Ann Lesley BarTur Award
Irina Werning is a freelance photojournalist who focuses on personal long-term projects. She is based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Werning has a bachelor's degree in economics, a master's degree in history (Buenos Aires) and a master's in photojournalism (London).
She won the Ian Parry Scholarship (The Sunday Times Magazine and Getty) in 2006, the Emerging Photographer Fund - Burn Magazine (Magnum Foundation) in 2012, and a first-place Sony World Photography Award for portraiture in 2012. Werning was chosen by Time Magazine as one of the nine Argentinian photographers you need to follow in 2015 and her book Back to the Future was chosen by Time Magazine as one of the best photo books of 2014. In 2020, she was awarded the Emergency Covid Grant (National Geographic) and a Pulitzer Reporting Grant in 2021. She is the winner of the World press Photo 2022 Story Category in South America.
Irina uses her pictures to challenge the mass media perception of her region: International media tend to portray women in Latin America as victims and not as empowered which reinforces the idea that women need protection from men, which is at the heart of machismo. Gender equality can also be promoted by telling stories that highlight femininity and aspects that unite women in communities.
2006 - 2022
Since 2006 I have been working on a personal project, Las Pelilargas, where I search and photograph women with long hair across Latin American communities. Women in Latin America wear their hair longer than in most Western countries. This tendency can be attributed to its hybrid culture and the combined influence of Indigenous traditions. In indigenous communities, the cutting of hair represents cutting their thoughts.
Over the last 17 years, I have been returning to the same towns and noticing that younger generations are cutting their hair due to globalisation and mobile phones. This aspect of my beloved South America is slowly disappearing. Will future generations preserve this?
The value of cultural heritage isn’t in cultural manifestation itself. But in the wealth of experience and skills passed down from generation to generation. A group’s cultural heritage is different, precious, and irreplaceable. The task of preserving culture for future generations now falls to the current youth.
I am a woman from Latin America documenting an untold story about women. I aim to extend this project to include men and children. With this award, I plan to travel to Otavalo, Ecuador. Where the indigenous Kichwa have remained rooted in their culture, and men grow their “shamba” (braid) that explicitly recognizes their belonging to this ancient nation. They transmit it to future generations, explaining to them why it is important that they preserve their Otavalo identity.
There are two important reasons why I feel that this is crucial to my project:
Document a disappearing culture: In recent years, there has been a tendency in teenagers to cut their braids, influenced by western cultures.
Challenge gender stereotypes in my region: My pictures can help understand that femininity is an obstacle to becoming successful, on the contrary.