Dutch Defense Photographer wins prestigious military photo prize

Nijmegen photographer Aaron Zwaal (30) has won an international Military Visual Award for his photo of Dutch marines in the desert of Dubai. Zwaal, who only worked as a Defense Photographer for two years, received the first prize in the Feature category.

The prize has been awarded to the best military photographer or videographer since 2018. There‘s no money attached to it, it’s just about honor. Swaal compares it to the prestigious Silver Camera. โ€œBut for military photographs. So in that respect, it‘s quite special.โ€

The mission

Last year, Zwaal joined three weeks on a five-month mission of Dutch marines in the Gulf region. The Dutch were there for the France-led Emasoh mission to map the area and increase security in the region.

โ€œ Zr.ms. De Ruyter patrolled the waters around Dubai,โ€ says Swaal. โ€œWhen we visited the port of the city in March, we made a trip to the desert with a select group. That’s where I took this picture of a part of the crew.โ€

Zwaal also earned a third place in the category Picture Story, with his series on the Dutch contribution to the NATO exercise in Lithuania. โ€œIt is a sign that you are well on your way,โ€ says Swaal. โ€œIt‘s more of a motivation than a crown on my work. There’s still plenty to do, I think.โ€

A selection from the series of Zwaal:

Incidentally, Swaal is not the only Dutchman who has been awarded the prices. His colleague Hille Hillinga, who won one of the categories last year, won the second prize in the category Illustrative, which allowed Photoshop to be used. Hillinga also received an honorable mention in the Picture Story category, where Swaal became third.