Winners of Portraits – Singles | World Press Photo 2021


Here is a look at the engaging photographs from the Portraits–Singles category of the World Press Photo 2021 contest.

Over the years, World Press Photo has played a pivotal role in showcasing significant stories—revolutions against corrupt governments, migrations due to conflicts, the battle of survival of endangered species, and stories of hope and resilience. The contest recognises and awards the best visual storytellers who have gone out of their way to document these moving narratives, with an aim to bring about change. This year’s winning images represent perseverance, as the world grapples with a pandemic amidst ongoing chaos and destruction. However, there is a glimmer of hope, as a few citizens have begun to take charge.

Ignat, a transgender man, sits with his girlfriend Maria in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on 23 April 2020.

First Prize: Oleg Ponomarev, Russia

Oleg Ponomarev works on long-term projects focusing on social issues in contemporary Russia, and ethnographic projects on Russia’s minority ethnic groups, particularly those in danger of disappearing. Ponomarev has won several international photography awards and his work has been published in National Geographic Russia, Russian Reporter, and Novaya gazeta amongst others. Photograph/Tatiana Ostrovskaya

The Transition: Ignat: Ignat was bullied throughout his school years, and confronted by the school psychologist following rumours that he spoke about himself using the masculine gender. Ignat opened up to the psychologist about his gender identity—the first stranger to whom he had told everything—but asked to keep it a secret. The whole school found out, and the insults and humiliations became permanent. Many LGBTQ+ people in Russia keep low profiles because of stigmatisation against nontraditional sexuality. An amendment to the Russian constitution, made in July 2020, stipulates that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, with no other options possible. Although an attempt was made to make a further amendment preventing transgender people from changing their status on legal documents, it was not passed. Transgender people can marry, but the road there is difficult. Transgender people also face very specific challenges when accessing their economic, social, and cultural rights, as their gender is not legally recognised. This results in transgender people having no access to transition-related healthcare services, or official support against discrimination.

A doctor stands at the end of her shift, the marks left by a protective mask and goggles clearly visible on her face, in Mexico City, Mexico, on 19 May.

Second Prize: Iván Macías, Mexico

Iván Macías is a photographer based in Mexico City. He is passionate about the image’s ability to generate awareness and bring reflection. Macías began photographing in 2016 and slowly began his career in photography, initially collaborating for Time Out México and Proceso.

COVID-19 First Responder: Healthcare workers worldwide were at the forefront of the battle against a new coronavirus, COVID-19, which had originated in China and rapidly engulfed the world in a pandemic. Of 37 countries surveyed by Forbes in November 2020, Mexico reported 78,200 COVID infections among healthcare workers. When adjusted for population size, this was the highest rate in the world. The first COVID-19 cases in Mexico were confirmed in late February. In March, President López Obrador had played down the severity of the threat from the virus, allowing large public gatherings and preparations for the tourist season to continue. Once cases started to climb, in late March, a lockdown went into effect, but by April the president had declared the disease under control. On 13 May, less than 24 hours after the country had reported its deadliest day during the pandemic, with 353 deaths recorded, Obrador announced an easing of lockdown measures. Mexico had also come under pressure from the United States to reopen its economy to ensure continental supply chains. Exhausted healthcare workers became increasingly critical of policies that did not enforce stricter anti-COVID regulations.

A father teaches his autistic daughter, Ksenia (10), to launch a toy plane in Moscow, Russia, on 23 August 2020.

Third Prize: Tatiana Nikitina, Russia

Tatiana Nikitina is a Russian photographer, born in Moscow. Her work explores the themes of cultural tradition, ecology, and social adaptation of people with disabilities. Nikitina joined the Russian Photo Club in 2018, and completed a documentary photography course at the Docdocdoc School of Modern Photography in 2019 and the ‘Photographer as storyteller’ course at the school of documentary photography ‘Tsekh’ of Sergey Maximishin in 2020.

In Flight: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior. It is known as a ‘spectrum’ disorder because there is wide variation in the type and severity of symptoms people experience. People on the autism spectrum may have difficulty with communication and interaction with other people, show restricted interests and repetitive behavior, and can react impulsively to environmental stimuli, which means it can be more challenging for them to function well at work, school, or in other areas of life. The concept of autism is quite new in Russia, where there is frequently a negative attitude to people who have such behavioral disorders, and people are often ashamed of being on the autism spectrum. Not many medical and non-medical professionals are familiar with autism, and it is frequently misdiagnosed. Parents of children with ASDs can experience difficulty in finding support programs.

Here is our complete coverage of the World Press Photo 2021 Awards.






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