InterAction’s 2015 Effective Assistance Photography Award

"Friendship" by Partha Kar

"He is going to make a friendship with a lion (though not real but still, a lion is a lion) with the lion's favorite dish in his lap."

- Photographer Partha Kar 

For 13 years, InterAction has held a photography contest to highlight the innovation and determination of individuals around the globe. This year, the winner of the Effective Assistance Photography Award is Partha Kar, for his submission Friendship.

By the time the 2015 contest had closed, over a thousand professional and amateur photographers had submitted their most powerful photos of international relief and development. The images portrayed advances in education, gender equality, inclusion, and sustainable practices across continents – tangible examples of humanitarian and development work.

With so many incredible submissions, our selection committee decided that the winning images needed to be more than simply visually striking. They needed to make us feel something.

The decision to include an emotive qualifier was not arbitrary. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has done extensive research on how we as a sector talk about our work, and in turn, what resonates with general audiences. What motivates someone unfamiliar with development and humanitarian work to engage with our sector? According to the research, the average consumer of our messaging is more likely to respond positively to themes of self-reliance, progress, and partnerships. This carries through to images, with examples such as women entrepreneurs or sustainable agricultural practices sparking positive reactions. Or, as it was for us, a boy and his goat.

Kar is well-practiced in recognizing organic moments of photographic value.  He has worked as a freelance travelogue writer and photographer for Kolkata-based Bengali magazines as well as Kolkata-based English newspapers. Through his work, Kar has won several national and international honors, including the Best Critic Award from The Times Journal of Photography and the National Award by the Indian Ministry of Tourism.

Kar was in West Bengal, India when he met the boy – clutching a young goat, engaged in a conversation with the lion painting on the wall. He recognized the juxtaposition: the boy protecting the family’s livestock while fearlessly engaging the predator.

In this case, it was the “child’s psychology” as Kar put it, the confidence and free spirit, that motivated him to take the photo and name it Friendship. The lion might have just been a painting, but the animal’s fierce spirit was very much alive in the protector of the young goat. In the moment, Kar could see it. Looking at the resulting photograph, we could feel it.

Kar’s Friendship is joined by three finalists: Pennies to Prosperity by Mike Smith, Reflection Through the Ages by Lauren Leary, and Study with the Help of Potato Biomass by Dipayan Bhar. Friendship will be recognized as the Grand Prize Winner at InterAction Forum 2015 on June 22, 2015.

View the winning photos and the award presentation in the slideshow below. For more information on the InterAction Annual Photo Contest, please visit