became his main interest.
During the 1980’s Jan taught himself the art of photography whilst working at a variety of jobs from serving in a camera shop to cleaning slaughter houses at night.
In 1990 Jan began full time employment as a photographer on a newspaper and spent the next five years there.
In 1994 he branched out into freelance photography so that he could concentrate on doing more in depth projects.
Some of these photo projects and assignments have taken several years. Others have only taken a few weeks or even days. Jan has worked in Afghanistan, Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Cuba, Denmark, Egypt, Indonesia, Liberia, Macedonia, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, Zaire and Zimbabwe.
He has received three Awards from the World Press Photo during his career and his work has been published in many international magazines.
Today Jan is employed on ”Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten”, the major newspaper of Denmark, where his work involves a variety of assignments both in Denmark and abroad.
On May 25, 1997, the democratically elected government in Sierra Leone was overthrown by a coalition of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). President Kabbah fled, exiled to Guinea. The civil war turned so cruel that it is unimaginable. Most of the civilians of Sierra Leone are finding themselves hostage in this conflict. They are caught in a power struggle between the different factions involved in the fight for power and control of Sierra Leone's natural resources, such as the diamond mines. The wealth from the resources in the country never reaches the civilians.
My photographic project about Sierra Leone started in year 2000. The first time I worked in Sierra Leone, my aim was to do a news story. However, during that trip, I realized that there were many directions this sad chapter in the history of Sierra Leone could take. I knew I had to come back.
I have made four visits to Sierra Leone over the last three years. The transition from war to peace was gradual, but culminated in democratic elections when President Kabbah was reelected during my final visit in 2002.
Because of the Alexia Foundation funding, I was able to witness and capture the transition from war to peace. That is a rare opportunity in this line of work today. It was amazing to see the change in the general mood and attitude among the Sierra Leoneian population, from the deepest desperation during the war to joy and hope that was very evident during my last visit when I covered the peaceful election.
Without the Alexia Foundation funding I would not have been able to finish my work and get the final important pictures. My deepest gratitude for the support during this project.