2018 Documentary Essay Prizewinner: Nastassia Kantorowicz Torres

Nastassia Kantorowicz Torres

2018 winner, for Photography: Nastassia Kantorowicz Torres

Honorable Mentions to Jošt Franko and Paweł Starzec

A portrait of Nastassia Kantorowicz Torres

The CDS Documentary Essay Prize honors the best in documentary photography and writing in alternating years: one year, photos; one year, writing. The focus is on current or recently completed work from a long-term project. The 2018 prize competition was awarded in photography. The winning essay, “Point d’eau,” was submitted by Nastassia Kantorowicz Torres, a freelance photographer based in Colombia and France.

We are in Grande-Synthe, in northern France, during winter. At the edge of a pond, in the woods near the Puythouck leisure center, a man carefully undresses. Layer by layer, he removes the clothing enveloping his body. He is almost naked now. Still wearing his shoes, he enters the water and washes himself. This time, the police leave him at peace. It is 0° Celcius.

For seven months last year, Kantorowicz Torres covered the response of the French government, NGOs, and ordinary citizens to questions of access to safe drinking water and sanitation services for refugees in northern France. Her essay gives a rare vantage on the lives of these refugees and quietly reveals the “hospitality and solidarity of citizens in response to the government’s restrictions on water access” by making portraits not of people but of place.

As she writes, “Though a court ruling in June 2017 obliged the city of Calais to provide public water access, there are still approximately 1,300 to 1,500 exiles in northern France who are being denied access to safe drinking water and sanitation services—basic human rights.”

The CDS Documentary Essay Prize will allow her to continue documenting this issue in other regions of France, including Paris and the French-Italian border. Expanding the geographical area “will provide an in-depth testimony of the implementation of France’s migrant policies through the deprivation of access to water.

Nastassia Kantorowicz Torres is a Colombian freelance photographer based between Lille, France, and Bogota, Colombia. Her work is centered on advancing human rights through visual communication. Her focus is on migration, access to safe water and sanitation, and the underlying social bonds of communities. She recently completed a postgraduate certificate in Documentary Practice and Visual Journalism from the International Center of Photography in New York City and is a member of Women Photograph (womenphotograph.com). Kantorowicz Torres has worked on development projects in Colombia and as a humanitarian aid worker with Doctors Without Borders. She has a master’s degree in public affairs from Sciences Po, the Paris Institute of Political Studies.

Honorable Mentions

Jošt Franko and Paweł Starzec were each awarded an Honorable Mention by the members of the Center for Documentary Studies CDS Documentary Essay Prize in Photography Selection Committee for their compelling and wonderfully conceived photo essays.

Jošt Franko’s “Shepherds” is a creative exploration of the shepherd community of Velika planina, a plateau in the Slovenian Alps that is the site of one of the oldest herding settlements in Europe. Franko first visited the community eight years ago and continued to document it until last year. This project about the settlement, which is now home to only twenty families, speaks to “the impact of the globalized world and the globalized economy. . . . While this decline is indicative of a disappearing culture and community, it is vital to realize that centralized food production by large corporations is at the heart of the crisis. For the people of Velika planina, the situation is no longer one of preserving tradition but of insuring survival.” Jošt Franko, a Slovenian photographer, has been honored as a TED Fellow and has received support from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting. 

Paweł Starzec’s “Makeshift” is about “rewriting history in Bosnia and Herzegovina” by investigating the sites of mass atrocities and their present state of “erased context. In many cases, places used to commit atrocities have been renovated to serve public utility. Events of the Bosnian War are now hidden by new historical narratives: things have had to be forgotten in order to maintain the integrities of new societies of different ethnic groups. The landscape bears contamination that these new histories need to eradicate. . . . Even though photography cannot change the past or give relief to those still looking for missing relatives, I found it crucial to observe these sites, as a warning.” Polish photographer and sociologist Paweł Starzec was recently recognized with the LensCulture Emerging Talent and Encontros da Imagem Discovery awards.

There were 10 other finalists for the 2018 CDS Documentary Essay Prize in Photography, selected from 155 entries:

Inbal Abergil, “N.O.K.—Next of Kin”
Elena Anosova, “Out-of-the-Way”
Jenna Houston, “All That Glitters”
Barbara Karant, “820 Ebony/Jet”
Selim Korycki, “The Waning Crescent”
Matjaz Krivic, “Lithium”
Mikael Owunna, “One Year with Depression”
Adair Rutledge, “Azalea Trail Maids”
Federico Vespignani, “La Distancia”
Christian Werner, “A Journey Through Assad’s Syria”