Images of ‘rubbish police’ land Swiss Press Photo Award

On the hunt for signs of dodgy dumping in Basel. Eleni Kougionis

Photographer Eleni Kougionis has won first prize in the “Swiss stories” category at the annual awards, for her gallery on rubbish inspectors published by SWI

This content was published on April 5, 2023

In summer 2022 Kougionis and journalist Benjamin von Wyl wrote a very Swiss story for the ten-language SWI readership: about how Switzerland employs teams of “waste detectives” to track down people who illegally dump their rubbish.

Eleni Kougionis is a freelance photographer based in Basel. Eleni Kougionis

The reportage from Basel, where Kougionis was born and lives, won one of six prizes awarded on Wednesday at the Press Photo Awards. “Her pictures document the almost forensic search for clues [by the inspectors] in remote corners of the city,” the jury said.

Kougionis followed a team of astronaut-looking inspectors on their quest to find culprits of illegal dumping, as the article outlines. It’s an unusual hunt, but an issue typical for Switzerland, and one which touches on a daily concern of many Swiss.

“I’m surprised to have won the prize,” Kougionis said. The reportage was a “commission, similar to those I often receive from media outlets. It wasn’t a lengthy photographic project”. She reckons the recognition is due to the topic being typically Swiss, albeit also rather unknown. “I didn’t even know that these inspectors existed,” she admitted.

Kougionis works particularly in the area of portrait photography and documentary-making. After training as a layout specialist at a printers, she studied photography at the Swiss journalism school (MAZ) in Lucerne.

During her training, she did an internship with a newspaper in Athens, Greece, and since graduating in 2015 she has worked as a freelance photographer and on her own projects. Her work has received various awards and has been presented at exhibitions.

In 2020 Kougionis won first prize in the same “Swiss stories” category at the Press Photo Awards, for a series on the “Black Peter” association, which organises projects in Basel to help people living below the poverty line.

Translated from French by Domhnall O’Sullivan

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