The winner of the coveted $120,000 grand prize at the HIPA Awards in Dubai this year was the 29-year-old Indian photographer Anurag Kumar, with this image taken during Holi, the Hindi festival of love and colours.
Holi is referenced in ancient Hindu text the Puranas, and by the poet Kālidāsa during the 4th century reign of Chandragupta II.
Although the word ‘Holi’ originates from the legend of ‘Holika,’ the evil sister of demon king Hiranyakashipu, it is now celebrated as a festival of new beginnings, to forgive wrongdoings, and to rid yourself of past errors and conflict. It has recently spread, in secular form, to Europe and North America.
“The photo could have been restricted to red and yellow,” Kumar says, “had it not been for a man throwing a handful of blue powder over the seated worshippers, who allowed the barrage of colours to layer them.”
Another Indian photographer, Aruna Bhat, won first prize with a photograph taken in Ki Gompa, a monastery of Tibetan Buddhists deep in the Indian Himalayas.
Every evening, after a day of careful worship and deference, the young monks are given time to play in the monastery’s grounds.
The Chinese photographer Zhang Xiangli won second prize for his wildlife shot of two Asian paradise flycatcher birds.
Xiangli took the winning photograph in the tiny village of Sha Tin, in Jiangxi province, China. It shows two adult birds, male and female, feeding their chicks on a small and potentially hazardous tree branch.
The Turkish photographer Zeki Yavuzak came in at third with a shot of an old farming practice in Aydin, Turkey, where red peppers, eggplants and zucchinis are string-dried in the summer in preparation for the cold winter months.
The girl in the photograph is a local high school student who works the job as a way of helping her family, as well as saving money for the school year ahead. It’s a common low-paid job for women, teenagers and children in that part of the country.
In fourth place is another picture of a young monk at playtime, by the Indian photographer Mujeeb Kizhakkechalil. Capturing a boy jumping to touch the sacred prayer flags in a monastery, the photograph “reminds us that the smallest things can sometimes help us attain happiness,” Kizhakkechalil says.
A shot taken in one of the remotest areas in Russia, by the Italian photographer Fabrizio Moglia, came in at fifth place. Taken at the nature reserve Kurile Lake in Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, Moglia managed to be on hand to capture one of the richest salmon runs in the Pacific, which triggers a feeding frenzy for the local Kamchatka brown bear. The photo is made, Moglia says: “By the casual look in the bear’s eyes, and the red salmon flapping its tail as if it is saluting life.”
For information on how to enter HIPA 2015-2016, visit HIPA’s website.