Winners of the 2021 Portraits of Humanity competition
1854 Media and the British Journal of Photography recently announced 30 images, along with three bodies of work, as winners for the 2021 Portraits of Humanity competition. The selection of images represents what it means to be human during one of the most challenging times in history, according to competition organizers.
‘The first time I met women players was during a football conference in Berlin in 2014. While from various religious, economic and cultural backgrounds, I came to see the common thread through all of their stories: the fight for the right for women and girls to play soccer and to be recognized as equals in their communities,’ says Alexa Vachon of her winning body of work Grounded.
Photos and bodies of work will be displayed as part of the Portrait of Humanity 2021 Global Tour at PHOTO 2021, Belfast Photo Festival, and Indian Photography Festival. 1854 Media gave DPReview permission to display the images in this slideshow. We recommend you view the gallery of winners, in its entirety, here.
Winner: ‘So Much Stronger Than Hate’ by Paolo Barretta (Italy)
Artist Statement: I never faced something like a pandemic. It’s been hard to stop completely our life in order to stay safe. This is my best friend and his boyfriend after three months of distance because of the quarantine.
There are so many reasons why I consider this picture so important to me. It’s not just portraying someone’s kissing. This is the story of people who fight, people who resist, people who stay together against this crazy world. Covid-19 supposed to bring people together, but it has shown me how mean and indifferent we can be to each other.
War, diseases, racism, homophobia, all the things that are actually breaking us in thousand pieces. And I am scared, because my dreams are not equal to this world. Or maybe the world is not equal to my dreams anymore. I don’t want to live in a world like this. I want to fight, I want to love, I want to change people, I want to dream, I want to laugh, I want the sun to come back.
Winner: ‘Oscar Pandiño’ by Carlos Saavedra (Columbia)
Artist Statement: In Colombia people live intensely through religion and ‘Ash Wednesday’ is one of the most important holidays. The cross is made from the ashes of the palms used on ‘Palm Sunday’, which commemorates Jesus’s triumphal entry to Jerusalem. The mark made on Ash Wednesday is a mark of devotion, a symbol of identity.
This portrait is made in Soacha, south of Bogotá, it is famous as a site of violence: the False Positives, the assassination of presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán, the thousands of families who, displaced by the war, have sought refuge in its hills. However, it also offers countless stories of resistance.
This portrait in Soacha connects aspects which are present in everyday life in my country; violence, religion and superstition, they have co-existed since the foundation of Colombia.
Oscar Pandiño usually stands in the main square of Soacha, I took the portrait after the priest marked the ash cross on his forehead.
Winner: ‘Invisible Borders’ by Chiara Fabbro (Greece)
Artist Statement: Dimitri in a red dress, her favourite colour, to celebrate St. Dimitri’s day. Her hands show her grace. Her eyes, the scars and the pride of her battle.
Dimitri was born as a boy in the small fishermen village of Skála Sikaminéas, on the Greek island of Lesvos. At the age of 14, she told her parents that she was a girl. She struggled to be accepted throughout her life and experienced tough times, living in a mental institution during her childhood, as well as years of homelessness in Athens. She had to fight for her right to cross the invisible border of gender identity.
After her parents passed away, she started wearing women’s clothes. Dimitri told me she now feels comfortable with her identity and the way she looks. In the little sunny harbour of Skála, she walks with her head held high. Dimitri lives in the house she grew up in, where her battle began. She covered the walls with religious images, as she is very devout, like her mother. She loves opera, especially Maria Callas, and often plays it very loud, filling the calm air of Skála with melancholy.
When I asked her why she often looks sad, she said it’s because of all the horrible things happening in the world, and she wasn’t just referring to what she learns from the news. There is in fact another story, hidden in the background, one of forced migration, which Dimitri can witness first-hand.
The invisible border between Turkey and Greece lies in the water just a few kilometres behind her. Thousands of people risk their life to cross it every year, fleeing conflict or persecution. Women, children and men, seeking refuge in Europe, land on this island, often on the shores of her very own village.
Winner: ‘The Performer’ by Daisy Gaston (Caribbean)
Artist Statement: Dëshantelly, a carnival performer, flaunting a uniform of brilliant colors and giant pencils at Curacao’s annual carnival parade. Ludgene, the costume designer, is renowned for his inventive and fabulous designs.
In February 2020 I spent a month in Curacao documenting the life of Ludgene, the islands’ most famous costume designer. As one of the few openly queer male artists on the Caribbean island, he is a role model and community leader, pushing the boundaries in self-expression.
Winner: ‘Huddling On Higher Ground’ by Michelle Neeling (Fiji Islands)
Artist Statement: As 2020-2021 grows increasingly surreal, many of us are wishing that we could just huddle up with our loved ones and hibernate until some of the strangeness passes. How long would we need to sleep in order to wake up to a new and better world? Will this period of farcical and increasingly terrifying world politics come to an end any time soon?
Is it still possible to reverse the existential threat of climate change and rising sea levels, and if so, how long will it take? Or perhaps we’re all in a strange collective slumber, and when we awake we’ll realize it’s all been a terrible dream and we’ll be rejuvenated, with renewed energy to correct the mistakes of the past… If only. We can dream.
Winner: ‘Wells’ by Carloman Macidiano Céspedes Riojas (Argentina)
Artist Statement: In the interior of Venezuela it is still closed. I live in a small town. One has to hide. My grandmother in Venezuela already knows that I am Gay, but she wants to accept it. She still loves me a lot. In Buenos Aires people can walk with freedom indistinct of their tastes or preferences. Even so I consider myself discreet.
Wells is part of my LGBT immigration project in Buenos Aires. As an author I think that although we leave our countries in search of a better future, I find in several immigrants that the implicit and main reason is to find that freedom that is not available at home.
This documentary project in progress was born in the form of my personal experience. Photography looks for me and finds me, it forces me to represent those themes that surround me, that touch me closely, that make me suffer and liberate me, I am a gay immigrant in Buenos Aires.
Winner: ‘Where No Roads Go, Somewhere in Arabian Sea’ by Rohit Iyer (India)
Artist Statement: The most wonderful thing about sailing for days in deep sea is, when you’re out there, you change as a human being. You change yourself, or rather, you have to change yourself or you can’t survive. It’s those moments I loved more than anything. In August 2016, I got lucky with the opportunity to set sail in a trawler with fishermen of Goa, documenting their life out in the deep sea; where no roads go.
I made this image during the two weeks long voyage with them in the depths of Indian parts of Arabian sea. The fishermen were resting while the cook prepared for lunch, after a long day of unsuccessful sightings of any potential catch.
Winner: ‘Iio Ryoyi, Gardener’ by Ingvar Kenne (Japan)
Artist Statement: The portrait of Iio is part of an ongoing project without end – CITIZEN: Portraits since 1994 – where, for the past 26 years and 60 odd countries, I have photographed people I met through my journey in life.
Using the same strict parameters; camera, lens, film, and inviting chance to be part of the approach, I have no intention to stop or veer off course. I am only obeying my own precept. It is like a manual in my head that is impossible to ignore. The purpose is in the obsessive doing, in the making of a photograph in that incidental moment and space we happen to converge at. And in the subsequent elevated human connection we are both left with.
The taxonomy of this accidental population was never the purpose, yet it is its inevitable outcome. Hooking each person to the next one I meet and photograph, allowing an examination of an unforeseen citizenry.
No borders, no sides, no issue.
So… it could be this.
Of seeing eye to eye.
Of being a citizen in the world, awake and curious about the other, the stranger.
A diary of a photographers life in progress.
The sum now, perhaps, a democratic equalizer.
Winner: ‘Nargin’ by Jack Lewis (Greece)
Artist Statement: Nargin is a woman experiencing displacement, stuck on Lesvos Island, Greece, living in the inhumane Moria Camp with her family.
Winner: ‘Lilly and Waltraud’ by Mirja Maria Thiel (Germany)
Artist Statement: Lilly, 85, and Waltraud, 76, are a couple for 12 years. Waltraud was born as Walter and received her sex reassignement surgery in Germany in the 80s. About her partnership with Lilly she says: “I’ve never been so happy and fulfilled in my whole life!” In July 2020, coronavirus infection rates were very low in Germany and I took the opportunity to portray them in their holiday residence at the Baltic coast for my ongoing project All This Love.
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