Winners of Portraits – Singles | World Press Photo 2020


A photojournalistic photograph’s intent is to inform and educate, and eventually, fuel the commencement of necessary reparations. Since 1955, the World Press Photo Awards has been an instrumental force in this arena, by bringing harrowing stories of terror, as well as those of hope and resilience. These stories scream vociferously of the world’s apathy against its citizens, that we need to do better. The foundation has announced the winners of the contest on its online channels on the 16th of April. Here is a look at the photographs from the 63rd edition of the awards.

First prize: Tomek Kaczor, Poland, for Duży Format, Gazeta Wyborcza

Awakening: Ewa, a 15-year-old Armenian girl who has recently woken from catatonic state brought on by Resignation Syndrome, sits in a wheelchair, flanked by her parents, in a refugee reception center in Podkowa Leśna, Poland, on 1 June 2019. Photograph/Tomek Kaczor

Tomasz Kaczor has worked as a freelance photographer for over 12 years, and an educator and photography instructor. He is a co-establisher and a photographer for Magazyn Kontakt magazine. Image credit: Dorota Borodaj

Awakening: Resignation Syndrome (RS) renders patients passive, immobile, mute, unable to eat and drink, incontinent and unresponsive to physical stimulus. It affects psychologically traumatized children in the midst of lengthy asylum processes, and seems most common in Roma and Yazidi children as well as those from the Balkans. It was first noted in the late 1990s, and was thought to be confined to Sweden, though cases have since been reported in the offshore refugee detention center run by the Australian government in Nauru. Remission and gradual return to normal function occurs after life circumstances improve. Ewa succumbed to RS while her family were trying for asylum in Sweden and threatened with deportation to Poland, which had been their country of first arrival as refugees. They feared being sent back to Armenia. The family was deported to Poland, despite Ewa’s illness, but she recovered eight months after they arrived.

Second prize: Lee-Ann Olwage, South Africa

Belinda Qaqamba Ka-Fassie, a drag artist and activist, poses at a shisanyama—a community space where women cook and sell meat—in Khayelitsha, a township located on the Cape Flats, near Cape Town, South Africa, on 4 August 2019. Photograph/Lee-Ann Olwage

Lee-Ann Olwage is a visual storyteller from South Africa. Olwage’s work explores themes of identity, transitions and universal narratives through long-term projects. Image credit: Gordon de Bruin

Black Drag Magic – Portrait of a Drag Artist and Activist: Belinda, the photographer, and other black, queer, gender non-conforming and transgender people collaborated in a project to decolonize drag culture and find a particularly African expression of drag. The aim was also to highlight the need for the African lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer (LGBTQ+) community to find their identities irrespective of their backgrounds, and to reclaim the public space in a community where they are subject to discrimination, harassment and violence. Discrimination is part of everyday life for LGBTQ+ people in townships such as Khayelitsha, especially in public areas. A survey of 2,000 LGBTQ+ people by South African rights organization OUT found that within a two-year period, 39% had been verbally insulted, 20% threatened, 17% chased or followed, and nearly 10% physically attacked.

Third prize: Alon Skuy, South Africa, Sunday Times

Professional dancer Musa Motha, who dances on crutches, poses after a practice session in Newtown, Johannesburg, South Africa, on 18 September 2019. Photograph/Alon Skuy

Alon Skuy, a photojournalist born in Johannesburg, is the chief photographer of the Sunday Times and The Times in South Africa. For more than a decade, Skuy has documented xenophobia in South Africa, and together with colleague James Oatway, will publish a book on the subject in 2020.Image credit: Thys Dullaart

Musa’s Struggle and Search for the Stage: Musa was a rising football player when, at the age of 11, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of cancer that affects young people in particular and produces immature bone. As a result, his leg was amputated below the knee. Musa refocused his ambitions on his love for music, and took up dance. He has learned how to use gravity and his crutches, together with the physical flexibility he learned as a football player, to perfect his moves. He performs with the Vuyani Dance Theatre, a contemporary dance company in Johannesburg.


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