“If you wait, people will forget your camera, and the soul will drift up into view.” – Steve McCurry
To celebrate the beauty of humanity we’ve combed through our archives, selecting 10 striking images from past competitions, which collectively showcase the incredible diversity of our world.
This captivating portrait features a group of Kukeri, Bulgarian masked dancers who every year, don goat skins to perform ancient pagan rituals. The wearing of masks enables the dancers to embody supernatural beings, stepping into a spirit realm in order to ward off malevolent forces and usher in blessings and vitality for the new year. Ivo Danchev captures this tradition beautifully, the wintry landscapes providing a perfect minimalistic backdrop that accentuates the striking silhouettes and intricately adorned costumes, thus capturing the essence of an age-old tradition that remains well preserved in Bulgaria.
Joseph-Philippe Bevillard’s image captures a group of women and girls from the Irish traveling community as they gather after a church service. There are an estimated 100,000 Irish Travellers in Ireland and the UK, most of whom are devout Roman Catholics.
A captivating example of candid street photography, Bevillard’s image is reminiscent of some of Martin Parr’s early work: the close-up, slightly lowered perspective, and subjects crowded into the frame convey the scene’s energy, transporting the viewer to that moment, and offering them a glimpse into the lives of a unique community.
3. “Even Buddha’s children are just children”. Siem Reap, Cambodia – Jozef Macak (Editor’s Pick, People award. October 2020)
In Siem Reap, Cambodia, Jozef Macak beautifully captures the innocence and joy of childhood. Cloaked in their distinctive auburn robes, a group of young monks takes a break from their studies and duties to play, swinging between the branches of a tree and the ancient temple’s step-like walls. Macak’s expert timing and framing skillfully capture the carefree essence of the scene, embodying the sentiment of the title, for even the most devout young Buddhist needs moments to simply be a child.
4. “LOVE” – Mike Chen (Editor’s Pick, People award. October 2019)
Mike Chen’s poignant image captures a couple living on the streets of San Francisco, a city that is home to some of the world’s wealthiest individuals yet that also has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the United States. Elena and Zach, battling heroin addiction, lean on each other for support, holding onto aspirations of breaking free from their addiction and purchasing a small house together. This image is a powerful one, capturing both their heartwarming resilience and the profound melancholy of their circumstances.
5. Untitled. Bangladesh – Drew Hopper (Finalist, Travel Award. August 2022)
Drew Hopper’s absorbing portrayal of a Bangladeshi port is an example of how impeccable framing and layering can create a powerful effect. The viewer’s eyes are immediately drawn to the line of laborers who carefully navigate a narrow ‘bridge,’ their loads balanced precariously atop their heads. They are meticulously aligned between the legs of someone nearer to the camera, creating a captivating composition, whilst further in the distance, boats, figures, and industrial structures fade into the hazy horizon, adding depth to the scene.
6. “Castells”. Catalonia, Spain – Guille Ibanez (Finalist, People Award. November 2016)
Guille Ibanez’s image portrays a collapsed castell, a human tower built at festivals in Catalonia, Spain, (a tradition denoted by UNESCO as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity). During these festivities, multiple ‘Colles Castelleres’ (teams that erect these towers) aim to construct and then disassemble these intricate structures. Ibanez’s image vividly captures the frenetic energy of the event, a mosaic of intertwined limbs clad in vibrant hues reminiscent of an Italian Renaissance painting, accentuated by the exuberance of the spectators whose mood contrasts sharply with the apparent discomfort of the ‘castell’ participants.
This stunning image depicts three local villagers ferrying their goods across the Hussaini bridge in Northern Pakistan, with the majestic, jagged peaks of the Karakoram mountain range in the background. Formerly known as ‘the most dangerous bridge in the world,’ it was destroyed in a monsoon storm in 2011 and subsequently rebuilt more securely, now serving as a vital link for inhabitants from villages on the east side of the Hunza River to the Karakoram Highway and other settlements on the western side.
Monia Marchionni’s image depicts three generations of Italo-Cubans as they enjoy the outdoor spaces of a period house overlooking the sea. Taken from an aerial perspective, Marchionni’s expert timing and framing beautifully capture the theatricality of the moment, with each family member becoming a character in this scene. The photograph not only portrays a multi-generational bond but also resonates with the vibrant energy and idiosyncrasies often inherent in familial connections, demonstrating why, moments of quotidian life, can be truly compelling.
This somewhat surreal moment was captured during The Saidaiji Eyo Hadaka Matsuri in Okayama, Japan, wherein a throng of thousands of nearly naked men eagerly compete for ‘lucky’ items hurled by priests. Dating back over 500 years, this annual festival lures in around 9,000 men, who brave the cold February weather in pursuit of fortune for the forthcoming year. Tuinder’s image is a compelling one, capturing the energy, camaraderie and spirit of the participants as they immerse themselves in this age-old tradition.
This stunning scene was captured at the fish market in the Southern Bangladeshi town of Cox’s Bazar. The three figures in the foreground, framed naturally by the wooden structure, are a picture of tranquillity. Their relaxed poses seem to gradually awaken as they witness the sunrise casting its golden glow over the shimmering waters and the multitude of fishing boats set out for the morning catch. It is an image that communicates the atmosphere of the scene perfectly, endowing the viewer with the feeling that they are there.
All images © their respective owners