The Hague, Netherlands: Mads Nissen, a Danish photographer, received the World Press Photo of the Year Award on Thursday for his portrait of a Brazilian nursing home resident hugging a healthcare worker after months of Covid isolation.
The photograph depicts an embrace between a nurse and 85-year-old Rosa Luiza Lunardi, who had been alone in her Sao Paolo nursing home for five months.
To reduce the risk of infection, the women are isolated by a waterproof plastic membrane.
The photograph was taken in August 2020 and first featured in the Danish daily Politiken, where Nissen is a staff photographer.
“This iconic image of Covid-19 memorializes the most extraordinary moment of our lives, everywhere,” World Press Photo Award jury member Kevin WY Lee said in a statement.
He said that the image depicted weakness, defeat, and division, but that if “you look at the image long enough, you’ll see wings: a sign of flight and hope.”
“The First Embrace” won the competition’s main category as well as a prize in the General News – Singles category.
“To me, it’s a story of love and hope in the most difficult times,” Nissen said.
He said when he heard about the crisis unfolding in Brazil and the weak leadership of President Bolsonaro, who has been ignoring this epidemic from the start, dismissing it as a “light flu,” he felt compelled to act.
It is Nissen’s second World Press award; in 2015, he won first place for his personal depiction of a gay couple in Russia.
Antonio Faccilongo, an Italian documentary photographer, received the World Press Photo Story of the Year, a recent honor launched in 2019, for his chronicle of love stories set against the backdrop of the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
According to jury member Ahmed Najm, Faccilongo’s photographs “represent another aspect of the long contemporary dispute.”
” My work has the ambition to be a cultural bridge to bring people together,” Faccilongo added in a statement.
Ernesto Benavides, a freelancer for Agence France-Presse (AFP) in Lima, won second place in the Spot News – Stories category for a series of photos taken in November when supporters of deposed Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra clashed with police.
According to the organizers of the Amsterdam-based festival, more than 74,000 photographs were submitted by 4,300 photographers from around the world, with 45 of them being nominated by the jury.
Owing to coronavirus limits, the awards ceremony was held online this year.
Yasuyoshi Chiba, an AFP photographer, received the photo of the year award in 2020 for a picture of a young man reciting a poem by demonstrators in Sudan.
With AFP inputs.
COVER IMAGE COURTESY OF WORLD PRESS PHOTO