Winners of the People Photography Award Embrace the Diverse Beauty of Humanity

Street scene in Kolkata, India by Billy Dinh

“Our Everyday” by Billy Dinh. 1st Place.
“Everyday street scene captured in Kolkata, India in 2022.”

Street photographer Billy Dinh won The Independent Photographer‘s People Photography Award. His street scene taken in Kolkata, India, captured the attention of acclaimed photographer Michael Yamashita, who judged the competition. Yamashita, who has worked with National Geographic for over four decades, handpicked the 10 winners and finalists.

“This frame is compositionally strong and complex with wellorganized people placement centered around the yellow taxi and perfectly timed to capture a real street moment,” he says of Dinh's winning photo.The eye moves around the frame, taking in the different layers, windows, shapes, colors, and expressions. It's a good instant-read but leaves you wanting to spend more time with it. I love the man covered in soap and those toes. It begs the question and leaves you wondering, what's going on here?”

The competition is one of 12 monthly awards that are handed out by The Independent Photographer. For the organization, the people theme is a way to explore diverse cultures and celebrate the multifaceted beauty of humanity. And this goal certainly shines through in all of the winners and finalists.

Bangladesh, Pakistan, North Korea, and Mongolia are just some of the countries represented in the winning photographs. The photographers honed in on everything from athletics to sacred rituals to traditional hunting and fishing practices. And in doing so, they are each helping the public understand a bit more about the world.

See more of the top images and finalists below, and if you're up for it, try your own hand at one of The Independent Photographer's contests. The January contest, Black & White, is now accepting entries until January 31, 2024, with the winner receiving a $1,000 cash prize.

See all the winners and finalists of The Independent Photographer's People Photography Award.

Portrait of a young Mongolian eagle hunter

“Baka and his Eagle” by Diana Barthauer. 3rd Place.
“This is Baka, a young eagle hunter. Like most people living in rural Mongolia, the eagle hunters are nomads. To send their children to school, nomadic families keep a townhome, where they spend winters and then spend summer roaming the countryside. Many educated young Mongolians are moving to the cities in search of better job prospects. Baka, however, is an exception. When we were visiting his family, he proudly told us that he had dropped out of school and was planning to focus entirely on eagle hunting.”

Hindu devotees lit butter lamps and incense during Rakher Upobash festival in Narayanganj, Bangladesh

“Devotion” by Ashraful Arefin. 2nd Place.
“Hindu devotees lit butter lamps and incense during Rakher Upobash festival in Narayanganj, Bangladesh. Rakher Upobash, also known as Kartik Brata, is a sacred ritual observed by the Bengali Hindu community. It takes place on the last day of the Bengali month of Kartik, where devotees fast from dawn till dusk, offering prayers to Lord Krishna and seeking blessings for their families' well-being.”

Portrait of the daughter of an Evenki reindeer herder

“Daughter of an Evenki reindeer herder” by Natalya Saprunova. Finalist.
“All the values of the Evenki people are related to the reindeer: the nomadic lifestyle, their esoteric beliefs, household items, traditional clothes, cooking, and any number of sayings such as: “As long as the reindeer live, so do the Evenki people. The Evenki have a history of bartering fur from reindeer and hunted animals; the patterns of traditional Evenki costumes are inspired by nature.”

Sadhu praying next to a dog

“Praying Sadhu” by Sergio Volani. Finalist.
“At dawn, in the Ghats along the Ganges River, sacred to Hindus, this sadhu recited his prayers while a dog watched in amazement.

Athletes practicing at the Taekwando Palace in Pyongyang

“Taekwando” by Alain Schroeder. Finalist.
“At the Taekwando Palace in Pyongyang, a group of athletes simultaneously execute a tul, a series of offensive and defensive techniques against one or several virtual adversaries. In the foreground, stacks of tiles and (30 x 30 cm) pieces of wood that the athletes will break with their hands and feet in order to demonstrate kyok-pa, the art of breaking boards, bricks, and tiles.”

The winners were hand-selected by National Geographic photographer Michael Yamashita, who judged the contest.

Bajau jumping off a ship with a spear to fish

“Salis” by Jacopo Della Valle. Finalist.
“The Bajau, also known as the sea gypsies, are indigenous seafaring people who live in the Southeast Asian seas. They are stateless people and live closely linked to the sea, in small wooden stilt houses built on shallow waters. Salis is a Bajau fisherman who took me to the seaside villages showing me their traditional way of life. Bajau are dedicated exclusively to fishing activities, up to 8 hours a day, and they go ashore only to trade their catch or seek shelter during storms.”

Five boys are holding their kite before a heavy rain in Hanoi, Vietnam

“Boys with flute kite” by Phong Nyugen. Finalist.
“After swimming in Bodhisattva pond, five boys are holding their kite before a heavy rain in Hanoi, Vietnam.”

Man working at brick kiln in Pakistan

“Working in Brick Klins” by F.dilek Yurdakul. Finalist.
“Brick Kilns in Southeast Asia are notable for causing environmental pollution, violating children's rights, and working conditions that violate the most basic of human rights. Soot and harmful gases from the factory chimneys fill the air. Without respiratory masks, the polluted air finds its way straight to the lungs.”

Black and white image of a farmer in Pampallacta, Peru

“Cultural Reverence” by Thibault Gerbaldi. Finalist.
“Captured in Pampallacta, within a local farmer community, this photo immortalizes the alpaca blessing ceremony. I was deeply moved by the patriarch of the welcoming family, standing proudly in reference to his tradition, particularly during this ancient ritual. The black and white composition, I believe, enhances the timeless essence of these traditions, making the shot a timeless representation of cultural heritage.

The Independent Photographer: Website | Facebook | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by The Independent Photographer.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor 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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