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Katharina Hesse

Katharina Hesse is a Beijing-based photographer who has worked throughout Asia for nearly two decades. Her work primarily focuses on China’s social concerns, among them youth and urban culture, religion and North Korean refugees.

The woman in this photo is Kim Jung-ae (a pseudonym), 62. After her son died two years ago of starvation, Ms. Kim escaped from North Korea to find food and shelter in China. It was no easy task to leave North Korea, a country that denies its citizens the basic human right to travel freely.  During her journey to China Ms. Kim had no income, was disabled and had to live on herbs and grass that she collected in the mountains. It took Ms. Kim five days by foot to reach a town in China, where she now supports herself by reselling garbage that she collects on the streets.

The Allard Prize Photo Competition jury selected this photo as it captures the image of a woman with the courage to seek a better life despite the risks involved.