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Paolo Pellegrin receives Dr. Erich Salomon Prize for 2013

Paolo Pellegrin receives Dr. Erich Salomon Prize for 2013

© Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photos

October 2013

Acclaimed photojournalist and Canon Ambassador Paolo Pellegrin (Magnum Photos) was recently announced as the recipient of this year’s Dr. Erich Salomon Prize from the German Photographic Association (DGPh). He tells CPN Editor David Corfield exactly what it means to win awards – and this one in particular...

© Klaus Czerwinski/DGPh

Paolo Pellegrin accepts the Dr. Erich Salomon Award 2013 from the German Photographic Association (DGPh), on 12 October 2013.

Paolo Pellegrin will freely admit that he’s not comfortable in the limelight. The 49-year old, one of Magnum’s finest exponents of photojournalism, is disarmingly modest when it comes to talking about his work.

On 12 October 2013, at the Zephyr Gallery in Mannheim, Germany, he was officially presented with the Dr. Erich Salomon Prize for 2013 in recognition for his work as a photojournalist. The prize, a lifetime achievement award presented in honour of Dr. Erich Salomon, the German-born Jewish news photographer who died at Auschwitz on 7 July 1944, has been presented every year since 1971 for exemplary use of photography in journalism.

“He is one of the world's most prolific and most dedicated photojournalists, who, in the last 25 years, has devoted himself to the photographic documentation of the Conditio Humana [the human condition],” said Klaus Czerwinski of the DGPh, who went on to introduce Pellegrin and his work, a retrospective of which is on display until 10 November in the gallery as part of the "Deutschlandreise" project, a collaboration between agencies Magnum and Focus in co-operation with the Foto-Festival Mannheim-Ludwigshafen-Heidelberg and ZEIT Magazine.


Paolo Pellegrin, speaking of Erich Salomon - whose covert camera techniques included hiding cameras in hats and documenting many events which the public would never normally see - cited his work as critically influential in news reporting of the day.

“It’s an honour for me to be receiving this,” he admitted. “It’s humbling. You just have to look at past winners and it puts it into perspective. The history of Salomon itself is tragic. I knew about his work, of course, and when I heard about being awarded this prize I looked into it in more detail and realised how relevant he was at the time, and how his images still resonate today.”

“As photojournalists we obviously don’t do what we do to win awards but when they come, and especially for me this one, it is great to know and to understand that sometimes the work you’re doing has the capacity to be seen and to touch others. This is one of those moments for me. It’s not for a single picture, it’s for an opus, a body of work, and it makes me very proud.”

“I know that doing what I’ve been doing for the past 25 years has dramatically changed me, and I know that not just as a maker of pictures, but as a consumer of pictures too. I have been transformed by the experience of photography.”

Pellegrin continued: “Photography is an active language which we can use to converse. In this dialogue there is a potential for change and I have been changed by the things I have seen. By doing what I do I think photography can be a seed for the people who look at images. The viewer can be informed by the experience. The medium of photography – the creation of documents, recording what we do – is the most extraordinary tool that we have. It’s part of our voice as journalists and reporters.”

Career retrospective

At the Zephyr Gallery there is a selection of Pellegrin’s photographs, taking viewers on a brief journey through 13 years of work. The editing of these images, Pellegrin says, is just as challenging as the creation of the images in the first place.

© Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photos

Civilians arrive in Tyre after fleeing their villages in southern Lebanon. Tyre, Lebanon, July 2006.

“I’m a very meticulous editor,” he reveals. “I take at least the same amount of time editing as I do making pictures. I go very granular in my editing process and I think it’s crucial because it’s the second 50 percent – the other half of the equation. It’s not easy, in the same way that it’s not easy to take pictures. OK it’s easy on a technical level, but to take one that’s relevant is a lot harder – at least for me. The same is true of editing. When I recognize my intentions, what I’m feeling and what I’m trying to express, then that becomes a cornerstone. It’s like finding the gold and once you’ve found it, it’s there.”

“Sometimes I revisit old bodies of work and look at things with a different perspective and certainly my process has become more and more subtractive, visually. Taking away instead of reaching for an idea or an essence. It’s always ongoing. Thank goodness it evolves, too.”

“I hope anyone who looks at my work comes away enriched and transformed, for the better, just as I have been by seeing the work of the photographers I so admire, especially Dr. Salomon.”

Biographie: Paolo Pellegrin

Paolo Pellegrin

Born in Rome, Italy, in 1964 Paolo Pellegrin worked for Agence VU for 10 years before he became a Magnum Photos nominee in 2001 and a full member in 2005. He is a contract photographer for Newsweek magazine. Pellegrin has received many awards for his photography, including eight World Press Photo and numerous Photographer of the Year Awards, a Leica Medal of Excellence, an Olivier Rebbot Award, the Hansel-Meith Preis, and the Robert Capa Gold Medal Award.