Covid-19 image from Brazil wins World Press Photo prize - Press Gazette

Panos and Politiken win World Press Photo prize for iconic Brazil coronavirus image

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A Danish photographer’s “iconic” image representing Covid-19 in Brazil and “the most extraordinary moment of our lives” has won the World Press Photo of the Year award for 2021.

Mads Nissen captured 85-year-old Rosa Luzia Lunardi receiving her first hug in five months from social worker Adriana Silva da Costa Souza through a plastic “hug curtain” with sleeves.

Nissen, who works for Danish broadsheet Politiken and the Panos Pictures agency, had heard about two care homes about to use the hug curtain for the first time, but at the first “visually it was a mess”. However at the second, they had strung up the plastic in front of a church entrance with the sun shining through.

He said: “I just stood there with my camera, a bit overwhelmed. It is so joyful and heart-warming to witness all this love and tenderness in a country that was suffering so much during this deadly pandemic… I knew I had strong images, but still, when I looked at my camera later that day this particular image hit me completely unguarded and for a moment all was just silent.”

“The First Embrace.” World Press Photo winner 2021. Picture: Mads Nissen

Kevin WY Lee, a photographer and one of the competition judges, said: “This iconic image of Covid-19 memorialises the most extraordinary moment of our lives, everywhere.

“I read vulnerability, loved ones, loss and separation, demise, but, importantly, also survival—all rolled into one graphic image. If you look at the image long enough, you’ll see wings: a symbol of flight and hope.”

Brazil has recorded the third highest number of Covid-19 infections in the world and second most deaths, according to the BBC.

See the other World Press Photo winners for 2021 here.

[Read more: Press photographers face threats and violence from public in covering Covid-19 lockdown]

World Press Photo of the Year nominees:

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