Awards in POYi and Best of Photojournalism

I’m very happy to share that my story Nights at the Neonatal Unit has been awarded a 1st prize in Pictures of the Year International in the category “Newspaper Local Picture Story” and a 3rd prize in Best of Photojournalism in the category “Best Published Picture Story (Smaller Markets)”. I will post the story here on the website soon.

The Yazidis

Large parts of the Yezidi population of northwestern Iraq have taken refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan. They live in camps, under bridges or in unfinished buildings, many of them in the area of Dohuk.
In the beginning of August 2014 the Yezidis fled their homes because the Sunni extremist group Islamic State attacked the areas they lived. Around 40,000 made it to Mount Sinjar where they were surrounded by Islamic State forces. They were left there virtually without food or water, and many died. The Yezidis were able to escape from the mountain with the help of American air strikes. But many were left behind and either killed or kidnapped.
The Yezidi religion is a mixture of ancient religions, Christianity, Zoroastrianism and Sufi influences. They worship seven angels, of which Melek Taus or the Peacock Angel is the most important. Muslims and Christians often identify Melek Taus with the devil and accuse the Yezidis for being devil worshippers. The Yezidis have experienced countless attacks, both historically and in modern times.

A group of internally displaced Yazidis stand outside a tent in the refugee camp in Khanke.
Many of the Yazidis have taken refuge under bridges or in unfinished buildings. A group of Yazidis now live under a bridge in Dohuk.
Arjen is held by her mother. Most of the time her head is covered by a towel to protect her face. Her family thinks that the sores around her mouth and nose are caused by sunburns. The refugee camp in Khanke.
A small boy eats on the ground between the tents in the refugee camp in Khanke.
A small boy in the refugee camp in Khanke.
Many of the Yazidis have taken refuge in unfinished buildings. A group of Yazidis now live on the bottom floors of two unfinished buildings in the outskirts of Dohuk.
Hozan Salman, 11 years old, sits outside a tent in the refugee camp in Khanke.
Two Yazidi men sit in a tent in the refugee camp in Khanke.
A small girl sleeps under a bridge in Dohuk. Her parents have covered her face to keep the flies away.
Many of the Yazidis have taken refuge under bridges or in unfinished buildings. A group of Yazidis now live under a bridge in Dohuk.
Roma sits with her little girl that has not been named yet. The child was born three days earlier. Roma lives in an unfinished building in the outskirts of Dohuk.
Many of the Yazidis have taken refuge in unfinished buildings. A group of Yazidis now live on the bottom floors of two unfinished buildings in the outskirts of Dohuk.

Favela

Rocinha is the largest favela in Brazil. According to an official census around 70,000 people live in the favela, but unofficial estimates are as high as 2- or 300,000.
In eight years time – from 2003 until 2011 – 40 million of the 200 million citizens in Brazil joined the middle class, and many of them live in favelas like Rocinha. In a way the development of Rocinha is exemplary of the change that Brazil has gone through in the last decades. When Rocinha was founded it consisted of simple shacks built on a steep hill prone to mudslides. Now the neighborhood consists of brick and concrete houses that are sometimes three or four stories high, most of them with basic sanitation, plumbing and electricity. In reality, Rocinha is now classified as a “barrio” (neighborhood), and is no longer technically speaking a favela.
Rocinha, like many other favelas, has been known to be a hiding place for drug traffickers and other criminals. But since FIFA appointed Brazil as the host of the 2014 FIFA World Cup the authorities launched a new project in 2008: Pacification. It was finally the time to clean the favela of the criminals. The goal was to send the traffickers to prison, drive out the gangs, and have the police take control of the slums that for generations had been outside of control of the authorities. While the strategy was successful in the first few years the police has more recently been widely criticized for the way they have acted inside the favelas.

The favela is located on a hill slope in the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. The face of the favela has changed a lot since it was founded, and so has life for the inhabitants. One lifelong citizen of Rocinha explains how families used to live off meat from cats that they caught and threw in bags before killing them. How kids made their own toys from garbage wood, metal cans and wire. And how some of his friends were killed when they drove down the hill in homemade go-carts and were hit by trucks passing by the favela. Not to mention a mudslide that killed dozens of favela inhabitants.
A view of the main street leading up the hill through the favela. the street is full of shops, restaurants, dentists, juice bars, hair dressers and travel agents.
Two police officers from the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro State (Polícia Militar do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, PMERJ) stand on a street with their guns drawn during a police operation in the favela. Seconds later they move backwards down the street and disappear around a corner. No shots are fired. Not this time.
Capoeira training in the favela. The training session takes place in the sports ground of a local school in the evening. Both kids and adults participate in the training. They take turns to “fight” each other one on one in a kind of dancing battle where they gracefully move from side to side, jump on their hands and feet doing cartwheels and kicks, while the rest form a circle around them, singing and playing music. There are many sports clubs around the favela that offer an opportunity for the kids and teenagers to stay off the streets.
4-year-old Yasmin was born in Rocinha. Her mother has lived in the favela for 15 years. They keep a small birdcage with birds that Yasmin and her older brother Victor Hugo play with in the small alley outside their apartment. Some of the birds have had their wings cut so that they cannot fly away. But Yasmin and Victor Hugo have to keep a close eye on the birds so that they are not caught and eaten by one of the many stray cats.
The favela is woven together by a chaotic web of wires. Not everything is completely organized, but at the same time the development of Rocinha is exemplary of how Brazil has changed through the last decades. When the neighbourhood was founded it was a slum with simple houses built on a hill slope prone to mudslides. Now the houses of the favela are mostly built of concrete and bricks, and most of them have basic sanitation, water and electricity.
Monica, a seamstress, works in the back room of a small family run store that sells bikinis they make themselves. Mariana and her mother Margarita run the store together and it was Margarita who herself came up with the idea of making their own designs and to do the production themselves. Their secret is to sell the tops and shorts separately.
A view of one of the streets in the favela.
Renata gives Sheara a pedicure treatment in one of the many beauty parlours in the favela. New beauty parlours pop up everywhere in the favela, giving testament to the economic development the favela is going through.
Tattoos are very popular in Brazil, and no less so in the favela. Rio de Janeiro is one of the places in the world that people have the most tattoos. It is warm all year long, and life is lived outdoors and on the beaches. During the soccer World Cup the Brazilian national team was declared to be the most tattooed of all.
According to local sources, the drug lord Antônio Francisco Bonfim Lopes, also known as “Nem”, used to live around 100 meters up this small street on the left. He was Rio’s most wanted man and the “boss” of Rocinha from 2007 until 2011 when he was arrested while trying to escape in the boot of a Toyota Corolla.rnFor decades Rocinha, just like other favelas, has been known as a relatively safe haven for criminals, especially gangs of armed drug traffickers. In the eighties small gangs went on trips from the slums to the popular beaches Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon to rob the tourists. At the same time drug sales started and the gangs used a part of their money to raise the standard of living in the favela.rnThey paid for bricks so that people could leave their makeshift wooden shacks and build better and safer homes. They financed a playing field for the kids. And they gave families clothing and food.rnIn this way the criminal gangs ironically created a kind of social security system in Rocinha and other favelas, a system that was completely outside of control of the authorities. But everything happened at the mercy of brutal gangs whose members proudly called themselves “Bandidos” and “Soldados”, and who defended their drug trade and territories in terrible clashes.rnIn many favelas gangs have patrolled for years with guns and knives in the small alleys by night, butchering and killing each other.
A couple kiss each other at the bus stop on the main road leading up the hill through the favela.

To Be a Child Forever

Malene Sorensen is almost grown up, 19 years old, has moved away from home. Inside she remains a little girl.
If you know the fascination of what goes on inside the head of a little child that sits banging a spoon against a plastic bowl, you also know the fascination of how Malene sees the world. Her enthusiasm of small and big things make you wonder if she experiences the world as if new every moment. At the same time she knows it very well. She knows how to make the sign language signs for ice cream, candy and cakes and knows that with a little luck they will work. She knows that the colorful DVDs on the shelves next to her parents’ French window contain cartoons and other funny movies. She goes around looking through the windows of the institution Svanehuset for hours when she has been told that her parents will visit her that day. And she jumps up and down laughing when they finally arrive. She also knows that the dentist is dangerous, which makes it impossible to get her in the dentist’s chair if she hasn’t been given a sedative. If she needs to have cavities filled she is put under general anaesthesia.
Malene is mentally handicapped, she has epilepsy and she suffers from a mild degree of spastic paralysis. It is unclear why she is handicapped. Perhaps it is due to a birth injury or a chromosome disorder.
She grew up at home with her mother Jannie, her father Hans, her bigger brother Mogens and her bigger sister Maria. Now she lives in the institution Svanehuset in Copenhagen. She has her own room and a small, protected world that she knows well and feels at home in.

Malene sits in her parents’ car looking out into the world. She and her mother Jannie and big sister Maria are on their way home after visiting the Zoo. Malene lived at home until she was 16. Then she moved to the institution Svanehuset where she still lives. She often visits her parents and go with them on vacation or on trips, for example to the Zoo.
Malene is visiting her parents in their home on Christianshavn in Copenhagen, and her mother Jannie is keeping an eye on her. When Malene was smaller she tore everything down and put all kinds of things in her mouth, and it is still hard to keep her away from things that she isn’t allowed to get. Dangerous or valuable things are packed away or put in a place that she cannot reach. When she was in a relief institution when she was six her parents Hans and Jannie were sure that everything was okay and that they had the chance to relax and enjoy themselves. They had just put a lamb roast in the oven when they called from Gentofte County Hospital. Malene had drunk toilet cleanser she found in the bathroom of the relief institution. She was hospitalized for two days.
Malene is on a trip to the Deer Park with an intern from Svanehuset, the institution where she lives. Malene is very curious of the world, but she seems to feel best when someone holds her hand and there are not too many people around or too many impressions to handle.

Malene loves to joke around. She is crazy about slapstick and cartoons and sometimes sits watching them for a long time. At other times she has a hard time relaxing and keeping a focus on one thing.



Malene impatiently waits for her mother and father when she has been told that they will come to pick her up from the institution. She often looks out the window for them or passes the time on the protected rooftop terrace of the institution.
Malene has a very close connection with her mother Jannie. Until Malene was one and a half years old her mother was on leave from her job. Then she begun working, but on reduced hours so she had more time to take care of Malene.rnMalene can say mother both as a sound and in sign language. She also uses the word about something that is nice or good.
During the day Malene attends a school for young handicapped people. She has just been sent to the hallway to cool off after she has tried to hit one of the teachers. Malene has been prone to temper tantrums and acting out since she was a child. When she grew up three or four people had to hold her if she needed to have cavities filled. Now she is put under general anaesthesia because otherwise a simple visit to the dentist would result in a major use of force. Usually though, Malene is full of smiles.

Modern Day Vikings

It is almost 1000 years ago that the Vikings roamed the earth. But they are still around. Every year they travel to Scandinavia from all over the world – from Germany, USA, France, Australia, Italy. They participate in Viking markets, drink mead, fight with swords, produce authentic handicrafts and enjoy the life of times long past.
The Viking subculture offers an escape from modern, complex life to a simpler world. For many of the modern Vikings, there is a longing back to times when smart phone xenon flashes did not constantly blink at festive moments. Times when a man was a man and quarrels were settled on the battlefield. They try to find that kind of life in the Viking culture. It might be a dream, an illusion. But at least for the duration of the markets they manage to create their own little world that is quite far away from the stressful everyday life of 2013.

3-year-old Sol stands by her father’s legs during the yearly market in Sagnlandet Lejre.
The vikings are fighting in two lines trying to “kill” the opponents with swords, axes or spears while protecting themselves behind shields. Each line is made up of Viking groups from different places, so that there is an even number of Vikings on each side.
Mathilde stands in the wind during the yearly market in Sagnlandet Lejre.
Some Vikings participate in the evening training during the yearly market in Trelleborg.
Traditional Glima wrestling in Gudvangen, Norway.
Michael takes a swim in the small river that runs near the market area in Trelleborg.
Light from the tents falls on a few skulls in the market area. Sagnlandet Lejre.
The traditional bacon party is underway at Trelleborg inside the longhouse, which is a reconstruction of a Viking building. Every year during the Viking market in Trelleborg a group of Norwegian Vikings cook up a lot of bacon, and the Vikings eat and drink and party.
The traditional bacon party is underway at Trelleborg inside the longhouse, which is a reconstruction of a Viking building. Every year during the Viking market in Trelleborg a group of Norwegian Vikings cook up a lot of bacon, and the Vikings eat and drink and party.
Anders (on the right) takes a group of Vikings out sailing in his boat named Hringhorni. The boat is named after the Norse god Balder’s boat.
Daniel with Viking tattoos made by tattoo artist Lars Martinnen.
Asa and Ravn enjoy a moment of relaxing in their tent in Trelleborg during the yearly market.
A group of French Vikings are out sailing in a boat named Hringhorni. The boat is named after the Norse god Balder’s boat.
Alex and Sarah are out collecting plants that they use for dyeing clothes. Wool and flax are dyed in all kinds of colors depending on the type of plant that is used.

People and Places

Places I’ve been, people I’ve met.

Karl Johan Olsen
Han Kjøbenhavn
Martin Miehe-Renard
COP 15
Remee
Jan and Kevin Magnussen
Thomas Troelsen
Iran
Fredrik Skavlan
Moscow
Sweden
Mosque
Johan Olsen
Roskilde Festival
Lisbeth Wulff
Thailand
Vibe
Aarhus
COP 15
Ali
Jerusalem
Mixed Martial Arts
Jon Stephensen
Ulrich Thomsen
Ida Auken
Mads Holger
Oslo ferry
Nephew
New York
Medina
Varanasi
Martin Brygmann
Beelitz-Heilstätten
Iran
Anders Matthesen

People and Places

Places I’ve been, people I’ve met.

Karl Johan Olsen
Han Kjøbenhavn
Martin Miehe-Renard
COP 15
Remee
Jan and Kevin Magnussen
Thomas Troelsen
Iran
Fredrik Skavlan
Moscow
Sweden
Mosque
Johan Olsen
Roskilde Festival
Lisbeth Wulff
Thailand
Vibe
Aarhus
COP 15
Ali
Jerusalem
Mixed Martial Arts
Jon Stephensen
Ulrich Thomsen
Ida Auken
Mads Holger
Oslo ferry
Nephew
New York
Medina
Varanasi
Martin Brygmann
Beelitz-Heilstätten
Iran
Anders Matthesen

People and Places

Places I’ve been, people I’ve met.

Karl Johan Olsen
Han Kjøbenhavn
Martin Miehe-Renard
COP 15
Remee
Jan and Kevin Magnussen
Thomas Troelsen
Iran
Fredrik Skavlan
Moscow
Sweden
Mosque
Johan Olsen
Roskilde Festival
Lisbeth Wulff
Thailand
Vibe
Aarhus
COP 15
Ali
Jerusalem
Mixed Martial Arts
Jon Stephensen
Ulrich Thomsen
Ida Auken
Mads Holger
Oslo ferry
Nephew
New York
Medina
Varanasi
Martin Brygmann
Beelitz-Heilstätten
Iran
Anders Matthesen