September 4, 2008 / 5:25 PM / 10 years ago

French war photographer Francoise Demulder dies

PARIS (Reuters) - Francoise Demulder, a celebrated French photojournalist who was the first woman to win the World Press Photo of the Year award, has died, the French Culture Ministry said on Thursday. She was 61.

Demulder, who covered wars in Vietnam, Cambodia and Lebanon, won the coveted award for a stark 1976 photograph of despairing Palestinian refugees in a war-damaged Beirut.

“You look at that photo and that picture symbolizes, at least for the outside world, all the nasty little wars in Beirut that went on for so long,” said Jonathan Randall, a former Washington Post correspondent who knew Demulder in Lebanon.

French Culture Minister Christine Albanel paid tribute to Demulder, describing her as “an artist and witness of our time”.

Along with fellow Frenchwoman Catherine Leroy, who died in 2006, Demulder was one of a small number of female photographers who began their careers in the Vietnam war, establishing themselves in a profession previously dominated by men.

“This was a time when there were beginning to be women correspondents but there were relatively few women photographers,” Randall said.

“When she won the prize it was really quite something. It showed that women were capable of doing what had hitherto been a man’s occupation.”

As well as the quality of her photographs, Demulder, a tall, striking woman nicknamed “Fifi”, fulfilled many of the romantic cliches of the roving foreign correspondent.

“She was terribly amusing, slightly wild. I hate to use the phrase ‘one of the boys’ because she definitely wasn’t a boy, but she really was part of a group you saw absolutely everywhere,” Randall said.

For a link to her winning World Press Photo please double click:


Writing by James Mackenzie

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