AFP freelancer tells story

Syria photograph wins Pulitzer

GMT 17:01 2013 Tuesday ,16 April

Arab Today, arab today Syria photograph wins Pulitzer

Javier Manzano snapped the photo in Aleppo
Antakya – Arabstoday

Javier Manzano snapped the photo in Aleppo Antakya – Arabstoday When Javier Manzano, a freelance photographer for Agence France-Presse, walked into a dimly lit sniper's nest in Syria he had no idea a photo he took there would win him a Pulitzer prize. Manzano, aged 37, had already sprinted across two alleyways in the northern city of Aleppo accompanied by a fighter from the Free Syrian Army (FSA), praying he would not be targeted by army snipers as they went to meet up with the rebel unit. After making their way through a sort of tunnel opened up between the walls of several abandoned houses, and then half crawling across a final open space protected by rubble, Manzano entered a dark room that had once been a warehouse. "The second I walked in, I immediately saw this amazing photo," the Mexico City native told AFP by telephone from Turkey. "These shafts of light were coming through" holes that bullets and shrapnel had pierced through the closed metal shutter of the warehouse. "I immediately moved so that the light was coming directly at me," with two men gripping Kalashnikov assault rifles to the right of him, one aiming out through a hole in the wall. Manzano was also travelling with Associated Press photographer Narciso Contreras, another Mexican, who also took a shot inside the sniper's nest, but from a different angle. Asked whether he thought Contreras must have been disappointed that his picture did not win a Pulitzer, Manzano laughed and said: "But he did win one." Contreras was part of a five-man AP team working in Syria that won the award for breaking news photography, and Manzano said he was "proud of them.” Just a year ago, AFP photographer Massoud Hossaini scooped a Pulitzer honour in the same category for his image of a girl crying in fear after a suicide bomber's attack at a crowded shrine in Kabul. Six months after shooting the photo, Manzano is in Antakya, in southern Turkey near the Syrian border, reflecting on his "pretty surprising" good fortune after leaving Syria three weeks ago following a 15-day stint in Aleppo. He says he found out about the award on Facebook. "I had logged on and saw that someone tagged me, so I clicked on the tag and saw the news, and I go 'holy ....'" Manzano said he entered the photo himself, and "I definitely didn't expect it. You're hopeful, of course, but there's a lot of great work out there; a lot of great, money-backed work." For that reason, he said "it was definitely very welcome. I'm proud of having been recognised as a freelancer." The Pulitzer is not Manzano's first award. He has also won World Press Photo's third place in the spot news category and a silver medal in the China International Press Photo Contest. Manzano, who is single and calls Istanbul home for now, said he doesn't have any immediate plans for the future. But he said he will go back to Syria and head to other hot spots in the region "for the next couple of years.” He has been a freelancer, covering the drug war in Mexico and the wars in Afghanistan and Syria.

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