Taylor Wessing prize: who is the man in the photograph?

Amadou Sumaila demonstrates granted permission to share character in which he explains how and why he left Mali and arrived in Sicily

Amadou Sumaila are members of 118 parties rescued from an inflatable ship drifting 20 miles off the Libyan coast on a clearly defined, calm morning in August last year. The kind of daytime for which people smugglers hope and their passengers pray.

The young Malian and more than 363, 000 other migrants and refugees traversed the Mediterranean to reach Europe in 2016. Like many of them, Sumaila had never seen the sea, never imagined that so many parties could be crammed into a small ship and never thought it would be so hard to breathe.

They were starting to think about extinction when daybreak arrived, followed by a craft from the German NGO Jugend Rettet. The crew of the Iuventa had come to save lives, but one of its passengers, the Spanish-Iranian photographer Cesar Dezfuli, had come determined to preserve faces.

Once the 118 were safely aboard, Dezfuli asked if he could take their pictures.

A rubber craft with 118 beings is rescued 20 international nautical mile off the Libyan coast by the recovery ship Iuventa. Image: Cesar Dezfuli

” I hit all the photos in the two hours before they were put on another ship to Italy ,” he says.” I didn’t have the time to get into people’s fibs, only to take about three photos apiece .”

It was only later, while going through his films, that Dezfuli discovered the showing on Sumaila’s face.

” There was something about the direction he looked into the camera and something in the clothes he was wearing that leaved the photo a texture. I don’t know exactly what it was, but it simply summing-up up the legend I was trying to tell really well .”

The reviewers of the Taylor Wessing portrait reward were also impressed and unsettled by Sumaila’s gaze- it” powerfully transmit his loss, solitude and resolution”- and chose Dezfuli as this year’s winner.

” What I wanted to do ,” tells Dezfuli,” was places great importance on the lives of the people who were being rescued rather than being the number of beings being rescued .”

Enssa( 17 ), from Senegal, Ousman( 17 ), from Guinea-Conakry and Alpha( 18 ), from Guinea-Conakry pose for a paintings times after being rescued on the Mediterranean Sea. Image: Cesar Dezfuli

Sumaila, who is now 23 and living in a movement centre in Sicily, did not want to be interviewed.

But he devoted Dezfuli permission to share the contents of a word in which he explains how and why he left Mali and came to travel through Algeria and Libya before climbing into the inflatable boat.


” I am Amadou Sumaila, a Malian, ordinary citizens of west Africa who left his country in 2015 pushed by the problem arising from the crusade, which obligated me dread for my life ,” he writes.

” I headed to Algeria, having to deal with a very difficult tour through the desert, some parts by hoof, with a very strong sunlight over my psyche. But fortunately someone facilitated me to span that desert and I reached the city of Souaf, where I invested nearly a year .”

It was then that Sumaila was offered work in Libya. With no knowledge of what was going on there- and nothing to lose- he made the journey.

” I never imagined that Libya would cause me so much better disturbance … I couldn’t go out to the street, there used to be armed people in every corner, people who if they check any migrant in wall street, they seize you, they pulsate you and they ask you for coin, and if you don t have anything, they can even kill you, “as its” the case of some of all my fellow members .”

Five weeks later, he reached the city of Zintan and then, helped by an Arab smuggler, formed it to Sabratha where he found himself in jail.

” I had been kidnapped without know now. At that time I exclusively feed once a day if I was lucky. I was in their hands. If your family doesn t got money to mail, you do not snack. Some of the people there died of hunger, and those who didn’t succumb of hunger, they died from the beats they received, or from cankers .”

His luck impounded out: despite growing very ill, his mother moved fund and, a few eras, afterwards, the Arab beings smuggler took him to the coast and threw him in the inflatable boat with 117 others.

Hours subsequently, Sumaila would be standing on the deck of the Iuventa, looking down Dezfuli’s lens.

People celebrate after being rescued. Photograph: Cesar Dezfuli

Thanks to Facebook, the two have been in contact for the past six weeks. Sumaila told the photographer that while he had initially claimed to be 16 in the hope of progressing more quickly through the system, he was actually 23. He said that he had been afraid, and had also been advised that saying he was younger would help his case.

More than 15 months after being rescued, Sumaila is still waiting for news on his asylum application and harbouring nightmares of becoming a professional footballer.

” Pretty much everyone here i am depressed because they’re still waiting after so many months ,” supposes Dezfuli.” It’s very frustrating and can take two years or two and a half. If it’s turned away, they usually end up on the street as they don’t have eviction are dealing here with African countries .”

Amadou Sumaila, photographed in the migration centre in Sicily, is still waiting for news on his asylum application. Picture: Cesar Dezfuli

The photographer is due to travel to the European parliament next week to present a petition calling for an investigation into how EU money is being spent to tackle movement in Libya.

He hopes that his situation may help people be extended beyond a crisis that is all too often reduced to statistics rather than human lives.

” “Theres lots” of excitements in his gaze, which is even stronger when you see it physically rather than digitally ,” he mentions.” In some channel, you’re confronted by his gaze and given the fact that this is a person who has a appoint and can be identified. It’s not just about talking about movement digits .”

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