A Moment of Heartbreak Wins the 2023 Siena International Photo Awards

Man in Ukraine saying goodbye to wife leaving on a train

“Georgy” by Salwan Georges. Photo of the Year.
“Georgy Keburia says goodbye to his wife Maya and children at a train station in Odesa, Ukraine, as they board a train to Lviv on March 5, 2022. The situation in Eastern Ukraine has become extremely critical as the fighting intensifies. Hundreds of women and children who escaped cities like Mariupol, Kherson, and Mykolaiv, are trying desperately to catch a train and leave for a safe place before the violence of the war reaches the city. Meanwhile, men like Georgy must stay to fight to defend their own country and families.”

Thanks to its wide array of categories and high-quality entries, the Siena International Photo Awards has become one of the world's most highly anticipated photo contests. And with the announcement of the 2023 winners, the competition has only solidified its reputation as a destination for great photography. This year, esteemed photojournalist Salwan Georges took home the top prize with his moving image of a Ukrainian family torn apart by the war.

His heartbreaking photo Georgy captures the moment when Georgy Keburia had to say goodbye to his wife and children as they boarded a train to Lviv. Hands pressed against the glass, his wife's emotions are written all over her face. And, unfortunately, their situation is just one instance of families being torn apart by the war in Ukraine.

Georges' beautiful composition demonstrates his sensitivity to the moment. The Pulitzer-Prize-winning photographer, who is on staff at The Washington Post, is a more than worthy winner of the competition. But his image is not the only impressive photo in the bunch.

The Siena Awards also named winners across 12 captivating categories, crowning top photographers who cover nature, sports, daily life, and much more. From a group of lions walking through the African savanna to an adventurous young man using a gas station as a diving board, the winning photographs are an incredible look at life around the globe.

All of the winning photos are now on display in Siena, Italy, as part of the People Sharing all the World exhibition. The exhibition, which is on view until November 19, is being held at the Lo Stellino Ex-Distillery.

See all the incredible winners of the 2023 Siena International Photo Awards.

Lions lined up in the African savanna

“Lions in Lines” by Torie Hilley. Winner, Animals in their Environment.
“In the African savanna, as the dry season approaches and the grass turns yellow, lions become even more elusive, blending seamlessly into their surroundings. As Torie was tracking their footprints on the ground, she was suddenly presented with a stroke of luck: a pride of lions appeared in front of her, walking in a line and following the tire tracks.”

Boy jumping into the water at a seaside resort in France

“A la station balneaire”
by Benoit Segalen. Winner, Street Photography.
“In a seaside resort town in France, a gas station is suddenly transformed into a spectacular diving board, from which some boys jump into the sea with daring and breathtaking acrobatics, creating a surprising and stunning scene.”

Man bathing a camel

“Following their tradition!” by Shyjith Onden Cheriyath. Winner, Journeys and Adventures.
“In Umm al Quwain, every winter camel handlers take their camels into the sea for a bath. The saltwater is believed to have medicinal properties that help rid the camels of ticks, fleas, and other parasites. Despite being an age-old Arab tradition, this practice is becoming less frequent in the region due to the development of new hotels and resorts along the coastline.”

Grouper in the mouth of a lizardfish

“Fish Eats Fish” by Lilian Koh. Winner, Underwater Life.
“In nature, it is common for fish to feed on other fish to survive, but this scene captured during a dive in Anilao, Philippines, shows extraordinary determination. The young grouper had been nearly swallowed whole by a lizardfish, but with incredible effort, it managed to break free and escape just moments after the photo was taken.”

Ukrainian boy in Kherson

“Kherson boy” by Andras D. Hajdu. Winner, Documentary and Photojournalism.
“On November 11, 2022, Ukrainian forces liberated Kherson from Russian occupation. In a crowded square, the crowd falls silent as President Zelensky delivers a speech. Glib, a 13-year-old boy, listens attentively in the front row: after months of fear and uncertainty, for the first time since the beginning of the war, he can finally leave his house.”

Ukrainian woman injured in the war

“Ukraine's War” by Wolfgang Schwan. Winner, Best Author.
“In early January 2022, Wolfang traveled to eastern Ukraine for the first time with the intention of covering an environmental story. Instead he found himself covering daily life in the trenches of Donbas for the next two months. Over this time he developed a deep appreciation for the hospitality and generosity of Ukrainians. Thus, he decided to stay once the war broke out on February 24 and work covering breaking news and daily life throughout 2022. This story provides an overview of his coverage spanning eight months in Ukraine in 2022.”

Award winning photographs of Odesa during the war

“Tribute to Odesa” by Laetitia Vançon. Winner, Storytelling: Daily life and contemporary issues.
“Odesa stands as a symbolic and strategically significant city, not only because it holds the key to the Black Sea, but also because it represents a struggle between Russian and Ukrainian identities, between an imperial past and a democratic future. In June 2022, despite being almost six months into the ongoing war, Odesa stood resilient, although not unscathed. Away from the horrors of war witnessed by many photographers, these scenes of daily life capture the essence of a fiercely independent and unwaveringly inclusive city, symbolizing the indomitable spirit of an entire nation.”

All of the winners are on display in Siena, Italy, until mid-November.

Female Northern spectacled salamanders, also known as Savi’s salamanders, lay their eggs on submerged branches in cold waters of an Apennine stream in Italy’s Foreste Casentinesi National Park.

“New generation” by Fabio Savini. Winner, The Beauty of Nature.
“Female Northern spectacled salamanders, also known as Savi’s salamanders, lay their eggs on submerged branches in cold waters of an Apennine stream in Italy’s Foreste Casentinesi National Park.”

Kids participating in a gun safety class

“Shooting Range Participant” by Matt Mcclain. Winner, Fascinating Faces and Characters.
“Aliyana Stokes, 10, and her brother Bryson Stokes, 5, participate in a gun safety class for children alongside other attendees at Choppa Community, a gun range in rural Maryland. It is a place for African American gun owners and others to assemble to learn gun safety, self-defense and have a place to target practice.”

Military formation in Myanmar

“Inside Myanmar's Armed Uprising” by Siegfried Modola. Winner, Storytelling: General News.
“Myanmar has been experiencing a civil war since February 2021, when the military ousted the country’s first democratically elected government following the coup d’état of 1962. Citizens from all social classes have joined militias and armed ethnic groups in their efforts to liberate the country. Unfortunately, the junta has responded brutally and indiscriminately, resulting in the deaths of thousands of people, including nearly 200 children. According to UN estimates, this conflict has also led to the displacement of over one million people. In recent months, fighting has intensified, and the Tatmadaw, the military force in Myanmar, has increased airstrikes throughout the country.”

Nenets boy peering out of a tent

“Roman” by Chiara Felmini. Third Place, Journeys and Adventures.
“The Nenets’ way of life during winter mainly involves staying inside their traditional tent, the Chum. The tent is constructed using a conical frame made of long poles and is covered with a double layer of reindeer skins. In order to preserve the internal heat, the opening of the tent is kept as small as possible and should only be opened when necessary. However, children’s curiosity goes beyond all rules and habits.”

Kurdish girls in Iran celebrating Nowruz

“Women's dance” by Mobin Shahvaisi. Winner, Under 20.
“Despite the increasingly severe restrictions imposed on women in Iran, Kurdish girls choose to celebrate Nowruz, the New Year festival that falls during the spring equinox, by wearing colorful clothes and dancing traditional dances.”

Grant Holloway running the hurdles at the World Indoor Athletics

“Catch Me If You Can” by Samuel Barnes. Winner, Sports in Action.
“Grant Holloway of the USA team leading the field whilst competing in the men’s 60m hurdles semi-finals during day three of the World Indoor Athletics Championships at the Stark Arena in Belgrade. He completed the run in 7.29 seconds, equalling his existing world record, and went on to win the final.”

Orca breaking up a ball of herring

“Crowd Control” by Andy Schmid. Second Place, Underwater Life.
“An orca infiltrates a ball of herring to stun its prey with its tail. Every winter, large numbers of orcas and humpback whales are attracted to the fjords of northern Norway by huge shoals of migrating herring. Orcas work together in a strategic way to bring the herring up from the depths and gather them into a bait ball.”

Fans in Dhaka watching a World Cup match

“Fans” by K Asad. Second Place, Fascinating Faces and Characters.
“In the Dhaka University area of Bangladesh on December 1, 2022, people gather to watch the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 match between Argentina and Poland on a big screen in the street. As Argentina scores a goal, the crowd’s faces light up with excitement and amazement.”

Mount Etna during 2021 explosion

“Etna night scape moving” by Dario Lo Scavo. Third Place, The Beauty of Nature.
“Mount Etna during its explosive eruption in December 2021. The explosive pyroclastic material is seen bursting out with a black cloud of volcanic sand, against a dark sky that provides a stunning contrast to the floating clouds. A long exposure shot also captured the snowy landscape, illuminated by the moonlight and stars.”

Seabirds nesting on Middleton Island off the coast of Alaska

“Barometer Birds” by Morgan Heim. Winner, Storytelling: Nature, Environment, and Conservation Issues.
“The abandoned Cold War air force base on Middleton Island off the coast of Alaska has transformed into a thriving habitat for an abundance of bird life. With the U.S. military vacating the base in the mid-sixties, it has become a sanctuary for thousands of seabirds, such as black-legged kittiwakes, cormorants, puffins, auklets, and common murres. A small group of international scientists has taken up residence on the island to study the birds and learn about the changing state of our oceans. These birds serve as an important indicator of the depths of the ocean and the health of fisheries, especially in treacherous areas beyond human reach.”

Funny Street Photography

“Mating monkeys and voyeur family” by Sheli Mallick. Second Place, Street Photography.
“Two monkeys engaged in an intimate moment caught the attention of a local family. The father is the only one not turning around, too busy taking a selfie. The candid hilariousness of the moment convinced the author to capture it.”

A young boy working in an informal coal mine in Chinarak stands outside the entrance.

“Child Labor in Afghanistan” by Weiken Oliver. Second Place, Documentary and Photojournalism.
“A young boy working in an informal coal mine in Chinarak stands outside the entrance. Hundreds of miners, including children as young as 10 and men over 60, toil every day for a few pennies. Tunnel collapses pose a constant threat to their safety.”

Great Horned Owl perched on a tree branch

“The Great Horned Owl”
by Nichole Vijayan. Second Place, Under 20.
“To capture the perfect shot of a great horned owl, Nichole had to overcome several challenges. She had to wake up at 3:00 a.m., reach the destination before dawn to take advantage of the best lighting, and also deal with the seasonal tick alert.”

Playful Indian wolves

“Indian Wolf pack” by Siddhartha Ghosh. Third Place, Animals in their Environment.
“The Indian wolf, a subspecies of the gray wolf, is known for its playful and noisy behavior. However, their playful moments in the wild are becoming increasingly rare as their population is declining throughout the Indian subcontinent, to the point of being considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.”

Athlete Falling in the Water During Steeplechase

“Steeplechase Fall” by Martin Rickett. Second Place, Sports in Action.
“At the World Athletics Championships in Oregon, the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase heats witnessed a dramatic fall from Germany’s Lea Meyer. As she ran up to the water obstacle, her worst fears came true as she clipped the hurdle and splashed face-first into the water.”

Siena International Photo Awards: Website | Facebook | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Siena International Photo Awards.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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