Photo: AFP, retrieved

Ronaldo Schemidt’s “Venezuelan Crisis” won the prestigious World Press Photo of the Year award for a photograph that is not only visually striking, but telling about the time and place it was taken. One jury member, Whitney C. Johnson, describes it:

“It’s quite symbolic, actually. The man, he has a mask on his face. He’s come to sort of represent not just himself and himself on fire, but sort of this idea of Venezuela burning.”

Schemidt, who works for Agence France Press and resides on Mexico City, took the picture on May 3, 2017. 28-year-old José Víctor Salazar Balza survived the incident, but 70% of his body was burnt and has faced many medical procedures, with the related financial issues.  

Schemidt recently told the British Journal of Photographers that even if Venezuelan streets became calmer after the protests, the country’s situation is more desperate than ever:

“During those days there was a lot of violence on the streets. The protests were very intense, and you could feel that something big was going to pop up at any time. Now the situation has worsened. There hasn’t been violence, and there have been very few protests, but food and medicine have become more scarce. Services are worse and worse. I feel that the population is disappointed and resigned, a lot of them are desperately leaving the country, breaking families apart.”

He also spoke with Mexican paper Excelsior about how he got the photo (in Spanish, sorry):

Surprisingly, this is the second time a Venezuelan photographer has won this important recognition. The first one was Hector Rondón Lovera in 1962, for the iconic picture of a priest helping a soldier during El Porteñazo”. The story of that picture, which also won Rondón Lovera the Pulitzer Prize the following year, is on this 2016 piece from Efecto Cocuyo.

Fellow Venezuelan photojournalist and Schemidt’s AFP colleague Juan Barreto won third prize in the Spot News category, for another picture taken that same day.

From me and the rest of the Caracas Chronicles team, our congratulations to Mr. Schemidt, Mr. Barreto and AFP, along with the other winners and nominees of this major award. Keep up the good work!

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UPDATE: Venezuela also made it to this year’s Pulitzers, more or less. Even if Mr. Schemidt didn’t made it, the work of fellow photographer Meredith Kohut of the New York Times was a finalist in the Feature Photography category. Her remarkable work in the last few years documenting the Venezuelan drama has got plenty of attention.

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