2015 Infinity Award: Photojournalism
Initially a student in philosophy, Tomas van Houtryve developed a passion for photography while enrolled in an overseas university program in Nepal. After graduation in 1999, he devoted himself fully to photojournalism, starting out with the Associated Press in Latin America. He was the first AP photographer to cover the military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and in 2002 he traveled to Kandahar to photograph families of the Guantánamo inmates. He left AP in 2003 to concentrate on large-scale personal projects, starting with the Maoist rebellion in Nepal. The resulting photos of the rebels' rise to power earned wide recognition including the Visa pour l'Image-Perpignan Young Photographer Award and the Bayeux Prize for War Correspondents.
In 2006, van Houtryve was named one of PDN's 30 Emerging Photographers and in 2010, he was named the POYi Photographer of the Year. His first monograph, Behind the Curtains of 21st Century Communism, was published in 2012. The seven-year-long project documents life in the last countries where the Communist Party remains in power: North Korea, Cuba, China, Nepal, Vietnam, and Laos. The series won the 2012 POYi World Understanding Award. In 2013, with the support of grants from the Pulitzer Center, the Aaron Siskind Foundation and Getty Images, van Houtryve began working on Blue Sky Days, a drone’s-eye view of America. Images from the project were first published in Harper’s as the largest photo portfolio in the magazine’s 164-year history.
He has had solo exhibitions in Paris, New York City, Spain, and Italy. He is frequently interviewed on radio and television and has appeared on the BBC, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, ARTE, and France 5. He is a member of VII Photo. When not traveling, van Houtryve is based in Paris.