Filipino photographer Hannah Reyes Morales wins prestigious photojournalism prize

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"I became a photojournalist in a time of immense changes here. So many of us are coming into our practice amid this contested space," says Hannah Reyes Morales who recently received the 2020 Infinity Award for Documentary Practice and Visual Journalism. Photo courtesy of HANNAH REYES MORALES

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — The International Center of Photography recently awarded Filipino photographer Hannah Reyes Morales its 2020 Infinity Award for Documentary Practice and Visual Journalism. Morales has had significant photojournalism work throughout the years such as documenting the aftermath of the Marawi siege and the effects of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs for The Washington Post, the overcrowding at the Manila City Jail for the New York Times, war crimes against Cambodians for Al Jazeera America, and the beauty standards affecting women for the National Geographic.

“Watching the landscape of the Philippines change under this administration has also been difficult, to say the least,” she tells CNN Philippines Life in an unpublished 2019 interview. “I became a photojournalist in a time of immense changes here. So many of us are coming into our practice amid this contested space. Working in Mindanao has been challenging. It’s such a context-heavy space, and I’m often having to undo my own assumptions as I go. But as in every story, I meet people who guide me and help me understand what I am seeing.”

Morales was born in Manila and travels around Asia for her work. Her upbringing in “the messy bits of Manila” has become part of the core of her journalism work, which has allowed her to document crucial events and cultural touchpoints in the Philippines and around the world, particularly subjects that are close to her, such as the Filipino diaspora.

The ruins of Marawi city after the siege. This was for a work for The Washington Post in 2019. Photo by HANNAH REYES MORALES

Detainees are seen sleeping by a small grotto of Mary in the Manila City Jail. This photograph was taken in 2018 for the New York Times. Photo by HANNAH REYES MORALES

Marta poses with her husband Apolinar at their home in Pampanga. Mara is a member of ‘Malaya Lolas,’ or ‘Free Grandmothers,’ a group of survivors of mass rape during the Second World War. Photo by HANNAH REYES MORALES

“Working on the story on the Filipino diaspora was also interesting,” she told CNN Philippines Life. “Visualizing migration and absence was tough, and it was daunting to try to find a different way of telling a story that almost every Filipino has somehow touched. We all have memories with a balikbayan box. We all have friends who've left. Or we've been the friend who's left. It's a story of millions of people — my husband and family included. It shook up my notions of what family and nationhood meant.”

Her previous awards include the 2019 Tim Hetherington Visionary Award, the Royal Photographic Society Margaret Harker medal for 100 Photographic Heroines, and the 2016 SOPA Award for Excellence in Digital Reporting. She has also received two grants from the National Geographic.

This year’s International Center of Photography awards has also honored the sprawling The 1619 Project of the New York Times Magazine, which commemorates the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery.

Watch the ICP video on Hannah Reyes Morales below.

You can also read some of Morales’s works for CNN Philippines Life below.

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With reporting by Claire Jiao.