Vietnamese photographer wins World Press Photo award

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One of the photos from Maika Elan's "The Pink Choice" collection

Maika Elan, 27, has won first prize in the Contemporary Issues Stories category of the 2012 World Press Photo Contest, for her "The Pink Choice" collection, news website VnExpress reported February 16.

With the prize, Elan, whose real name is Nguyen Thanh Hai, has become the first Vietnamese photographer ever to win an award from the World Press Photo Foundation.

"The Pink Choice" is a series of 45 photos selected from over a hundred taken by the freelance photographer between July, 2011 and March, 2012, during which time she stayed in the homes of 70 gay couples throughout Vietnam. Twelve from the collection were selected to be presented at the World Press Photo Contest.

The photos portray gay lovers engaged in everyday activities, such as reading, watching TV and bathing.

Elan said that she wanted her photos to reflect the normalcy of homosexual couples to debunk the stigmas they are often shackled with, and show that such couples simply take care of each other in the same loving manner as heterosexual couples.

"Love is always beautiful, and if we can recognize the love that exists between these couples we will be better able to accept them," she explained.

"The Pink Choice" collection exhibited in Hanoi late last year and observers were visibly affected by the depiction the love and care that homosexuals show their partners.

"I think the photo series is contemporary for its new approach. In my point of view, love is always fair for everyone, and I think the judges also considered that aspect."

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The World Press Photo Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization based in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Founded in 1955, the organization is known for holding the world's largest, most prestigious annual press photography contest.

The foundation's 2012 contest attracted 103,481 photos taken by 5,666 photographers from 124 countries.

Swedish photographer Paul Hansen won the World Press Photo of the Year award for his shot of two Palestinian children killed in an Israeli missile strike being carried to their funeral, which was originally published in Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

The picture shows a group of men marching the dead bodies through a narrow street in Gaza City. The victims, a brother and sister, are wrapped in white cloth with only their faces showing.

The awards ceremony will be held this April in Amsterdam.

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