A hug wins World Press photo 2021

'The first embrace'. 85-year-old Rosa Luzia Lunardi is hugged by nurse Adriana Silva da Costa Souza at Viva Bem care home. São Paulo, Brazil, August 5 2020. © Mads Nissen/ Politiken/Panos Pictures

“Sometimes during a crisis, we learn about the worst things but we also learn about the best. I think this picture shows the endurance, the amazing willingness to fight. I think it can inspire more solidarity and more love in these difficult times.”

This is how Danish photographer Mads Nissen, author of the winning shot in the 64th edition of the World Press Photo Contest, commented on the announcement of the prize, during the ceremony held entirely online, as the current health situation dictates. And his picture, which in addition to World Press Photo of the Year won first place in the General News category, also speaks of the pandemic. Taken at the Viva Bem nursing home in Brazil, a country ravaged by the virus, the photo shows an elderly woman infected by Covid-19 receiving a hug – the first in months – from a nurse screened by a yellow-edged plastic shield that seems to envelop the patient like the wings of a butterfly. A barrier called “Hug Curtain”, thanks to which the guests of the facility were able to receive the warmth of physical contact they had been deprived of for too long, due to the pandemic restrictions. The iconic and highly symbolic image is a testimony to these dark times but at the same time brings a glimmer of hope.

Amma Elian, whose husband Anwar has been serving a life sentence since 2003 in an Israeli prison, sits with twins born following IVF. Tulkarm, Palestine, January 25, 2015. From the series ‘Habibi’. © Antonio Faccilongo/Getty Reportage

The World Press Photo Story of the Year was awarded to Italian documentary photographer Antonio Faccilongo for his series Habibi (which in Arabic means “my love”). A long-term project, shot between 2015 and 2019, to report and explore the consequences on families and relationships of the long and complicated Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Habibi chronicles stories of Palestinian women whose husbands, long-term detainees in Israeli jails, smuggle their semen out of prisons to conceive children through IVF, with the hopes to raise a family. Faccilongo chose to show the effects of war not by focusing on weapons and military action, but on the human side, “on people’s refusal to surrender to imprisonment, and on their courage and perseverance to survive in a conflict zone”.

Torrell Jasper, aka Black Rambo, poses with his firearms in the backyard of his house in Schriever, Louisiana, USA, on 14 April 2019. A former US Marine, he learned to shoot from his father as a child. From the series ‘Ameriguns’. © Gabriele Galimberti/National Geographic

Among the many images that deserve to be mentioned, we take a look at the Italian photographers who have won an award.

Gabriele Galimberti took first place in the Portraits Stories category with his project The Ameriguns – a photographic investigation into the insane passion for weapons among private citizens in the United States of America – and Lorenzo Tugnoli won the Spot News Stories category with his reportage on the dramatic explosion that took place in the port of the Lebanese capital in August 2020: a tragedy that claimed over 200 victims, injured 7000 people and destroyed about 6000 buildings.

An injured man stands near the site of a massive explosion in the port of Beirut, Lebanon, while firefighters work to put out the fires that engulfed the warehouses after the explosion. August 4, 2020. From the series ‘Beirut port explosion’ © Lorenzo Tugnoli/ Contrasto for The Washington Post

Great satisfaction also for the young Alisa Martynova, one of the winners of PhotoMATCH 2019 held at Photolux Festival. Alisa’s project, Nowhere Near, achieved second place in the Portraits Stories category. The series is about migrants who came to Italy from Africa: in her dense and evocative photographs, the people portrayed are compared to scattered stars, “a constellation of young people from different countries, of different genders, and with different traits”.

Blessing came to Italy from Nigeria, and works in Livorno, Italy, as a childminder. She is married and has a child of her own. 9 March 2020. From the series ‘Nowhere Near’. © Alisa Martynova


All award-winning photographers in the different categories on the World Press Photo website.


April 16,  2021

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