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On 5 August 2020, 85-year-old Rosa Luzia Lunardi was embraced for the first time in five months — through a transparent ‘hug curtain’ — by a nurse in her care home in São Paulo, Brazil. Months earlier, aged care facilities shut their doors to visitors due to the escalating Covid crisis.
Mads Nissen’s photograph of that moment ‘The First Embrace’ has been named the World Press Photo of the Year. ‘To me, this is a story about hope and love in the most difficult times,’ the Danish photographer said. ‘When I learned about the crisis that was unfolding in Brazil and the poor leadership of president Bolsonaro who has been neglecting this virus from the very beginning, who’s been calling it “a small flu”, I really felt an urge to do something about it.’
‘If you look at the image long enough,’ said 2021 Photo Contest jury member Kevin WY Lee, ‘you’ll see wings: a symbol of flight and hope.’
The annual World Press Photo Exhibition presents the important stories about the world we live in. According to Joumana El Zein Khoury, executive director of the World Press Photo Foundation, this year’s winning images were selected for the ‘personal, human and hopeful angles visual storytellers gave to very difficult issues such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd.’
This year, more than 150 powerful and evocative images by 45 photographers from 28 countries are being exhibited in only a handful of galleries and institutions around the world.
National Geographic photographer Ami Vitale, who documented the daring rescue of eight giraffes stuck on a flooding island in Kenya, said:
‘My hope is that these images can inspire people and remind them that this is the only home we have. We have poked some big holes in our shared little life raft. What happens next is in all of our hands.’
Fighting Locust Invasion in East Africa, Luis Tato, Spain, for The Washington Post — Henry Lenayasa, chief of the settlement of Archers Post, in Samburu County, Kenya, tries to scare away a massive swarm of locusts
New Life, Jaime Culebras, Spain — the eggs of a Wiley’s glass frog hang on the tip of a leaf in Tropical Andean cloud forest, near the Yanayacu Biological Station, Napo, Ecuador
California Sea Lion Plays with Mask, Ralph Pace, United States — a curious California sea lion swims towards a face mask at the Breakwater dive site in Monterey, California, USA
Port Explosion in Beirut, Lorenzo Tugnoli, Italy, Contrasto — a woman is carried to safety on 4 August 2020, in the devastated Gemmayzeh neighbourhood
Temple and Half-Mountain, Hkun Lat, Myanmar — a Buddhist temple occupies one half of a mountain, while the other has been carved away by heavy machinery mining for jade, in Hpakant, Kachin State, Myanmar
Rescue of Giraffes from Flooding Island, Ami Vitale, for CNN — a Rothschild’s giraffe is transported to safety in a custom-built barge from a flooded Longicharo Island, Lake Baringo, in western Kenya
National Geographic photographer Ami Vitale, who documented the daring rescue of eight giraffes stuck on a flooding island in Kenya, said: ‘My hope is that these images can inspire people and remind them that this is the only home we have. We have poked some big holes in our shared little life raft. What happens next is in all of our hands.’
Nowhere Near, Alisa Martynova, Russia — Nigerian woman Blessing is one of many migrants who have made the perilous and often life-threatening journey to get to Italy
Emancipation Memorial Debate, Evelyn Hockstein, United States, for The Washington Post — a man and woman disagree on the removal of the Emancipation Memorial, in Lincoln Park, Washington DC, USA
The Transition: Ignat, Oleg Ponomarev, Russia — Ignat, a transgender man, sits with his girlfriend Maria in Saint Petersburg, Russia
Log Pile Bouldering, Adam Pretty, Getty Images, winner of the 2020 World Press Photo Contests, 1st prize, Sports, Singles — Georg climbs a log pile while training for bouldering, in Kochel am See, Bavaria, Germany