Powerful images from the 2021 World Press Photo Contest

An elderly woman’s first hug in months through a plastic sheet, a sea lion playing with a face mask and a horse helping a cancer patient in her final hours among the images from the 2021 World Press Photo Contest telling the stories of a remarkable year

  • These shots are the finalists of the 2021 World Press Photo Contest and showcase the impact of Covid-19
  • In one moving image, an elderly woman hugs her nurse through a plastic sheet, her first hug in five months
  • In another, a Californian sea lion plays with a face mask, the pollution of which has become a major issue 

These stunning shots make up the finalists of the 2021 World Press Photo Contest, with some of them showcasing the impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had on our planet.  

In one image, an 85-year-old woman hugs her nurse through plastic sheeting due to the deadly virus which has swept the world.

Mads Nissen’s powerful picture shows Rosa Luzia Lunardi embracing Adriana Silva da Costa Souza for her first hug in five months.

The nominees are made up of 45 photographers from 28 different countries.

Overall, 4,315 photographers from 130 countries entered a whopping 74,470 images.

Title: The First Embrace by Mads Nissen, Denmark. 85-year-old Rosa Luzia Lunardi is embraced by nurse Adriana Silva da Costa Souza, the first hug she received in five months. The woman hugs her nurse through plastic sheeting due to the deadly Covid-19 virus which has swept the world

Ralph Pace captured a Californian sea lion playing with a face mask – the kind which have become ubiquitous during the pandemic.

Discarded masks are a major issue for the world’s wildlife. 

The 2021 World Press Photo Contest said in a statement: ‘In an unprecedented year marked by the Covid-19 pandemic and social justice protests around the globe, the nominees share a diversity of interpretations and perspectives to these and other urgent issues such as the climate crisis, transgender people’s rights, and territorial conflicts.’ 

Title: Niewybuch by Natalia Kepesz, Poland. Military summer camps for youth have existed in Poland since the 1920s. The young participants are put through boot camps, challenged physically and mentally, and given instructions often on former army training grounds in skills such as tactics, survival, self-defense, and topography. They are also taught to shoot, using air rifles and sometimes replica weaponry such as machine guns and grenade launchers. The camps are promoted as opportunities for adventure and recreation, and as character-building and encouraging team work. Organisers maintain that participating in games with replica weapons prevents children from seeking out real ones. On the other hand, there is criticism that suggests the popularity of the camps stems from the rise of nationalism in Poland, particularly since the coming into power of Law and Justice (PiS), a right-wing populist party. Patriotism and nationalism play a significant role in school education

Title: Sakhawood by Alexey Vasilyev, Russia. Twins Semyon and Stepan starred in the fairy tale ‘The Old Beyberikeen’ in the roles of mythical creatures living in the swamps

Title: Tour of Poland Cycling Crash by Tomasz Markowski, Poland. Dutch cyclist, Dylan Groenewegen (left), crashes meters before the finish line, after colliding with fellow team member Fabio Jakobsen during the first stage of the Tour of Poland, in Katowice, Poland. Groenewegen had deviated from his line, veering towards the right barrier and leaving little room for his teammate, sending Jakobsen crashing over the barricade. The two had been competing for first place in the stage, and were traveling at around 50mph (80kmh). Jakobsen sustained severe injuries and underwent a five-hour operation, spending a week in intensive care. Groenewegen broke his collarbone. He was disqualified from the race and received a nine-month suspension from the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). Jakobsen was awarded first place for stage one

Title: Fighting Locust Invasion in East Africa by Luis Tato, Spain. Herny Lenayasa, a Samburu man and chief of the settlement of Archers Post, tries to scare away a massive swarm of locust ravaging an area next to Archers Post, Samburu County, Kenya on April 24, 2020. A locust plague fueled by unpredictable weather patterns up to 20 times larger than a wave two months earlier is threatening to devastate parts of East Africa

Title: The ‘Ameriguns’ by Gabriele Galimberti, Italy, for National Geographic / Putnam Valley, New York. When Bree Michael Warner decided to leave Manhattan and the city for somewhere less fastpaced, she put a lot of thought into what county would be best. In some, guns are strongly frowned upon, in others, they are better tolerated. She owns 18 and is ‘an anomaly, in this ultra-liberal area.’ Most importantly, she has turned that fact into a cornerstone of her life

Jeremy Lempin was one of the finalists for his remarkable shot of a horse in a palliative care centre in Calais, France.

Manon, 24, who is suffering from metastatic cancer, embraces her seven-year-old son Ethan.

Her horse Peyo is also brought into her room to recreate her life while she is dying.

Curator Rodrigo Orrantia, said about this year’s entries: ‘I think what stood out the most was the variety of approaches to visual storytelling.

Title: Niewybuch by Natalia Kepesz, Poland. Military summer camps for youth have existed in Poland since the 1920s. The young participants are put through boot camps, challenged physically and mentally, and given instructions often on former army training grounds in skills such as tactics, survival, self-defense, and topography

Title: One Way to Fight Climate Change: Make Your Own Glaciers by Ciril Jazbec, Slovenia, for National Geographic. Gya Village is the first village settlement of Ladakh, Russia. The village has yet to be influenced by modernization and it still works on old sustainable lifestyles. The youth association Gya is one of the most active group in Ladakh and they provide platforms for upcoming youth of their village through workshops and education coaching camps

Title: Pantanal Ablaze by Lalo de Almeida, Brazil, for Folha de Sao Paulo. A dead deer lies in a pasture burned by wildfires in an area of the Pantanal devastated by a wildfires from which even the swiftest of animals could not escape. In 2020 the Pantanal region faced the largest destruction by burning in its history. From January to October, fires burned 4,200,000 hectares of the Pantanal, killing a vast amount of the region’s wildlife

Title: New Life by Jaime Culebras, Spain. The eggs of a Wiley’s glass frog, Nymphargus wileyi, hang on the tip of a leaf in Tropical Andean cloud forest, near the Yanayacu Biological Station, Napo, Ecuador, on July 25, 2020.  Nymphargus wileyi is known only from examples discovered around the Yanayacu Biological Station, and so is listed as ‘data deficient’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The species inhabits primary cloud forests. Individuals can be found on leaves at night. Females deposit eggs in a gelatinous mass on the dorsal surface of leaves hanging above streams, near the tip. A male can fertilize up to four clutches of eggs in a breeding season. The whitish embryos, between 19 and 28 per clutch, will develop for a few days until they are ready to drop into the water to continue their metamorphosis

Title: The ‘Ameriguns’ by Gabriele Galimberti, Italy, for National Geographic / Schiever, Louisiana. Every day, nearly 900,000 people wait for Torrell Jasper to make his appearance on Instagram and show off one of his guns. To find him, just type in ‘Black Rambo’, a nickname he’s extremely proud of, and make sure you don’t end up on his son’s account by mistake (at 13, he’s already trying to make a name for himself on social media). Torrell, now 35, learned to shoot from his father as a child. A former Marine, he spent a few years in war zones, ‘where pulling the trigger and hitting the target was a question of life or death.’ Now, back in civilian life and working as an A/C systems installer, Torrell, a.k.a. Black Rambo, mostly just has fun with his guns. People have fun watching him, too. ‘There are no weapons I would ban ordinary citizens from owning, but if I had to name one, well, a bazooka isn’t really something you need,’ he admits

‘Photographers in general, but specifically photojournalists and press photographers, are discovering new ways of telling stories visually.

‘Some entries stood out because their visual language was really sophisticated, which is a very exciting change from the classic press photography tradition.’

The winners will be announced at the awards show on April 15.

Title: The ‘Ameriguns’ by Gabriele Galimberti, Italy, for National Geographic / Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Every two weeks, Will Renke buys a new firearm. How long he’s been doing this and how many guns he has, he prefers not to say. ‘My collection? It’s big. Really, really big.’ Underneath the solid image of a bright young entrepreneur, it’s clear that he’s moved when he thinks back on the time he first fired a gun, at the age of 10, and on the shotgun itself, a Fox Savage .410 that he keeps carefully preserved. ‘Nothing is more important, because I don’t think of it simply as a gun. It’s a piece of history, something that was given to me by my grandfather and that I will want to give to my children’

Title: Path of the Panther by Carlton Ward Jr, United States. Ranches are vital to panthers, because few public lands are big enough to support even one adult male panther, which may require up to 200 square miles of territory in which to roam and hunt. In this photo, a female panther creeps through a fence between Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and an adjacent cattle ranch. Her kitten trails behind her. This sanctuary is too small to supply the full territory needs of one panther, but serves part of the home range for several panthers. The fence is a barrier for cows, but not panthers and other wildlife. The photo illustrates how a connected network of compatible lands is needed to support the wide ranging predators

Title: The ‘Ameriguns’ by Gabriele Galimberti, Italy, for National Geographic / Las Vegas, Nevada. In a dream mansion just outside Las Vegas, in a room that’s more of a museum, is where Robert Baldwin Jr keeps his guns, behind a bulletproof showcase window so like a mirror that, unless you turn on the lights inside, you can’t see the collection at all. It comprises hundreds of pieces. None of them have historical significance, but Robert is nonetheless quite attached to them. ‘I like to give myself a gun as a gift to mark important moments, like Christmas or my birthday.’ It’s a family tradition. When he turned 6, his father gave him his first .22-calibre rifle and taught him how to use it. ‘He used to shoot for fun. He was a hunter, and he wanted to bring me along, to forge a special bond. He succeeded.’ Today, Robert is a well-known rally driver. He’s competed three times in the Dakar rally-raid and has twice won the Baja 1000, one of the most famous such races. He never goes out unarmed. ‘If I’m wearing pants, it means that my handgun’s there somewhere.’ He is against any restrictions on owning weapons, although he does concede that ‘no private citizen should be able to have a nuclear warhead’

Title: Lincoln Emancipation Memorial Debate by Evelyn Hockstein, United States. Anais, 26, who wants to remove the Emancipation statue in Lincoln Park in Washington, DC, argues with a man who argues to keep it, June 25th, 2020. Critics say the Emancipation Memorial which shows Lincoln holding a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation as an African American man in a loincloth kneels at his feet is demeaning in its depiction of African Americans. The drive to remove the statue comes amid a wave of calls to take down monuments of Confederate generals

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