Prize winners: `Independent' photographers shine at World Press Photo contest and take Nikon's Fashion Photographer of the Year title

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Haunting anguish of Algerian mother

"Woman Grieves after Massacre in Bentalha" By Hocine

HOCINE never found out the name of his "madonna in hell". He returned to the village of Bentalha after the massacre of 23 September but she had disappeared, her anguish on Hocine's unforgettable photographs forever that of every grieving Algerian, the Unknown Sufferer in Algeria's war of unknown killers. The bodies had been cleared from the streets when Hocine reached Bentalha and he almost lost the photograph that would soon challenge Robert Capa's dying Spanish civil war soldier and AP's napalm- burned Vietnamese girl, and that has now been judged the World Press Photo of 1997 in the biggest international competition for professional press photographers.

Hocine - who for security reasons never uses his family name - went to the local hospital where relatives were waiting for the names of the 300 slaughtered villagers. "I asked a policeman if I could take pictures and he said `No'," he was to recall later. "Then I saw this woman leaning against a guard post weeping. I took several shots and changed my film before the cops made me hand it over." He gave the police only a blank roll; the image of the grief of the mother of eight murdered children was saved to haunt the world.

Hocine is 44 and the oldest of Algeria's surviving 20 war photographers (at least six have been murdered) and he knows the risks. "People are much more frightened of a camera than of a Kalashnikov [rifle]," he says. "... if you walk around the streets with a camera, someone will put a bullet in your head." Last September, he transmitted just two frames of the woman to Paris. "I felt like I hadn't got any good pictures. I only realised the next day, when Paris told me."

Adventure in fashion comes top Sheridan Morley Fashion Photographer of the Year

THE freelance photographer Sheridan Morley was named1997 Fashion Photographer of the Year at the Nikon Press Awards on Thursday night. The prize of pounds 1,500 was presented to Ms Morley for her diverse portfolio of fashion photography, including three images commissioned for The Independent Saturday Magazine and the Independent on Sunday Review. She arrived at Bafta for the ceremony just in time after a day shooting a fashion story for next week's Independent.

A news and fashion photographer for Today newspaper until 1995, Ms Morley has covered the catwalk shows for The Independent but has recently concentrated on her own style of fashion photography. The judges described her work as "very controlled ... very beautiful and adventurous".

Fashion was introduced as a separate category for the first time this year with entrants invited to submit a portfolio of five pictures. Also highly commended in this section was the freelance photographer Peter Macdiarmid, who has also covered the international fashion shows for The Independent.

The judges included The Independent's picture editor David Swanborough, Dave Viggers, picture editor of Reuters news agency, and Isabella Kullman, picture editor of Vogue.

Africa's children take the floor

"Ballroom Dance in Townships" By Jodie Bieber

THIS PICTURE of Mrs Paleman's dance academy in Ennerdale, south of Johannesburg, won the Arts Single Image award.

In the accompanying story, published in the Independent on Sunday in November last year, Mary Braid wrote describing how ballroom dancing had caught the imagination of black children from the South African townships.

The academy is in a "coloured" area, but also recruits children from the neighbouring black squatter camp.

Jodie Bieber has freelanced for a variety of international and South African newspapers and magazines for the past six years. Before taking up photography professionally, she was a media planner for an advertising agency.

Yesterday she said that she loved the sense of pride that came through in the ballroom dancing picture.

"Africa is always portrayed in such a negative way, it's always poverty and starving children. That is part of the continent's story but not it all," she said.

"In this picture the children's sense of pride shines through. For me, that's what the image is all about, it's about hope and the positive."

The children's teacher, Paul Kgola, begins dance practice by telling his young coloured and black pupils that they can achieve anything if they put their minds to it. He tells them to think of themselves as winners, and their successes in competitions are proof that his particular approach works.

Apartheid once prevented black dancers from competing against whites. Although the racially segregated dancing associations only amalgamated two years ago, the children at Ennerdale are already picking up the top prizes.

Jody Bieber also won second prize in the arts picture story category in the international competition.