Photojournalist scoops top award

Kyodo

Photographer Noriko Hayashi has won the top award for feature reporting at an international photojournalism festival in Perpignan, southern France.

Hayashi, a 29-year-old freelancer who lives in Tokyo, won the Visa d’or Feature Award on Friday at the Visa pour l’image festival for a series of photos depicting the kidnapping of a woman in Kyrgyzstan for a forced marriage.

Hayashi, who is originally from Kawasaki, is the first Japanese to win the award in the festival’s 25-year history, said Ryuichi Hirokawa, chief editor of news photo magazine Days Japan and one of the judges at the event.

Hayashi’s photos were highly regarded as they were the first to show the reality of the matrimonial custom in the central Asian country, where it is extremely difficult for an outsider to capture such scenes, Hirokawa said, adding the judges voted unanimously for Hayashi out of the four finalists.

“I feel very honored to receive this award. I really appreciate it,” Hayashi said at the awards ceremony late Friday.

The annual festival, which began Aug. 31 and runs two weeks, draws around 3,000 photojournalists and editors from around the world, with some 220,000 visitors attending a variety of related events.

A special news photo exhibition documenting the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami was presented at the 2011 festival.