A hug in times of covid, World Press Photo of 2021

3 min
The winning photo of the World Press Photo

The warmth of an embrace breaking through protective plastic and masks is the winning image of this year's World Press Photo awards, in an edition inevitably marked by the pandemic. It features an 85-year-old Brazilian grandmother and a nurse at the home for the elderly where she lives. The grandmother had to wait five months for physical comfort from one of the nurses, after minimum contact between residents and nursing staff was decreed. The photographer who captured the image is Denmark's Mads Nissen.

In the conteporary issues category, an image taken in Yemen by Argentinian photographer Pablo Tosco won first prize. It shows Fatima, mother of nine children, fishing with one of them in the boat she bought shortly after the war devastated her village, in a humanitarian crisis that Unicef considers the most serious on the planet today. As for series, within this category, the first prize goes to Russian photographer Alexei Vasilyev, who captured the shooting of a film in Yakutsk, where temperatures drop below minus 50 degrees Celsius and turn the enterprise of shooting a film into an epic feat.

'Doctor Peyo and Mister Hassen' won second prize in contemporary issues

The competition also chooses photographic series of the year. Antonio Faccilongo is the winner of the award for Habibi, a collection of love stories set against the backdrop of the never-ending conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The work emphasises how Palestinian families suffer a decline in their reproductive rights, while their dignity is denigrated.

One of the categories was general news. Photographer Evelyn Hockstein, of the Washington Post, convinced the jury with her image of a white man protesting against the removal of the Emancipation Memorial from Lincoln Park while a young black girl stands beside him not paying attention. Between them, you can see the statue with the former American president and an African-American kneeling at his feet. The explosion in Beirut last year, captured by the camera of the Italian Lorenzo Tugnoli, takes the first prize, in the sub-section of photographic story.

'Habibi', best story

The World Press Photo has always had an environmental category, and this time the photograph chosen is an image by Ralph Pace, from the United States, of a Californian sea lion playing underwater with a discarded face mask. In this category, a story on pig farming by Basque photographer Aitor Garmendia won third prize. There is also a nature section and, in this case, the Catalan Luis Tato has won third prize for a series of photographs on the invasion of grasshoppers in East Africa. The winner, in terms of individual images, was Ami Vitale, from CNN, for a snapshot on the rescue of giraffes in Kenya. And the photographer from Extremadura, Jaime Culebras, won third prize for his photograph of tadpoles in a drop of water suspended from a leaf in a tropical forest in the Andes. In total, then, three third prizes - all in areas of nature or the environment - for photographers from all over Spain.

Giraffe rescue in Kenya won in the nature category

In the portrait category, Russia's Oleg Ponomarev won first prize for the hug given by Maria, a Russian girl, to Ignat, her transgender boyfriend, who is facing gender transition. The image, and the story of bullying behind it, denounces the repression of the LGTBIQ+ collective in the country.

'Transition' won in the portrait category

In sports, the winning image is a geometric composition of stacked logs in Munich, Germany, and a climber climbing up them as part of his training, without harnesses or safety ropes. The photograph, by Australian Adam Pretty, also has a covid background, as it illustrates the closure of sports centres due to lockdown and physical distance measures applied during the health emergency.

The international jury also awarded prizes in the category of interactive montages. This year the prize went to a piece by the Washington Post which reconstructs the seven days of protests in Minneapolis after the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer. The authors are Holly Bailey, Matt Daniels and Amelia Wattenberger.

The contest received 74,470 images from 4,315 professionals. A total of 45 photographers from 28 different countries received awards. 35 of the winners were first-time winners.