Rosa Luzia Lunardi (85) is embraced by nurse Adriana Silva da Costa Souza, at Viva Bem care home, São Paulo, Brazil. August 5, 2020
Rosa Luzia Lunardi (85) is embraced by nurse Adriana Silva da Costa Souza, at Viva Bem care home, São Paulo, Brazil. August 5, 2020 Copyright Mads Nissen/Panos Pictures for Politiken
Copyright Mads Nissen/Panos Pictures for Politiken

World Press Photo: Image of Brazil nursing home hug wins 2021 award

By Natalia LiubchenkovaKristina Harazim
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The winners of the World Press Photo Awards 2021 have been announced, featuring work from some of the world's leading photojournalists.


Mads Nissen's photograph "The First Embrace" has been chosen as the World Press Photo of the Year.

It features an emotional reunion between a resident of a Brazil nursing home and their loved one after six months apart because of the pandemic.

The World Press Photo Foundation, an independent organisation that has recognised the strongest press photographs of the year since 1955, on Thursday announced the winners of this year's edition.

Survival during the pandemic, the climate emergency, social protests and territorial conflicts were among the events and issues brought to life for millions by the winners of the contest.

As many as 45 photographers from 28 countries were singled out for excellence in their work and the impact of their photographs.

The First Embrace by Mads Nissen, Denmark

World Press Photo of the Year - Winner

General News category, singles - 1st Prize

This was the first hug Rosa had received in five months. In March, care homes across the country had closed their doors to all visitors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, preventing millions of Brazilians from visiting their elderly relatives.

Mads Nissen/Panos Pictures for Politiken
Rosa Luzia Lunardi (85) is embraced by nurse Adriana Silva da Costa Souza, at Viva Bem care home, São Paulo, Brazil. 5 August, 2021Mads Nissen/Panos Pictures for Politiken

Habibi by Antonio Faccilongo, Italy

World Press Photo Story of the Year - Winner

Long-term projects - 1st Prize

Nearly 4,200 Palestinian security detainees are being held in Israeli prisons, according to a February 2021 report by human rights organization B’Tselem. Some face sentences of 20 years or more.

Habibi, which means ‘my love’ in Arabic, chronicles love stories set against the backdrop of one of the longest and most complicated conflicts in modern history.

Winners in other catagories

Yemen: Hunger, Another War Wound by Pablo Tosco, Argentina

Contemporary issues category - singles

Fatima has nine children. In order to provide for them, she makes a living off fishing. Although her village was devastated by armed conflict in Yemen, Fatima returned to resume her livelihood, buying a boat with money she earned from selling fish.

Pablo Tosco
Fatima and her son prepare a fishing net on a boat in Khor Omeira bay, Yemen. February 12, 2020Pablo Tosco

Sakhawood by Alexey Vasilyev, Russia

Contemporary Issues category, stories - 1st Prize

The people of Sakha, a republic in the far northeast of the Russian Federation, live in a remote area with extreme weather conditions: temperatures can drop as low as -50°C in winter. Art has become a way of showcasing and preserving Sakha culture, traditions, and stories. Cinema has flourished there since the 1990s. Around seven to ten feature films are shot a year, by a local movie industry lightheartedly dubbed ‘Sakhawood’.

California Sea Lion Plays with Mask by Ralph Pace, United States

Environment, singles category - 1st Prize


California sea lions are playful animals, native to western North America. With COVID-19 lockdowns in place across California, outdoor and natural beauty spots with plenty of wildlife became a popular focus for local travel.

Ralph Pace
A curious California sea lion swims towards a face mask at the Breakwater dive site in Monterey, California, USA. November 19, 2020Ralph Pace

Pantanal Ablaze by Lalo de Almeida, Brazil, Panos Pictures

Environment category, stories - 1st Prize

Nearly a third of Brazil’s Pantanal region—the world’s largest tropical wetland and flooded grasslands, sprawling across some 140,000 to 160,000 square kilometres—was consumed by fires over the course of 2020.

Paradise Lost by Valery Melnikov, Russia

General news category, stories - 1st Prize

Violence flared up in September between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the mountainous region of Nagorno-Karabakh.


Rescue of Giraffes from Flooding Island by Ami Vitale, United States

Nature category, singles - 1st Prize

Rothschild’s giraffes are a subspecies of the northern giraffe and are classified as endangered. Longicharo Island was once a peninsula. Rising water levels in Lake Baringo over the past ten years have cut the peninsula off to form an island. Particularly heavy rainfall in 2019 caused further floods, stranding nine giraffes. The local community worked with conservationists to build the barge and transport the marooned animals to a sanctuary in the Ruko conservancy on the shores of the lake.

Ami Vitale
A Rothschild’s giraffe is transported to safety in a custom-built barge from a flooded Longicharo Island, Lake Baringo, in western Kenya. December 3, 2020Ami Vitale

Pandemic Pigeons — A Love Story by Jasper Doest, The Netherlands

Nature category, stories, 1st Prize

A pair of feral pigeons befriended the photographer’s family, who were isolated in their apartment in Vlaardingen, the Netherlands, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ollie and Dollie, as the family named them, were regulars in the house, their daily visits a reminder that humans are not alone on this planet, even while living isolated in urban areas.

The World Press Photo of the Year and the World Press Photo Story of the Year awards carry a cash prize of €5,000. The winning pictures are published in an annual yearbook and are assembled into a year-long exhibition that usually visits over 120 cities and 50 countries worldwide and is seen by more than four million people.

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