Abir Abdullah, Sara Naomi Lewkowicz Win Alexia Foundation Grants

by David Walker

©Abir Abdullah
Workers line up unclaimed bodies of victims of on accidental fire in a mass funeral at a grave at Jurain in Dhaka, Bangladesh. 

Abir Abdullah of Bangladesh has won the $15,000 professional award in the Alexia Foundation grant competition, organizers announced this morning.

Sara Naomi Lewkowicz won the Alexia Foundation Student Grant, which includes a full-tuition scholarship to study photojournalism at the Syracuse University London Program in Fall, 2013, plus a $1,000 grant.

Abdullah submitted a proposal to document the continuous threat of fire in the working class communities of Dhaka, Bangladesh in basti (slums), garment factories and shopping malls. The fires, which are a consequence of poor safety regulation and official corruption, have killed hundreds of people--particularly garment workers--in recent months.

Abdullah teaches part time at the Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, and works as a stringer in Bangladesh for European Photo Agency, according to the Alexia Foundation web site.

Abdullah's winning application was among 443 submitted for this year's professional grant. There were five other finalists:  freelance photographer Christian Werner based in Nordstemmen, Germany; Robin Hammond, a freelance photojournalist based in Paris; Noriko Hayashi, a freelance photographer based in Tokyo; Alvaro Ybarra Zavala, 31, a Getty photographer based in Spain; and Jenn Ackerman, a freelance photographer based in Minneapolis.

Lewkowicz, a photojournalism graduate student at Ohio University, won the student grant to continue work on her project about domestic abuse, called "Shane and Maggie." The project has received widespread attention in recent days because of a series of graphic images of a domestic violence incident Lewkowicz captured while documenting the couple.

Dijana Muminovic, who is also a photojournalism graduate student at Ohio University, was the second place winner in the student competition, which had 121 applications this year.

"The overall quality of the student and professional entries was extremely high both in the photography and in the seriousness of the proposals,” juror Jim Dooley said in a statement issued by the Alexia Foundation.

The mission of the Alexia Foundation is to promote photojournalism through scholarships and grants to bring attention to social injustice and to promote cross-cultural understanding. The foundation was established by the family of Alexia Tsairis, a Syracuse University student who died in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.


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