‘The rhythm of life beats in these images’: Meet the winners of Portrait of Humanity Vol. 6

©Juliette Cassidy – Portrait of Humanity vol. 6 winner

Today we present 30 photographs and three series winners of Portrait of Humanity. Together they illuminate the experiences that unite us during times of division

The last year has been fraught with turmoil. Images of suffering and destruction have dominated newsreels, a backdrop to rising death tolls, roaring wildfires and a tightening grip on human rights across the globe. Yet beyond the gloom there are beacons of hope; places where strength and kindness shine through. Now in its sixth year, the Portrait of Humanity (POH) award returns to remind us of our shared essence. Today we announce 30 winning images and three series winners, presenting a collection of photographs from all corners of the world that highlight the ubiquitous experiences uniting us during times of division.

These winners will be part of a global touring exhibition: from Fotofestiwal Łódź in Poland, to Four Corners in London, and finally at Indian Photography Festival. The previously announced 200 shortlisted photographs will be published in a book, Portrait of Humanity Vol. 6, available in September through Bluecoat Press.

©Juan Brenner - Portrait of Humanity vol. 6 Winner

I was not only determined to document healthcare workers’ fragility, but also the resilience and shared humanity that comes with caring for people and bringing new life into the world

– James Clifford Kent

©James Clifford Kent - Portrait of Humanity Winner
©Katerina Tsakiri - Portrait of Humanity Winner

Among the winning single images is a portrait of obstetrician Osaeloke Osakwe, a doctor specialising in childbirth, taken by James Clifford Kent at the end of a gruelling 12-hour shift. In 2023 Kent shadowed staff at West Middlesex University Hospital’s maternity unit for several weeks. “Three years earlier, Osaeloke supported my wife leading up to our daughter’s birth, ensuring she felt listened to and respected,” he recalls. “I wanted to capture an image that spoke to these important but often overlooked aspects of maternity care.” A key part of the UK’s infrastructure, the NHS has been pushed to the limit since Covid-19 and continued cuts to public services. Those who work on the frontline of maternity care are supporting life in its most fragile state, facing daily challenges that take a physical, psychological and emotional toll. Kent has witnessed these challenges since he was a child because his mother was an NHS nurse. “I was not only determined to document healthcare workers’ fragility, but also the resilience and shared humanity that comes with caring for people and bringing new life into the world,” he says.

Elsewhere is a self-portrait by Katerina Tsakiri, an attempt to “own [her] mastectomy and embrace vulnerability”. The portrait is part of The Smiley Cut, a series that helped Tsakiri confront her cancer diagnosis and navigate stages of grief. “It’s empowering to be the narrator of your own story… Vulnerability brings you to the core of your human nature and shows you how to connect with others,” she says. “Being a winner of POH is an opportunity to share my story and experience.”

from WAHA واحة ©Seif Kousmate – Portrait of Humanity vol. 6 Winner

Our three series winners focus on nature, home and belonging. Seif Kousmate’s mixed-media work, Waha واحة, (meaning ‘oasis’ in Arabic), explores the destruction of natural wetlands in his native Morocco. The artist manipulates his images with  acid and fire to corrode and burn the surface. “I wanted to explore and experiment with new processes as a metaphor of the degradation within the oasis,” he explains. “My photographs are both documentary and conceptual, taking us back and forth between the reality of the present and the deterioration to come.” Morocco is home to some of the largest wetlands in the world, which are increasingly under threat. “I felt an urgent need to tell the story of Moroccan oases, to contribute to their preservation and highlight the deep connection between humanity and nature,” continues Kousmate. “Through POH, this series will reach a new audience and raise awareness about the ongoing degradation of the oases.”

from No More Mud in Our Eyes ©Andrés Mario de Varona – Portrait of Humanity vol.6 winner

Friendship, community and trust are the key themes in Andrés Mario de Varona’s No More Mud in Our Eyes. The image-maker became known as ‘the gas station photographer’ in his hometown of Santa Fe, New Mexico. He would hang out at his local Allsup’s petrol station for hours at a time, multiple days a week, introducing himself to the locals who came by – “an exercise in openness and an attempt to connect with people”. One day, a man named Aaron Garcia approached him. “He told me he sensed a lack of home within myself… During our first encounter, I asked if he wanted to embark on a project with me.” The resulting images trace a life guided by native belief and traditions, dedicated to living in harmony with nature and helping others do the same. Tragically, in September 2023 Aaron was found dead beneath an overpass near his campsite. The case is unresolved, and the community still grieves the loss of a beacon of support. What remains through Varona’s images is Aaron’s spirit of openness and eagerness to guide those who seemed lost.

from Matres Mundi © Camille Gharbi – Portrait of Humanity vol. 6 winner

The final winning series is Matres Mundi (‘Mothers of the World’), by French photographer Camille Gharbi. It portrays a group of immigrant women from Africa who run a catering business – Les Mamas de Grigny – in one of Paris’ poorest neighbourhoods. Grigny is a commune in the city’s southern suburbs, where 44 per cent of residents live below the poverty line. With few job opportunities, these women set up a business selling home-cooked meals out of makeshift market stalls. In her portraiture, Gharbi twists the conventions of classic European painting, reframing the women in regal frames that sit beside stark images of the built environment. Together, they probe France’s colonial history and its treatment of immigrants from former colonies. “Photography is a means of transformation,” says Gharbi. “The works we produce won’t change the world, but they can help to shape it by transforming the way we perceive it.” 

©Vladimir Karamazov - Portrait of Humanity vol.6

All of these images were hand-picked by a panel of industry-leading judges, including Vogue Italia’s Alessia Glaviano, Open Eye Gallery’s Max Gorbatskyi, Ángel Luis González Fernández of PhotoIreland, and Brazilian curator Ioana Mello. Mick Moore, CEO of British Journal of Photography, says: “The true power of photography is to make the everyday extraordinary. The finalists of this year’s PoH have yet again succeeded in bringing a fresh eye to the world that surrounds us. The context in which to understand our planet is the people who populate it. The rhythm of life beats in these images.”

These are not just photographs, they are reflections of our collective spirit – a poignant reminder of our capacity for empathy and resillience. Through the lens of these image-makers, we see a world united by a simple yet profound act: of being human.

The winning 30 single-images and the three bodies of work will be exhibited at Fotofestiwal Łódź‘s Night of Photography in Poland, Four Corners in London, and Indian Photography Festival.

The Portrait of Humanity Vol. 6 book, showcasing all 199 shortlisted works, is available for pre-order now via Bluecoat Press.

Marigold Warner

Deputy Editor

Marigold Warner worked as an editor at BJP between 2018 and 2023. She studied English Literature and History of Art at the University of Leeds, followed by an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London. Her work has been published by titles including the Telegraph Magazine, Huck, Elephant, Gal-dem, The Face, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.