Romanian social artist Mugur Varzariu, awarded by CNN and UNICEF for his photos related to Roma ethnics problems in Romania, was awarded recently with the highest accolades received by a Romanian photographer by the jury of the Pictures of the Year International (POYi) 2014, organized under the tutelage of Journalism Section from University of Missouri.
With his photo “Untitled”, part of the documentary “Roma leaders, the end of Roma ethnicity”, made by Mugur Varzariu in 2013 and that has as theme the access for Roma people to Romanian health services, the Romanian photo-activist ranked third in “Portrait” section of the annual Pictures of the Year International contest.
The awarded photo pictures Simion Filotia, an old-woman from Marza village, and highlights the barriers Roma people are facing when it comes to access to healthcare, social care and education services. Although conscient of Romas’s discrimination when it comes of healtcare services, Mugur Varzariu saw again the indifference of Roma NGOs towards real problems those people are facing and the fact that they lost any direct contact with people from communities in difficult situations.
The award honors me, but, as long as this kind of situations are still existing in Romania, I didn’t achieve my goal. I’d give 100 prizes like this in exchange of a Nobel for Peace, for example, that would certify my efforts as agent of change when it comes of solving the problems Roma ethnics have right now, becoming a model for Romas and non-Romas in the same time. Unfortunatelly, the official leaders of this ethnicity are far too less educated or driven by their own interest (…) that damage the entire ethnicity, which stop them from joining us and support this voluntary social work that I am doing
Varzariu’s work was awarded in 2010 by CNN and, in 2011, he received a “Honorable Mentions” in UNICEF Photo of the Year competition.
After 15 years of career in marketing, Mugur Varzariu chose, in 2010, to try to change something in Romania, through images. He thinks that, when one wants to modify a wrong conception, one doesn’t have to fight with people, but with their mentalities. That is why his photos are saying dramatic stories, are approaching delicate themes, that went far beyond Romania’s borders for a long time.
Pictures of the Year International (POYi) is a photography contest with a history that goes back to 1944’s spring, when the University of Missouri launched a competition aimed to “pay a tribute to the press photographers and publications that, despite of enourmous difficulties during the war, did their work in an excellent manner”. Starting 1957, the contests organized in the same time by University of Missouri and National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) were reunited in a single competition, with Pictures of the Year International being now under the tutelage of Journalism Section from Missouri University. The competition is supported by Fujifilm, MSNBC and National Geographic.