Anja Niedringhaus

A Sense of Horror

“If I don’t photograph it, it won’t become known,” Anja Niedringhaus says. From 1991 to 2000 she worked as an agency photographer in the Balkan war zones. The pictures she sent to Germany from Tirana, Sarajevo, Mostar or Pristina were published in the international press, in magazines and in daily papers. They are portraits. They show injured people, dead people, people mourning, aged men and women, struck dumb by resignation, young women, their faces filled with horror, civilians fleeing, children playing in the ruins; and in the midst of it all, time and again, moments of hope and of new beginnings. Photo reporting always has something to do with people, and it always has a documentary character. Anja Niedringhaus’ photographs document war.

For all their dramatic nature, these documents bearing witness to war are more than one-dimensional depictions of reality. The camera does not simply reflect what happened to be in front of the lens at a particular moment. Anja Niedringhaus’ work is a reflection of her will that determines moment in time, motif, perspective and cropped section. And she takes a stance, as otherwise the image would get lost in the arbitrariness of the moment.

What face does war have? In how much detail do we want to see it? Can we endure it at all? Anja Niedringhaus had no-frills reality right before her eyes for several years. Yet her photographs spare our feelings: they let us sense the horror by degrees of approximation and refer to human violability in the midst of complete destruction.

Biographical information

1965

born in Höxter/Westfalen

1982–90

independent photographer for several newspapers such as Neue Westfälische Zeitung and Göttinger Tageblatt

1986–90

studied German philology, philosophy and journalism (photography) at the Georg-August-Universität, Göttingen

1990–2002

staff photographer for the European Pressphoto Agency, Frankfurt/Main, since 1997 chief photographer,
covered the civil wars in Croatia, Bosnia, and Cosovo, the war in Kuwait, ground zero in New York, and major sport events as the Olympic Games

1999

Fuji European Press Award, German Winner with the photoreport "Flucht aus dem Kosovo"

2000

Award of the American Press Photographers' Association, category Women in Photojournalism

2002

travelling staff photographer for Associated Press, Geneva, covered the war in Iraq

2003

Award of Excellence in the Photos of the Year International (POYi) for the photograph entitled Christmas in Kuwait

2003

Premio Ischia Internazionale di Giornalismo

2005

Pulitzer-Prize for contemporary photo reporting

2005

International Women´s Media Foundation Courage in Journalism Award

2008

Goldene Feder (Golden Fether, Media Prize of Bauer Media Group)

2011

Abisag-Tüllmann-Prize

2014

shot and killed in Afghanistan