I am Enric Marti, the Deputy Director of Photography in charge of Global Enterprise for the Associated Press, and I am proud to support the nomination of freelance Brazilian documentary photographer Adriana Zehbrauskas for the 2021 IWMF Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Award.
I first met Adriana in Mexico City when I moved there in 2006 as AP’s Latin America photo editor. Adriana is a passionate and committed photojournalist and her craft since then has only matured while maintaining the energy and sensitivity she showed when I first saw her work.
Adriana covers breaking news and features from around the world, mostly in Latin America, from the U.S. Southwest and along the Mexico-US border for news outlets including The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Washington Post and groups like UNICEF.
In addition to this important work, Adriana has always pursued personal projects and has transformed herself into a steward of her profession by generously sharing her knowledge with many young and upcoming photographers.
Adriana specializes on migration, human rights, gang and drug related violence and the visual documentation of underrepresented communities. But she is incredibly versatile and her recent work in the U.S. included themes ranging from the right-wing fallout to the presidential election and the coronavirus crisis on Native American reservations.
Her images are evidence that show her subjects' dignity, pride and joy of life amid the desperation and hopelessness they frequently face. Her work has often taken her to very dangerous parts of Mexico and Central America as a freelancer with a limited support network.
I would not describe Adriana as a war photographer, but I believe her work reflects Anja's values because Adriana plunges herself into her work with passion and humanity to cover all of the assignments that she accepts.
Adriana dives deep into the issues she covers, sticking with her image subjects for as long as she can to visually portray their stories. She has a need to understand their lives, their predicaments, their despair, and their hopes.
In Mexico City, Adriana spent months in 2017 making daily visits to a shelter for retired sex workers, patiently working to gain their trust so she could convey their harrowing life stories with depth and understanding.
And after 43 Mexican students went missing in 2014 in the country’s southern Guerrero state, Adriana followed relatives of one missing student for six months straight. Her work shadowing this family gave a very intimate look into the family’s despair and anger over their son’s disappearance.
During this project, Adriana became aware of a sad truth about how people in the modern smartphone age have frequently lost the tradition of maintaining visual records of their families.
Adriana decided as a result to create a project called “Family Matters.” Here is the text and images she did: https://adrianazehbrauskas.com/familymatters.
More recently, I am impressed with Adriana’s coverage of the ongoing migration waves to the U.S. mostly from Central America. Adriana’s travels to Honduras and El Salvador to report the factors that drive them from their countries -- poverty, unemployment and rampant violence -- give her unique insight for her coverage of the same people after they cross the border following their desperate caravan migrations.
Finally, while Adriana is a seasoned professional in traditional photography methods, she has embraced Instagram and smartphones -- using the platforms with the same ethical rigor she adopted before these new ways of telling stories existed. Her feed: https://www.instagram.com/adrianazehbrauskas/
I knew and worked with Anja for many years and I believe that Adriana fully embodies the spirit, courage and passion that Anja gave to her photography.
Adriana’s work certainly “inspires us to take action and compels us to better understand the world”.