Gilka Receives Alexia Foundation Lifetime Award

Apr 7, 2006

NEW YORK, NY – On the opening night of an exhibit of photographs taken by many of the past winners of Alexia Foundation grants, Robert E. Gilka was presented with an Alexia Foundation lifetime achievement award during ceremonies at the gallery show in the United Nations Building in late March.

Gilka was National Geographic’s director of photography for 25 years, a Syracuse University picture editing professor for 10 years, and is an Alexia Foundation board member and a permanent judge of the annual Alexia Competition. The honor was presented by Aphrodite Thevos Tsairis, mother of the late Syracuse University photojournalism student Alexia Tsairis, the foundation’s namesake. She died in the bombing of Pan Am 103 on December 21, 1988, over Lockerbie, Scotland, as she returned from studying abroad for a semester.

The Alexia Foundation is dedicated to helping professional and student photographers produce photographs that promote world peace and understanding. After 16 years of providing grants to photojournalists, the foundation is exhibiting a selection of photographers' work on topics such as the civil war in Sierra Leone; the controversy over the Confederate flag in South Carolina; the war in Chechnya; and prison life in the States. The show opened at the United Nations Building in New York on March 22 and will hang until mid-April. Admission is free. Vin Alabiso, the Alexia Foundation’s board president and president of the Visual Journalism Alliance, formerly of the Associated Press, worked with the United Nations to organize the show.

The Alexia Foundation has given scholarships and picture story grants to more than 75 photojournalism students from around the world. Five scholarships and grants are given annually to photojournalism students. And for the last 10 years, a $15,000 grant has been awarded annually to a professional photographer.

The 2006 Alexia Competition winners were freelancer Balazs Gardi, 30, of Budapest, winner of the $15,000 professional grant, and Melanie Blanding, a photojournalism student at Western Kentucky University, winner of the student scholarship.

The foundation was created by Dr. Peter Tsairis and Aphrodite Tsairis, Alexia’s parents, following her death. Mrs. Tsairis said of the foundation’s goals, "Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and it can change a thousand lives. Today, photojournalists continue to risk almost everything – sometimes even their lives – to take pictures that matter. We at the Alexia Foundation strive to make it possible for photographers to make the images that will have a profound, socially significant impact – ones that will reinforce the power of photography to bring about change." - Donald Winslow