The 2021 World Press Photo Exhibition opens in Rome


Hosted for the first time at the Mattatoio, in Testaccio, the World Press Photo Exhibition returns to Rome for its 64th edition. Since 1955, this prestigious prize, held every year in Amsterdam, rewards professional photographers for their best shots, recognizing the best visual journalism and “connecting the world to the stories that matter”, as the award’s mission states. 

This year more than 4,000 photographers coming from 130 countries took part in the competition. From those, the international jury chose 45 photographers, representing 28 countries. The winning photos are displayed at the exhibition in Rome, which will be open to the public until 22 August 2021.

World Press Photo 2021 in Roma
The First Embrace © Mads Nissen, Denmark, Politiken/Panos Pictures

Reflecting on the pandemic that is continuing to affect our world since the beginning of 2020, the winner of the annual contest is Mads Nissen, a Danish photographer. He portrays the simplest human gesture of a hug, however never more powerful than the moment framed in the photo The First Embrace. In fact, the hug between the nurse Adriana Silva da Costa Souza and the patient Rosa Luzia Lunardi (85) in Brazil, represents hope and love during the darkest moments. For Nissen himself, photography is all about empathy, closeness and intimacy. Feelings clearly visible in the shot. Rosa Luzia received her first hug after months through “The Hug Curtain”, which embraces her like an angel with his wings.

World Press Photo 2021 in Roma
Habibi © Antonio Faccilongo, Italy, Getty Reportage

The photo exhibition also includes topics that not everyone is usually aware of, and global news rarely reports, but still with the power of emotionally moving the audience. The World Press Photo, in the category “Story of the Year” for 2021, is assigned to the Italian photographer Antonio Faccilongo. His series of photos named Habibi, which means ‘my love’ in Arabic, describes love stories, set against a backdrop of the devastating Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Faccilongo tells the story of Palestinian prisoners, many of whom are sentenced to life imprisonment. His goal is to show the impact of this conflict on Palestinian families, who face difficulties in “preserving their reproductive rights and human dignity”.

World Press Photo 2021 in Roma
Title: Emancipation Memorial Debate © Evelyn Hockstein, United States, for The Washington Post

Last year, while the entire world was affected by Covid-19, another major event impacted our lives globally: the shocking death of George Floyd which resulted in the Black Lives Matter movement. The photographer Evelyn Hockstein perfectly describes the discomfort of the movement in her Emancipation Memorial Debate, winning the Spot News 1st prize. The winning photo shows a woman and a man disagreeing on the removal of the Emancipation Memorial, in Lincoln Park, Washington DC, USA. Black Americans state that the statue doesn’t do justice to the role that black people played in their own liberation and request the removal of the statue.

World Press Photo 2021 in Roma
Environment, Singles, 1st Prize.
California Sea Lion Plays with Mask © Ralph Pace, Stati Uniti

Environmental conservation issues are unfortunately a returning topic, also for the World Press Photo contest. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we are aware of the importance of wearing masks. However, this practice negatively affects our natural environment as masks are wrongly disposed compromising nature and wildlife. The Californian photographer Ralph Pace perfectly displays this sad situation in his California Sea Lion Plays with Mask. Although it might seem a sweet moment, sea creatures, as well as fish and birds, often mistake masks for food, compromising their health, and eventually ours. Pace hopes his works will be an advocacy for wildlife sustainability, making people aware of the risk and educating them.

The photo exhibition also has a dedicated section with digital storytelling. Similar to short documentary movies, this year the videos rewarded, tell different stories and represent different thematics. These include, among others, the story of a family in Wuhan, China living their lives just after the spread of Covid-19, the chronicles of a blood rider in Nigeria, and the conservation of a centenary indigenous community, the Machute, whose existence is endangered by the deforestation started by the Chilean Government. 

The World Press Photo Exhibition is not just a display of pictures from all around the world, but also a chance for us to open our eyes and have a better perspective of what is happening around us. The images tell the depth and complexity of photojournalism, putting the reader in direct contact with emotional, sometimes shocking, photographs that describe our world.


Till August 22

Mattatoio (Padiglione 9a)
Piazza Orazio Giustiniani, 4

Tickets: €4-8

11:00am – 8:00pm

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