Through the Lens: Award-winning photographer shares daring experience

World Press Photo award-winning photojournalist Ezra Acayan from the Philippines talks about his work covering the drug war in his home country at The Straits Times Through The Lens photo festival at the National Museum. ST PHOTO: STEPHANIE YEOW
World Press Photo award-winning photojournalist Ezra Acayan from the Philippines talks about his work covering the drug war in his home country at The Straits Times Through The Lens photo festival at the National Museum. ST PHOTO: STEPHANIE YEOW

Former Reuters photojournalist Ezra Acayan was worried about becoming wrongly implicated in the Philippine government's war on drugs, after his experiences in documenting violence in the war.

But his determination to tell the stories behind the issue saw him diving even deeper into it.

In 2017, the Philippine national quit his job at Reuters along with photojournalists from other news agencies, to focus on the drug war.

"From just documenting (the topic), it transformed into something much, much more," said the 26-year-old. "I have actually become like a godfather to some of the children that have been left behind."

Mr Acayan, runner-up in the spot news category (singles) of this year's World Press Photo (WPP) contest, was speaking at a panel discussion at The Straits Times Through The Lens photo festival at the National Museum.

His winning entry showed the body of a man lying in the street after being shot by unidentified men in front of mourners at a wake in Quezon City, in the Philippines.

Also on the panel were Portuguese photographer Mario Cruz, who came in third in the environment category (singles), and Mr Christoph Grabitz, director of media programme Asia at German think-tank Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.

 
 
 

Yesterday's panel discussion, entitled Converging Lenses: Contemporary Issues In Documenting Social And Human Rights Issues, was moderated by ST's executive photojournalist Neo Xiaobin.

Mr Grabitz said that the work done by photojournalists such as Mr Acayan and Mr Cruz is now especially important, given the misuse of the term "fake news".

"Everyone uses the term fake news for his or her own purpose to fight those who stand up to try and speak truth to power. In this situation, it is very important to have outstanding journalistic work," he added.

Toh Ting Wei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 20, 2019, with the headline 'Award-winning photographer shares daring experience'. Print Edition | Subscribe