Image for Portrait of Humanity: moving photos of beauty and resilience

Portrait of Humanity: moving photos of beauty and resilience

A competition that captures the resilience, beauty and diversity of humanity has revealed its shortlist

A competition that captures the resilience, beauty and diversity of humanity has revealed its shortlist

Taken in conflict zones, on football pitches and in an Afghan skatepark, the shortlist for this year’s Portrait of Humanity award celebrates resilience.

Capturing a full gamut of human emotions – from joy to grief, connection to isolation – its latest shortlist attempts to understand cultures, communities and people all over the world at a time of tumult.

“Over the past year, headlines have been dominated by tragedy and absurdity; streams of images – of war, protests and brutality – relentlessly flooding our screens,” said the British Journal of Photography, announcing the latest shortlist.

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“Today, we reveal the 200 shortlisted images of Portrait of Humanity, an award that seeks to celebrate what unites us as individuals during times of division. Portrait of Humanity is a call for unity, but it is also an urgent reminder of the shared fight against humanity’s biggest challenges: to protect the environment, choice over our own bodies, and the right to be and love whomever we want.”

The shortlisted images, including those below, have been brought together in a book – The Portrait of Humanity Vol. 6 – which is published by Bluecoat Press and available for pre-order now.

A woman revolutionises Londons football scene

Photograph by Sam Riley

Aged eight, Iqra Ismail, a British-born Somali, found a space for girls like her in football. At 19 she became the youngest to win a Black List award, which celebrates black excellence in English football. Now 22, she’s established as a player, coach and club director. A campaigner and advocate for inclusion in the sport, Iqra runs Hilltop FC in London, which welcomes players from underrepresented groups including Muslim women.

Image: Portrait of Humanity vol. 6 © Sam Riley 

A bereaved mother finds forgiveness

Photograph by Wouter le Duc

Diane Foley is the mother of journalist James Foley, who was publicly executed by Isis in 2014. Her book American Mother is about meeting one of her son’s killers, forgiveness, and the failure of the US government to free hostages. Photographer Wouter le Duc was deeply moved by her story. “As we said goodbye, she shook my hand and told me, ‘God bless you’,” he said. “I am not a religious person, but I felt the warmth she radiated.”

Image: Portrait of Humanity vol. 6 © Wouter le Duc

Grateful to be here

Photograph by Aneesa Dawoojee

Born in the early 1940s, Eglon came to England from Jamaica in 1958 and initially worked in a food factory in Vauxhall, London. Life was not always easy for the UK’s ‘Windrush generation’. “It’s difficult for some of us to get along in this country,” he says. “But this country is blessed in many ways, when you see suffering over the world, it makes you think how fortunate some of us are to be here.”

Image: Portrait of Humanity vol. 6 © Aneesa Dawoojee

Breakfast in a war zone

Photograph by Anya Tsaruk

Ukrainian photographer Anya Tsaruk returned home during the war to document her family and friends’ everyday lives during Ukraine’s fight for freedom and independence. Her work examines the complexity of contemporary life in Ukraine and its people. “It offers an alternative view to the simplified and victimised image of Ukrainians often produced by and unquestionably accepted in the west,” she says.

Image: Portrait of Humanity vol. 6 © Anya Tsaruk

Dancing to keep a cultural heritage alive

Photograph by Alex Kurunis

These three women are members of the London-based folkloric troupe, Fraternidad 100% Salay Filial Londres. They specialise in Salay, a form of folkloric dance originating from Cochabamba, Bolivia. The playful dance mimics farmers harvesting and sowing seeds. There are some 370 Salay dance groups worldwide. In 2019, it was declared a protected form of cultural heritage in Bolivia.

Image: Portrait of Humanity vol. 6 © Alex Kurunis

We are all connected

Photograph by Niamh Barry

Niamh Barry photographed this group of people who belong, like Barry, to Dublin’s queer community. It soon transpired that most were connected somehow. “I realised that us queers are bound to almost every queer in Ireland. The queer community is only a fraction of the global population, leading to interlocking pathways generating chains of mutual association that spread out, like a telephone wire, to connect us all.”

Image: Portrait of Humanity vol. 6 © Niamh Barry

Taking back her right to learn

Photograph by Juliette Cassidy 

This photograph was taken at a school in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, as part of a series documenting the Skateistan project. Skateistan is a nonprofit that uses skateboarding and education to empower children. More than 2,500 children, aged 5–17, attend Skateistan’s programmes in Afghanistan, Cambodia and South Africa. Half of those taking part are girls, who have faced significant barriers to education since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan.

Image: Portrait of Humanity vol. 6 © Juliette Cassidy

Main image: Anya Tsaruk, Portrait of Humanity

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