Selma van der Bijl, Netherlands
Selma van der Bijl, Dutch, mother of a son, worked for 12 years in the consumer goods industry before deciding that there were more important things to do. So she started to photograph people, usually happy people, and earned her first merits as a wedding photographer. For this she won an award, which did not remain her only one. And she graduated from the Fotoacademie Amsterdam to turn to other themes, but always involving human drama. Birth, for instance. With Lucky she wants to make us aware of something quite simple and seemingly self-understood. She wants to show that migrant families are made up of mothers, fathers, daughters, sons. With all the feelings that mothers, fathers, daughters, sons in temperate regions have as well. She wants to promote empathy.
At last! They waited, doubted, worried, hoped, trembled. And now they can see each other, they are reunited. Now they can hug. Now, for a moment, all is well. Now, for a moment, they don’t think of what may yet come, perhaps not all of it good. In the pictures by Selma van der Bijl we see the pure joy of refugee families – in the moment when those torn apart become families again, uncertainty yields to touch, fear turns into safety and comfort. And war into a small peace. No longer Syria, Iraq, Eritrea, Yemen, where bombs rain on school busses. Now there is only a sheet of glass between them. And then not even that. The Alfred Fried Photography Award is a photo award. And this means that it is also about formal brilliance, not photographs with no legs or bodies ‘cut off’ as is the case here. But was this relevant here? Selma van der Bijl simply swept up the jury in her joy: She made us a present, the present of sharing in the joy of the people we see here. And at the same time she kindled the desire to show these pictures as widely as possibly, for instance to those who think that a foreigner is a second class human. (Text by Peter-Matthias Gaede)