Campaigning Portuguese photojournalist Mário Cruz has ‘done it again’. After winning World Press Photo glory three years ago exposing the slavery of Senegalese children, he has been awarded third prize in the ‘Environment’ category of the iconic competition for a haunting imagine of a Filipino child on a mattress surrounded by rubbish.
The ‘story’ behind the photograph is a bid to highlight a disaster that needs “rapid action”, Cruz has since explained.
“We see images of beaches with rubbish on the sands and we get uncomfortable, but these people in Manila (the capital of the Philippines) are surrounded by rubbish on a daily basis. They have been for years, and this needs are rapid reaction…”
The image is part of a series, entitled “Living Among What’s Left Behind”, that is currently on show at the Palácio Anjos in Algés (Oeiras, just outside Lisbon) until May 26.
And it highlights the nature of Cruz’s work: to try and wake people up to hellish realities playing out in plain sight.
In 2016, for example, his exposé of child-slavery in Senegal resulted in the distribution of pamphlets using the images. These powered a global ‘alert’ resulting in the saving of ‘hundreds of children’ whose lives would otherwise have been destroyed.
Now, Cruz’s hopes are that “Living Among What’s Left Behind” could turn a corner for the forgotten populations of Manila who eke out their existences in shanty housing alongside a “biologically dead” river.
As Cruz explains, these cripplingly poor families survive by recycling rubbish thrown into the river.
“Right now, all you see there is rubbish. It’s incredible to look at a waterway and not see any water. You just see plastic…”
The ‘winning photo’ of the child focuses on a little boy “collecting recycling materials to make some kind of money to help his family”.
It’s not clear whether the child is looking at what he has collected, or whether he has fallen asleep on the filthy mattress, one arm encircling his cache of plastic.
As for the World Press Photo’s ‘winning shot’ of 2019, that has gone to US photographer John Moore who captured the iconic image of a three year old Honduran girl weeping at the US border as guards set about detaining her mother for illegal immigration.
Photo MÁRIO CRUZ