“Though this has undoubtedly been a year that many would rather forget, we must not forget it. Because look closely at the images that follow, and you will see that they capture humanity in all its multifaceted beauty and fragility”
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, and we fight to mend the cracks in the system it has exposed, 1854 and British Journal of Photography are proud to present the Portrait of Humanity 2021 shortlist: 200 astonishing portraits which span the globe, capturing a year like no other in living memory.
Alongside the winners, who were announced in February, the full shortlist will appear in Portrait of Humanity Vol 3, published by Hoxton Mini Press and this year with a foreword from bestselling author Otegha Uwagba.
Selected by a panel of curators, photo editors and directors from leading institutions, the faces and stories that make up the book – compounded from people living in over 50 countries – are a testament to our collective will to connect, rebuild and keep going. From healthcare workers to protestors, joyful family reunions to chance meetings between strangers, they delve into a wide spectrum of experience, but give a lasting impression of that most vital common emotion: hope.
In ‘Lhabhum and Arte’,Phoebe Theodora poignantly captures Lhabhum, a Tibetan refugee care-home worker, sitting with his daughter in a moment of sorrow after losing one of the home’s residents to COVID-19. In ‘The Best Day of My Life’, Davide Bertuccio documents his friends finally signing their marriage certificate after more than 170,000 weddings were postponed in Italy.
Virginia Hines’ ‘Protestors’ – which documents an impassioned young man at a Black Lives Matter protest in San Francisco, California – pays tribute to the sociopolitical history that unfurled in front of our eyes last year. “I encountered this young man at a Black Lives Matter demonstration, less than two weeks after the tragic death of George Floyd and during the height of the pandemic,” she says. “I wanted to document the confluence of historic events as they played out in my neighbourhood.”
Elsewhere, we see how, even in ordinary circumstances, photography can provide us with much-needed perspective on our lives. As Yosando Faizal says of his shortlisted photo, which depicts a childhood friend of his grandmother’s boiling water for afternoon tea, “[it] made me reflect on how easy my life in Melbourne is compared to the village where I grew up, and yet somehow less free.”
“Though this has undoubtedly been a year that many would rather forget, we must not forget it,” says Uwagba in the book’s introduction. “Because look closely at the images that follow, and you will see that they capture humanity in all its multifaceted beauty and fragility.’”