Valdemar Stroe Ren wins College Photographer of the Year

Valdemar Stroe Ren has won the main Portfolio Category at the 76th College Photographer of the Year (CPOY). With the prize comes the title as College Photographer of the Year 2021 and an internship at National Geographic.

During the start of 2021 the three friends Albertine Nordby Rasmussen, Ann-Sofie Antonsen and Solbjørk Kirstine Hesbjerg (the three ones lowest in the picture) moved away from Copenhagen to the small Island Anholt. They moved to pursue their dream of opening a local bakery on the island, but also to get out of the city and closer to nature. This summer evening the girls found out that Albertine has a tick in her armpit, and Solbjørk is trying to remove it in front of a curious audience.
Single Image: Valdemar Stroe Ren

A young environmental activist are removed from a construction site by the police at Amager Fælled near Copenhagen. He is a part of the movement Extinction Rebellion, and had earlier locked himself to the fence of the entrance as a protest to the forthcoming constructions. Amager Fælled are one of the last places with wild nature near Copenhagen, and many people in the area are angry, because the government decided to start a huge building project in this area.
Single Image
: Valdemar Stroe Ren

Valdemar won the prize based on a portfolio of 33 images. The portfolio consisted of 8 single images and two series – one from Kvanefjeld, Greenland and one from a Danish boarding school.

Kvanefjeld (also known as Kuannersuit) is a mountain site located in the southern part of Greenland. The small mountain contains many rare minerals and radioactive uranium, which is worth a lot of money. But there’s a conflict going on around Kvanefjeld. On one side many Greenlanders want independence from Denmark. A mining project at Kvanefjeld would potentially bring a lot of money to Greenland and help the country get independent in the future. On the other hand people fear the potential pollution the extraction of uranium could bring to the area around Kvanefjeld.

The potential mining project has divided Greenland and its population. Because of the conflict around the mine, there was announced an election on the 6th April 2021. Narsaq’s town hall are hosting several voter meetings in the weeks before the election. The different parties have different opinions on Kvanefjeld, but in the southern part of Greenland the majority supports the mine critical politicians. Most of the people, who likes the idea of the project don’t say it out loud.
Photo: Valdemar Stroe Rem from the series “Kvanefjeld”

It’s an Australian owned company called Greenland Minerals and Energy, that started the mining project around Kvanefjeld. The company has received big investments from China, and they claim that the rare minerals, they want to extract, are going to be used for producing windmills and green energy in general. But this is not why the critics are skeptic. They say that the extraction of these minerals will include a byproduct of radioactive substances such as uranium. The radioactive waste will be dumped in a lake, that runs through Narsaq, and therefore they fear a lot of local pollution in the town.
Photo: Valdemar Stroe Rem from the series “Kvanefjeld”

Mariane Paviasen is a former helicopter mechanic in Narsaq, who is now running for the county council election for the party Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA). IA is known for having a critical mindset towards mining in Greenland. Mariane Paviasen entered politics back in 2013 when Greenland abolished their previous zero tolerance for extraction of radioactive substances such as uranium. From 2013 it was again possible to extract these minerals around all of Greenland.”I cried when I was told”, Mariane Paviasen tells about the day the law was changed. Shortly after this happened, she met up with a couple of friends. Inspired by the slogan ‘Nuclear Power – no thanks’, they founded the Urani Naamik (no to uranium) movement in Greenland.
Photo: Valdemar Stroe Rem from the series “Kvanefjeld”

One of the unique things about Southern Greenland is the warm weather. It makes it possible for farmers to have agriculture, which is not possible anywhere else in Greenland. Chris Papis is one of these farmers. He has 300 sheep, and lives 15 kilometers away from Kvanefjeld. Chris Papis fears how the mine will affect his agricultural business.
Photo: Valdemar Stroe Rem from the series “Kvanefjeld”

First Year Away From Home
Boarding school (efterskole in danish) is a very common thing to attend as a teenager in Denmark. Over 30.000 students between 14-18 years old goes there every year. Some are attending the school for one year, while others will be there for up to three years. The schools have an educational responsibility, but most teenagers attend the schools for personal development. 170 student are going at the boarding school ‘Efterskolen ved Nyborg’. At this school all of the students are having some sort of “study line”, but for most of them this is not the primary reason, they went to boarding school. It’s for the social development, the first time experiences and the bonds created for life.

Students from Efterskolen Ved Nyborg are singing songs together in the morning. “With a little help from my friends”, is the song for the day. Even though they have only been here for three weeks, they are talking about how tough it’s going to be on the last day of school, when they have to sing this song again in a year.
Photo: Valdemar Stroe Rem from the series “First Year Away From Home”
Jacob are doing his duties of the day. “Shit it looks disgusting”, he says, while emptying the trashcan. One of the purposes of boarding school is also to educate the students in cleaning and having better hygiene, for when they actually move away from home.
Photo: Valdemar Stroe Rem from the series “First Year Away From Home”

Two girls are walking around the school in the evening. The students are allowed to leave the school’s area if they want to. They just have to be back at their houses around 21.
Photo: Valdemar Stroe Rem from the series “First Year Away From Home”

Many of the boys have made a cut in their eyebrow, as some sort of ritual. Until now Yahkemlek has avoided the cut. He was afraid of what his mom would say, if she saw it. After half an hour chase, the other boys caught him, and madre the cut on him. Afterwards Yahkemlek liked how it looked.
Photo: Valdemar Stroe Rem from the series “First Year Away From Home”

“How is the cover up going?”, Anna is asking her roommate Camilla, who got a hickey from a boy a couple of days ago. There’s a big wall in the schools canteen, where it says ‘singles’, ‘upcoming’, ‘flirts’ and ‘couples’. All of the students names are hanging underneath, and you can then move the names around during the semester, depending on what your civil status are at the moment. Camilla has been ‘upcoming’ with a boy almost since the beginning of school, and she doesn’t think it will be long until they can move to ‘flirt’.
Photo: Valdemar Stroe Rem from the series “First Year Away From Home”

The school has rules for where the students can be in the evening. They are not allowed to visit other houses than their own after 21. The two boys Jacob and Tumelo found a good way to talk to some of the girls from one of the other houses, without directly breaking the rules.
Photo: Valdemar Stroe Rem from the series “First Year Away From Home”

CPOY was established in 1945 and during the first many decades it was mainly an American competition. During the past 10-20 years, it has grown to be an international competition, where students from schools all over the World submit their best work.

This year, 535 students from 116 schools in 35 different countries have submitted 10,022 images.

The competition has a still picture and a multimedie section. Valdemar Stroe Ren has won in the still picture section. The multimedia categories will be judged in the following week.

It’s the third time, a DMJX student win the main category at CPOY – Magnus Holm won in 2012 and Mathias Svold in 2017.