This photo of child brides and their husbands, taken in Yemen by Stephanie Sinclair, was part of a series that won the Visa d’or feature award in 2012. Sinclair founded the nonprofit Too Young to Wed to raise awareness about child marriage around the world. Stephanie Sinclair/Redux

‘Our eyes on the world’:
30 years of Visa Pour l’Image

Story by Kyle Almond, CNN

This photo of child brides and their husbands, taken in Yemen by Stephanie Sinclair, was part of a series that won the Visa d’or feature award in 2012. Sinclair founded the nonprofit Too Young to Wed to raise awareness about child marriage around the world. Stephanie Sinclair/Redux

Thirty years ago, there weren’t very many festivals dedicated to photography.

And those that were around weren’t focusing on press pictures — images taken in the field by dedicated photojournalists.

So Jean-Francois Leroy, a French photographer working for the news agency Sipa Press, took matters into his own hands.

“I thought it was important to get a gathering point,” Leroy said in a recent interview with CNN. “I think it's important for all in this field to have a place to think about the future, to see how powerful the production is.”

In 1989, Leroy launched Visa Pour l’Image in Perpignan, a city in southern France.

The festival started with just 123 people. But now, as it enters its 30th year, it is an internationally renowned event with almost 3,000 professionals from 61 countries.

Conservation rangers work with locals to carry away the bodies of four mountain gorillas that had been mysteriously executed in Congo’s Virunga National Park in July 2007. The case was never solved. In 2008, Brent Stirton won a Visa d’Or feature award for his photos of the story. Brent Stirton/Edit by Getty Images

The event includes photographers and editors from the world’s top news agencies and media outlets.

“Photographers are our eyes on the world,” Leroy explains. “What would Mosul be without the photographers? We think about the migrant crisis, but suddenly when we see these pictures three years ago with little Alan, we understand what it means.

“People want to understand the world where they are living.”

Starting on Saturday, there will be free photo exhibitions across Perpignan, showcasing some of the world’s most important — and sometimes overlooked — stories.

And over the following two weeks, journalists will meet in the city to discuss how they cover the news, the daily challenges they face, and other relevant issues that affect the photo industry. They will also discover bright young talents and revisit the work of old legends.

Laurent Van der Stockt’s photos from war-torn Mosul, Iraq, earned him the Visa d’Or news award last year. Laurent Van Der Stockt/Getty Images Reportage

One of the highlights of the festival is the awarding of the Visa d’Or, or Golden Visa. Every year, a few photographers are recognized for their reporting on a significant story. The winners are chosen by a jury of their peers.

It’s hard, Leroy said, to define exactly what makes an award-winning photo. You just know it when you see it.

“Suddenly, in the middle of tons and tons and millions of pictures that you see, suddenly you see one and you stay stuck. You say, oh my gosh.”

The images in this story are all from series that won a Visa d’Or award over the last 30 years, whether it was in the news category or feature category.

Jimji, 6, cries out "Papa" as workers move the body of her father, Jimboy Bolasa, for burial in Manila, Philippines. Bolasa, 25, was found dead along with his neighbor in 2016. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte campaigned hard on a no-nonsense approach to crime, and on several occasions he has hinted openly that he doesn't oppose his police force or even citizens taking the lives of suspected criminals. Critics see the approach as a complete disregard of due process. "It's absolutely crippling to see that image and to see that little girl experiencing so much pain and loss; to know that her father was never given a trial, never had the opportunity to defend himself in front of a court," Daniel Berehulak said about the photo, which he took on assignment for The New York Times. "He was tortured and executed in the space of 30-45 minutes." Daniel Berehulak/The New York Times/Redux

Yunghi Kim’s photos from Rwanda won her the Visa d’Or news award in 1997. In this photo, Yolanda Mugeni reunites with her mother-in-law, Angeline Iradukunda, after returning to Rwanda with her children. Hundreds of thousands of Rwandans had fled the country years earlier when a genocide began in 1994. Hutu extremists targeted minority ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus in a three-month killing spree that left an estimated 800,000 people dead. Yunghi Kim/Contact Press Images

A woman and children hide in the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, after gunmen opened fire there in September 2013. The terrorist attack killed at least 39 people. New York Times photographer Tyler Hicks went into the mall with police as they cleared the area. He won a Visa d’Or news award for his coverage. Tyler Hicks/The New York Times/Redux

After the 1997 collapse of Albania's economy, widespread looting and ethnic conflict broke out in Albania and Kosovo, a majority Albanian province in southern Serbia. Fassli Veisllari was killed by a stray bullet in Berat, Albania, leaving behind a wife and three kids. The photo was taken by Joachim Ladefoged, who won a Visa d’Or news award for his work on the Kosovo crisis. Joachim Ladefoged/VII/Redux

A blind protester attends a demonstration in Change Square during anti-government protests in Sanaa, Yemen, in May 2011. Yuri Kozyrev’s coverage of the Arab Spring won him the Visa d’Or news award that year. “There was an invisible border for protesters to stay behind, and the army would shoot anyone who tried to cross this line,” he wrote in 2011. “I saw so many young people were ready to cross the line, marching to die.” Yuri Kozyrev/Noor/Redux

Stephanie Sinclair won the 2010 Visa d’Or feature award for her “Polygamy in America” series. She spent more than a year photographing the members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a Mormon offshoot that practices polygamy. In this photo, Teresa Jeffs, the 16-year-old daughter of jailed leader Warren Jeffs, plays on the family trampoline in Texas. In 2011, Warren Jeffs was sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years for sexually assaulting two girls he claimed were his "spiritual wives." One of the girls was 12 and another was 15. Stephanie Sinclair/Redux

Zed Nelson’s photo project “Gun Nation,” which examined America’s gun culture, won a Visa d’Or feature award in 1998. This photo shows Mike, a father and gun owner. “It’s my constitutional right to own a gun and protect my family,” he explained to Nelson. Zed Nelson

John and Kaywin Lenoue were also in Nelson’s “Gun Nation” series. They told Nelson they carried guns for self-defense. Zed Nelson

James Dorbor, an 8-year-old who doctors feared was infected with Ebola, is carried to a treatment facility in Monrovia, Liberia, in 2014. Daniel Berehulak’s coverage of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa earned him a Visa d’Or feature award in 2015. Daniel Berehulak/The New York Times/Redux

Photographer Felicia Webb examined eating disorders in her project “Nil by Mouth,” which won the Visa d’Or feature award in 2002. This photo shows Natalie, a woman struggling with anorexia. “Anorexia is a way of externalizing my emotional pain, just like cutting my arm with a scalpel is,” she told Webb. Felicia Webb

Carol Guzy took his photo of a US soldier protecting a suspect from a crowd in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after an explosive device was thrown into a pro-Aristide march in September 1994. The regime that overthrew President Jean-Bertrand Aristide collapsed that year and the United States helped restore Aristide to power. Guzy’s work in Haiti earned her a Visa d’Or news award. Carol Guzy/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Chinese immigrants sleep on a fire escape to beat the heat in New York City in 1998. Chien-Chi Chang’s “Chinatown” project, which documented the lives of Chinese immigrants in New York, won him a Visa d’Or feature award in 1999. Chien-Chi Chang/Magnum Photos

Visa Pour l’Image starts Saturday, September 1, and ends Thursday, September 16, in Perpignan, France.

Photo editor: Brett Roegiers