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Shelter wins Foto Kees Scherer Prize

European immigrants are the subject of Henk Wildschut's award winning book named Shelter.

By Editor /asdf 16-06-2011

Photography by Henk Wildschut and a clean and clear book design by Robin Uleman unanimously convinced this year's jury that Shelter was the winner.

The Foto Kees Scherer Prize is a bi-annual competition for the best book by a Dutch or Netherlands-based photographer. The tenth edition saw the book Shelter by Henk Wildschut taking the prize.

For the past five years, Wildschut has been enthralled by the world of illegal immigrants in Europe. He got to know the inhabitants of the makeshift huts around the outskirts of Calais, France, which became the subject of his photo reportage.

"Hardly any people can be seen on the photographs, save a pair of bare feet sticking out of a blanket, or a vague human shape covered by a piece of cloth," says head of the jury Max van Rooy. "Wildschut has captured the drama of their ordeal, without showing any of the grimness, any of the hopelessness. The book is current and features a beautifully clear design by Robin Uleman."

The way in which this basic necessity of life is given shape in the shelters is the 'leitmotif' in the documentary photography project that Henk Wildschut started up late 2005 and for which he frequently travelled to Calais, southern Spain, Dunkirk, Malta, Patras and Rome. For Wildschut, the sight of the shelter - anywhere in Europe - became the symbol of misery.

While shelters reveal little or nothing about the wellbeing of their residents, they still become models for the larger, underlying story - one full of violence, fear, desire, courage, sadness and anxiety. In a documentary sense, the shelters cannot pretend to be anything else than what they actually are. This indirect portrayal originates in the moral despair of the photographer: how to depict a humanitarian problem in images without clichés?

The indirect eloquence of the images in Shelter is the connective factor that helps make the receptive viewer feel involved and offers a meaningful alternative to the platitude of photography.

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