Queensland College of Art alumnus Adam Ferguson has snapped up one of the world’s most prestigious photography prizes for his striking portraits of Yazidi refugees.

Photograph: Adam Ferguson/The New York Times

Adam took out the Portraits/ Stories category of the World Press Photo (WPP) 2020 awards for a series of images commissioned by The New York Times Magazine.

The winners were chosen by an independent jury that reviewed more than 73,000 photographs from 4,282 photographers across 125 countries.

“The WPP is an excellent platform to further the life of the story,” Adam said.

“Having the work recognized by the WPP will mean it is seen by so many more people – and the subjects in my photographs really deserve this.”

Photograph: Adam Ferguson/The New York Times

‘The Haunting’ captures displaced minority groups from Northern Iraq who were liberated from Islamic State rule.

“It was my intention to create a set of portraits that convey the immense emotional toll of the war in Iraq,” he said.

“Most of the families were extremely open and welcoming. The Yazidi population in particular had suffered some of the most severe persecution and I believe they wanted to share their stories, they wanted to be heard.

“I consider it a responsibility to give my subjects a sense of dignity in the photographs.

“It has been a focus of my career since QCA to tell stories about the powerless.”

“The civilians in war zones often bear the cost of larger geopolitical decisions and we can’t ignore that.”

Adam first gained recognition for his work in 2009 when he embarked on a series documenting the US-led war in Afghanistan. This work received awards from World Press Photo, Pictures of the Year International and Photo District News.

Since that time he has worked in most of the world’s hotspots, from flashpoints in the Middle East, to civil war zones in Africa and off the beaten track in Australia. His work has been published in the world’s top mastheads, including The New York Times, Time magazine, National Geographic and Vanity Fair..

Adam grew up in Coffs Harbour, and chose to embark on a Bachelor of Photography at the QCA after a chance meeting with a photography alumnus.

“I was looking for something to get me away and for some reason I connected with the idea of being a photographer,” he said.

“At QCA I discovered photojournalism and I knew I had found my calling.”

Queensland College of Art Photography convenor Dr Heather Faulkner said the success of photography graduates on the world stage reflected the calibre of teaching at the QCA.

“Our Bachelor of Photography prepares students for critical problem solving and life-long learning,” she said.

“We are delighted to see our remarkable alumni taking their place on the world stage.”