1996 — student winner
Ezra Shaw has been working for Getty Images, the world's leading photographic agency, as a Staff Photographer for over ten years. He began his career assisting many Sports Illustrated photographers both in London and New York City. After settling down in New York City, Shaw spent nearly ten years travelling the world with New York City as his base before relocating to Sydney, Australia in 2006 to experience what life "down under" had to offer. After spending nearly three years in Australia, Shaw has recently relocated to Sausalito, California.
His assignments have included both the Winter and Summer Olympic Games, the Super Bowl, World Series, Tour de France and numerous other events. His pictures have appeared in many publications around the world, and Shaw has won awards in the World Press Photo, NPPA Pictures of the Year, World Photography Awards, and the New York Press Photographers Photo Competitions.
In addition to day-to-day game coverage, Shaw has recently been working with the Getty Images features department to develop and produce human interest stories in the sports arena. The features have ranged from a 500-mile wheelchair race across Alaska focusing on a former gang member who lost the use of legs in a shooting, to a bike race that crossed 580 kilometres of the Simpson Desert in Australia.
Shaw is a graduate of Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Communications.
How has the Alexia grant influenced your career?
The Alexia grant has greatly influenced my career. Most importantly, it gave me the opportunity to work on a project that I never would have been able to do on my own. The Alexia award opened my eyes to the power of a picture story and how a well photographed picture story can go beyond what words can say. Even now, though my career in photography focuses on shooting sport, I still come back to the basics of a great picture or picture story on a daily basis.
How did your project lead to greater exposure or solutions for your issue of focus?
I wish I could say that after my story was published, medicine and money started streaming in for the children that had been affected by the Chernobyl disaster. Unfortunately, I don’t think that is the case. All I can hope for is that my story has brought a greater awareness to the cause. Perhaps each time someone does see one of my pictures, the story makes them stop and think about the children and what they might be able to do to help them in the future or to avoid future disasters of the same caliber.
Tell us about a moment from the project that you will never forget.
There were quite a few moments that I will never forget when I worked on my project about the Children of Chernobyl. I was fresh out of college when I headed over to Belarus to work on this story, and although I had worked on a story about a young boy who suffered with cancer while at Syracuse University, I really had no idea what to expect when I arrived in Minsk. I visited a handful of hospitals on this trip, along with a few different villages in the exclusion zone. I couldn’t believe that some families had moved back in to the exclusion zone, even though they knew that they were putting themselves and their children at risk from the radiation fallout.
However, what I think that I remember most is actually the emptiness of the hospitals. Coming from America, I grew up with the image that all hospitals are bustling with doctors and nurses running back and forth to offer their services and medicine to the sick and injured. Even if this is an exaggeration of the American medical system, what I encountered throughout Belarus was completely different. Although the rooms were filled with young children suffering from different effects of the radiation fallout, there were hardly any doctors or nurses to help the children. The doctors that I did speak to said that the major problem that they were having was that there wasn’t enough medicine or supplies to help the children. I suppose the doctors realized that there was no reason to run to the next patient if they didn’t have any medicine to help them.
Have you, or do you plan on expanding your project? How so?
As I mentioned earlier, the majority of my shooting now is sport. However, on the 20 year anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, I went back to Belarus as part of Getty Images’ coverage of the anniversary. I had hoped to follow up with some of the children that I had met 10 years ago and visit the villages that I had previously visited. However, I ran into numerous issues along the way. My trip happened only weeks before the presidential election, and the incumbent president, Alexander Lukashenko, was rounding up journalists and protesters that were hoping for change. My movements were tracked by the government and I was even stopped and questioned by the Belarusian KGB when I was trying to enter the exclusion zone, even though I had been granted permission. Due to the difficulty in getting access, I was unable to expand upon my project as I had hoped.
How has being a part of the Alexia community changed the way you view the world?
I first heard about the Alexia Foundation when I was a photojournalism student at Syracuse University. I really didn’t think that I had any chance of winning the competition, but it made me start thinking about what could be possible. I began thinking about all the untold stories in the world and hoping that it might be possible for me to go out to photograph just one or two of them. That is why I think that that the Alexia Foundation is so amazing. It gives photographers the opportunity to go out and tell these untold stories. I am always excited to see who the next Alexia winner is, and to see what untold story they are telling.
On April 26, 1986, reactor number four at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station on the border of the Ukraine and Belarus exploded. The fire, which burned out of control for five days, spewed more than 50 tons of radioactive fallout across region. The wind carried the heaviest radioactive deposits across Belarus, where even today a large portion of the land is considered uninhabitable. Schools were closed, thousands of villages were abandoned, prime cattle were slaughtered and huge factories were shut down.
The government denied the accident happened for several days, allowing the people in the Gomel region of Belarus to linger in the radiation. The cause of the medical illnesses are often hard to find, and much harder to prove. But, the rise in the number of cancer cases in this region is too great for any other conclusion – it has to be the radiation. Many doctors and radiation specialists say that it is too early to know everything about the long term effects of Chernobyl.
The disaster happened in the midst of the Cold War, and it was years before the Soviet Union allowed outside nations to help. Now there are many relief organizations around the world trying to provide the necessary medical and financial supplies to the people of Belarus.
The United Nations Agency “UNICEF” assessed the impact of Chernobyl on the health of children in Belarus and found increases in:
*25% increase in congenital heart and circulatory diseases
*28% increase in disorders of the digestive organs
*38% increase in malignant tumors
*43% increase in disorders of the nervous system and sensory organs
*62% increase in disorders of the bone, muscle and connective tissue system
(From the 1995 UN Report on Chernobyl)
In the fall of 1996, after being awarded a grant from the Alexia Foundation for World Peace, I spent a week visiting different hospitals in Belarus. This series of pictures are of children that have been affected by the radiation fallout. Although it is not yet certain what will happen to the children, it is definitely clear that they do need help. Many of the children are curable, but the hospitals lack the medicine and the supplies needed to help the children.