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Françoise Demulder (9 June 1947 – 3 September 2008) was a French war photographer who in 1976 became the first woman to win the prestigious World Press Photo of the Year award. The winning image was a black-and-white photo of a Palestinian woman raising her hands at a masked militiaman in Beirut's war-ravaged La Quarantaine district.
Born on June ninth, 1947, Françoise Demulder, nicknamed “Fifi,” was the daughter of an electrical engineer. A pretty and timid brown-haired girl, she was at first a model before she followed a photographer to Vietnam. It was this adventure of love that began her career as a wartime photographer.
After covering the Vietnam War for three years, the self-made adventurer travelled to other places of crisis in the world including Angola, Lebanon, Cambodia, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Pakistan, and Cuba. She often travelled to the Middle-East where she saw many mistakes in the reports about Yasser-Arafat, who Demulder had ties to through friendship. She also followed the Iran-Iraq war. Then, at the beginning of the 1991 Gulf-War, she was one of only a few journalists present in Baghdad when the city was bombed. She worked for the press agencies Gamma and Sipa, and for the celebrated publications of Time Magazine, Life, and Newsweek.
She is known for two particular photos which she took. The first captures a symbolic instance where a North Vietnam tank smashes the gate at the Presidential Palace in Saigon, during the taking of the city on the thirtieth of April, 1975.
The second made her, in 1977, the first female winner of the World Press Photo, the most prestigious prize in photojournalism. Designated as the best shot of the year, this image in black and white, captured in Beirut on January eighteenth, 1976, depicts a Palestinian woman imploring a militant in front of a house engulfed in flames, during the massacre of the Karatina neighborhood.
On the twenty-ninth of October, 2003, a sale of solidarity gathered together three-hundred prints by international photographers. The sale was organized by the Gallery Vu of Paris, and reported a sum of 171,000 € destined to come to the aid of a French photojournalist who was very sick and without social security. In the auction, the photo by Demulder that had won the World Press Photo contest, sold for 11,000 € to Yann Arthus-Bertrand.
Prizes and Recognitions
- 1977, World Press Photo for her photo of the massacre of the Karantina Massacre
- National Foundation for Contemporary Art
- Nicéphore-Niepce Museum of Chalon-sur-Saône