Photojournalism / Editorial Photography | Winner

Christian Werner




The Yezidi religion is one of the oldest. Since its foundation, 74 genocides have been committed against people of this faith. The youngest and most systematic was carried out by the IS terrorist militia.

The Yazidis are more persecuted than any other religious community, because they are regarded as devil worshippers. This is because they believe in Tausi Melek, a fallen angel in the form of a peacock.

Since the invasion of the IS terrorist militia in Iraq, hundreds of thousands Yazidis have been uprooted and are on the run. Thousands of men and boys have been shot and beheaded; women have been abducted and sold at auction as sex slaves. In adverse circumstances, they have erected makeshift shelters, finding just enough room to live. Only a few have made it into the camps set up by NGOs. Most live in the reinforced concrete skeletons of unfinished houses, in improvised tents made of tarpaulins and branches, or simply exist on the road.

They had no chance to prepare for the flight, nor to pack any essentials. Winter has come to Kurdistan and has drained the droves of refugees who have no winter clothes or blankets to protect themselves.

Until the beginning of the year, 10,000 Yazidis were encircled by the IS militia in the Sinjar Mountains. Over four months, they fought with little food, little ammunition and weapons to survive until the Kurdish Peshmerga forces fought a land corridor free.

Using this story, I wish to draw attention to the situation of the Yazidis, who are the main victims of this conflict. Here I want to show a broad spectrum. The current life situation, the despair of the encircled, the struggle for survival, the war with all its horrors, the religion, the destruction of religion, individual fates and their background.


Christian Werner, photojournalist, born 1987 in Hanover. Lives and works in Boitzum since graduating from the University of Applied Sciences in Hamburg. Christian Werner is extremely engaged and shows enormous diversity in his projects and works. The rewards for this are numerous national and international prizes and honours. 2013 saw his nomination in the photojournalism category of the Felix Schoeller Photo Award with his submission titled ‘Depleted Uranium’. His works have already been shown in exhibitions in various countries in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe and South America. Christian Werner has been managed by the agency laif since 2012.


2015 Pictures of the Year international, Award of Excellence, POYi

2015 JGS Photography Contest, Forward Thinking Museum

2015 Hansel-Mieth-Preis Digital, Zeitenspiegel

2015 Coburg Media Prize

2015 Axel Springer Prize

2015 American Photography 31 SELECTED

2014 Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund, Grantee, MFEF

2014 LensCulture 50 Emerging Talents, LensCulture

2014 CNN Journalist Award, winner, CNN Journalist Award

2014 Bronze medal at the px3, Prix de la Photographie Paris

2014 Runner-up UNICEF Picture of the Year

2013 Winner PDN photo annual

2013 PIC Förderpreis

2013 Kindernothilfe Media Award

2013 Gold medal at the px3, Prix de la Photographie Paris

2013 Finalist Felix Schoeller Photo Award

2013 Fellowship 14, Commendation Award, Silver Eye Center for Photography

2013 Canon ProfiFoto Award 13/1

2013 Brennpunkt AWARD

2013 68th College Photographer of the Year, gold + bronze medal, CPOY

2013 Runner-up dpa news talent

2013 Runner-up American Aperture Awards

2012 Unicef Photo of the Year, Honourable Mention, Unicef

2012 Third place ‘BEST PORTFOLIO’, Freundeskreis des Hauses der Photographie e.V.

Jury Statement

The Yazidis are foreign to us and mysterious. We knew nothing about them or their beliefs. We only know them now since they became victims of the radical Islamic State that is determined to exterminate them. These images sweep aside our abstract notions of this oppressed people and give them faces, bodies and feelings. And we get to know them very intimately. In his impressive black-and-white reportage, Christian Werner reveals the current fate of the Yazidis and calls our attention to their battle for survival. The jury was his calm and moving images, his skilful use of light and black-and-white photography and, above all, his closeness to these people.