Portrait of Humanity Vol. 5 shortlist reveals the faces of a changing world

© Andrew Rovenko, Portrait of Humanity Vol.5 Shortlist.

Portrait of Humanity shortlist announced as artists portray defiance in times of division

Many of the images that have defined the last year reflect deep divisions in society. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine saw countless war refugees flee their country, with their plight shown across the globe. As Iran’s brave women marched for equality, their message was conveyed worldwide. In Britain, photographs of striking workers illustrate the state of a nation. All of these events have something in common: they are reminders of strength, defiance and the issues that draw us together.

This is the backdrop for the fifth edition of Portrait of Humanity, with photographers capturing the faces of this changing world. Volume 5 brings together 200 portraits from artists around the world, published in a book by Hoxton Mini Press. A week later, on 7 March, 30 single image winners and the 3 winning series will be revealed. Winning artists will have their work exhibited at Belfast Exposed gallery and Indian Photo Festival. Protest is a common theme across the shortlisted images as photographers seek to portray the moments that make us who we are.

© Daniel Aros-Aguilar, Portrait of Humanity Vol.5 Shortlist.
© M’hammed Kilito, Portrait of Humanity Vol.5 Shortlist.

João Daniel Pereira appears twice on the shortlist for his portraits of climate protesters. One is Reverend Tim Hewes, who sewed his lips together to highlight the lack of climate change reporting by mainstream news outlets. Hewes’ injured mouth is shocking, as is the intensity of his stare. Portraiture is “one of the most powerful forms of photography,” says Pereira. “As humans we are captivated by other humans, especially by the eyes.” 

Pereira started taking photography more seriously while documenting the Black Lives Matter protests in London following the murder of George Floyd, becoming aware of the medium’s power to bring about social change. “My focus since then has been protests and activism and I want to help amplify people’s messages,” he says. “Portrait of Humanity is a great way to show my photos to the world and share the messages of the activists… It is also very gratifying to have my work recognised, and it helps to drive forward and quieten the self-doubt.”

© Kevin Prodin, Portrait of Humanity Vol.5 Shortlist.

© Cameron McNee, Portrait of Humanity Vol.5 Shortlist

The Portrait of Humanity judging panel comprised Richmond Orlando Mensah, Sunil Gupta, Simon Frederick, Mari Katayama, Karen Irvine, Virgilia Facey, Marina Reyes Franco and Martin Usborne. Gupta notes that in a world where cameras are ubiquitous, enabling on-demand portraiture, a photographer’s ability to spend time with their subject is more vital than ever. “It’s important with portrait photography to slow down and to make a connection. Sometimes the speed of smartphones can have the opposite effect,” he says.

That connection is clear in Frederic Aranda’s portrait of the English footballer Marcus Rashford, whose campaign against child poverty forced a government U-turn on cutting access to free school meals in 2020. The image was taken at the childhood playground in south Manchester where Rashford first started playing the sport. Rashford, 25, is a rare combination of high-profile footballer and changemaking activist, but the image takes the viewer back to where it all began. “It’s a story of self-actualisation and potential fulfilled,” says Aranda. “It’s joyful to me.”

© Frederic Aranda, Portrait of Humanity Vol.5 Shortlist.
© Ilka & Franz, Portrait of Humanity Vol.5 Shortlist.

Among the momentous events, there is still time for humour. Photographer duo Ilka Noggler and Franz Thomuller contribute a portrait of the food columnist Grace Dent relaxing in a bathtub of chips, an image originally shot for The Guardian. “With the couple of years we’ve all had, it’s important to express our funny, eccentric sides, and we are delighted to have been shortlisted as one of the few less serious, more colourful works,” says Noggler.

Martine Usborne, co-founder of Hoxton Mini Press, says: “It helps if the image refers to political/global events of the last year or two, as it can anchor it in the now, but that, I feel, is secondary to the more elementary importance of the portrait: does it live and breathe?”

“Portrait of Humanity is always at its best when it draws from the widest and most diverse selection of photographers looking at the widest and most diverse selection of subjects and we’re proud to showcase the work,” he adds. “The wider the selection and the more unusual the portraits, the more they converge on something quite specific: the need we all have to connect with each other.”

The 30 single image winners and the 3 winning series will be revealed next week, 07 March. Winning artists will have their work exhibited at Belfast Exposed gallery and Indian Photo Festival.