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July 2007

The Canon Female Photojournalist Award for 2007 has been won by French photographer Axelle de Russé for her project reporting on the reappearance of concubines in China.

De Russé, 28, formerly a writer for SIPA Press agency, was praised by the jury for her “carefully prepared” submission. The award, which comes with a prize of €8,000, is presented by the French Association of Female Journalists (AFJ), sponsored by Canon France and supported by Figaro Magazine.

De Russé turned to photography in April 2005 and in July of the same year travelled to China with two journalists to report on a story about ‘missing women’. That was when she discovered the phenomenon of concubines.
In 1949, the Communist regime outlawed concubinage – the tradition of a woman being in a quasi-marital, sexual relationship with a married man of a higher social status – as it was seen as a sign of bourgeois decadence. However, the practice has made a comeback during the recent period of rapid economic growth in China. It is estimated that in Guangdong province alone that there are some 100,000 ‘kept women’.

Catherine Lalanne, Editor-in-chief at Pèlerin and one of the jury members, commended De Russé’s recent work following politician Ségolène Royal throughout the recent French presidential campaign.

© Axelle De Russé

Defeated French presidential candidate Ségolène Royal.

Commenting on De Russé’s submission, Ms Lalanne said: “It is rare indeed to see such a carefully prepared synopsis on a report submitted to the AFJ jury. The angle too is ingenious as she follows the paths of the demi-mondaines in Shanghai and poor peasant girls from the south. Axelle’s ambition is to draw a brutally honest portrait of Chinese society and to raise awareness of the plight of these young girls in Asia who are victims of a fashion that is immensely popular with men in senior positions in the Communist Party and with the Chinese who have made their fortunes in Taiwan.”

De Russé will be presented with the award on 8 September 2007 at the Visa pour l’Image photojournalism festival. The prize money is to help finance the winner’s project, which will form one of the exhibitions, or features in an evening programme, at the 2008 festival.