Arash Yaghmaian. Photo © Liam Bailey.

The HIPA foundation has announced that Arash Yaghmaian has won the $120,000 Grand Prize in the sixth annual Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum International Photography Awards (HIPA).

A visual artist who focuses on socio-political and cultural issues, Yaghmaian was born in Iran and now lives in New York City. His winning image, Landfill Ballerina, was made in Guwahati, India, and captures a young girl from the larger Guwahati community searching for recyclable items in a mountain of trash. “The garbage is stacked very high and is very unpredictable—the ground beneath their feet can collapse suddenly. The stench and the fumes from the garbage are strong and heavy, and there are animal feces everywhere and worms swimming throughout this ocean of trash,” Yaghmaian says. “The dwellers’ homes [in the Guwahati community] have no electricity and no running water, and they live in an extremely unhealthy environment, with very little chance of finding a way out.”

When asked what he would do with the prize money, Yaghmaian says he would like to continue focusing on global social issues and to find an agency to help support and drive his work. Additionally, he says, “I would love to go back and help her and contribute something positive to her life. I would just need to find a non-profit organization to help me be able to do that.”

Judges for this year’s competition include Abeed Alani, president of the Union of Arab Photographers; Adrian Sommeling, photographer; Alison Wright, photographer; Bill Marr, creative director of National Geographic; Felix Hernandez Rodriguez, photographer; Kenneth Geiger, photographer and Michael Christopher Brown, photographer and filmmaker.

In addition to Yaghmaian’s prize, Elliott Erwitt was also awarded the $20K Appreciation Award from HIPA.

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