2002 — student winner
Justin Yurkanin is a photojournalist dedicated to documenting the social issues shaping our times. His thought-provoking images depicting intimate moments in his subject’s lives are the signatures of his award-winning work. Witnessing history as it unfolds in front of him, Yurkanin renders the troubling circumstances happening to people both locally and internationally.
Yurkanin was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1980. He graduated from Syracuse University in 2002 with a bachelor's degree in photojournalism, and he is currently the multimedia producer at Stephens Media Interactive in Las Vegas.
Yurkanin was one of 18 photographers whose work was featured in the March 2006 exhibit Eyes on the World at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. This exhibit traveled to China, Japan, the United Kingdon, Turkey and France, where it was part of Visa pour L’Image, an annual exhibition that displays the year’s best photojournalism. The collection was also published in the book titled “Eyes on the World.” He has won the prestigious Alexia Foundation photographic grant as well as numerous journalism awards. His work has been published in The Washington Post, The Miami Herald, The Orlando Sentinel, The Los Angeles Times, People Magazine and numerous other publications.
Yurkanin recently documented several issues in the Philippines, including overcrowded prisons, abandoned street boys and the plight of the indigenous Aeta people. Also, he traveled to Haiti (2006) to tell the story of orphans whose adoptions were put on hold because of the region’s corruption and violence.
Between stories, Yurkanin works on daily assignments and multimedia projects for Stephens Media Interactive, and is currently researching grant opportunities to return to Sudan and document the hundreds of thousands of people flowing back into the country from refugee camps in neighboring Kenya.
“I believe the work of documentary photojournalists still has an important place in today’s society. Our work can have an positive impact on people’s lives.”
The following images are from a story about food aid in Southern Sudan. The nation of Sudan has been plagued by civil war since 1983. More than four million people have been displaced from their homes since the beginning of the war, and two million people have died as a result of the war. People in the south of Sudan began fighting the northern government of Sudan because of the north's invasion of lands to extract resources like oil and water, as well as to escape the oppression posed to them by the strict rules of Islamic Sharia law.
These images were taken in the villages of Mayandit, Narus, and Katamoto. Most of the pictures were taken in Mayandit, a village located in Leech country of the Western Upper Nile Provence in Southern Sudan. Mayandit is located in an area that has a large amount of oil underneath the surface. It is heavily fought over because the northern government uses the oil to fund its war against the rebel southern army, the Sudanese People's Liberation Army.
People in Mayandit have been experiencing one of the worst droughts in the past ten years, meaning that they are completely reliant upon food aid from World Food Programme. Also, due to heavy fighting in the area, villagers from Mayandit experience regular bombings.
I photographed this story in January of 2003. At the time there was a ceasefire called between SPLA and the government of Sudan. However, in Western Upper Nile, the southern Sudanese experienced fighting and bombings on a daily basis. According to villagers in Mayandit, the government of Sudan is trying to build a road to move drilled oil down the Nile to be shipped to Port of Sudan. SPLA, knowing this oil will fund the GOS militias to further fight and pillage the southern territories, has launched an offensive against this road being built.
Innocent people have no means to produce food because of the insecurity posed to them by the fighting and the drought. Thus they are only able to feed themselves through emergency food aid, brought to them by World Food Programme.