Images captured by photographer Folha Lalo de Almeida during the fires that devastated the Pantanal in 2020 are among the finalists in the Environment category of World Press Photo, the world’s most prestigious photojournalism award, announced on Wednesday (10) .
The sequence of photographs of Lalo, who over the months has covered the fires in the region alongside journalist Fabiano Maisonnave, is gaining momentum mainly thanks to the recording of a kneeling and charred howler.
The resemblance to the human figure and the difficulty in distinguishing the difference between the animal’s body and the destroyed surrounding landscape are other striking elements of the photo.
Since 2019, when World Press Photo began promoting the finalists with Photo of the Year before announcing the category winner, the award offers a broader picture of what happened the previous year. and gives clues as to how the jury of each edition arrived at the final result.
Until then, the Dutch foundation only revealed the chosen photograph, monopolizing the attention on a specific subject, almost always related to conflicts.
Yet in the last ten years there have been two significant exceptions: the choice of images by Danish Mads Nissen, a gay couple in Russia in an intimate moment, in 2015, and American John Stanmeyer, a year older. early on, by African immigrants with outstretched arms to get a signal on their cell phones.
In addition to the unusual themes for the category winners, the images stood out for not showing electrifying moments. This tonic, a fundamental hallmark of photojournalism, should continue to gain strength in World Press Photo, but this year’s finalists point a different way.
Among the six nominees, there is an image of the conflict – the dispute between the Azeris and the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh -, another of the obligatory theme of 2020 – the coronavirus pandemic – and, finally, the toll of the tragedy of Beirut, where an explosion in the port area of the Lebanese capital killed hundreds.
The second half of the finalists change the key. In addition to an image that addresses racial issues – the removal of a statue in Washington – and one that deals with transgender people, World Press Photo has selected an environmental record for the main category of the award for the second time.
The first time, in 2019, the chosen image represented a member of an anti-hunting group for the preservation of nature in Zimbabwe. However, the image of a woman with a gun in her hand and a military uniform was more about women’s empowerment than the environment. The photograph by Spaniard Luis Tato shows a man trying to scare away the grasshoppers ravaging the grasslands of Kenya.
Interestingly, it is photography that among the 2021 finalists represents the series of immediate impact images, easily found in magazines such as National Geographic.
Everyone else, however, is quieter.
The Spaniard’s photo is also stunning as the episode depicted was not a major issue last year. Although linked to climate change, the locust problem has not even occupied the space that the fires in the Pantanal, captured by Lalo, have not occupied in the news.
This is the second time that the professional has been among the nominees for the award. In 2017, he placed second in the contemporary affairs category with a series on families affected by the Zika virus.
Although Lalo is the only Brazilian in this year’s edition, Brazil is present in the main category. Mads Nissen, Danish winner of the World Press Photo for the portrait of the gay couple in 2015, photographed the Covid-19 crisis in the country.
The image, like so many we’ve seen last year, shows an elderly woman’s first hug in five months. Rosa Luzia Lunardi, 85, appears on her back in São Paulo, hugging a nurse and wrapped in plastic that ends up taking on a shape similar to angel wings.
Like two other finalists – the photo of an injured person in the explosion in Lebanon, recorded by Lorenzo Tugnoli, and that of an Armenian family affected by the war with Azerbaijan, by Valery Melnikov – the photo of Nissen is more dedicated at the last moment of a crisis than the crisis itself.
World Press Photo’s choices can show the way: When immediacy is the norm, dedication to unfolding great stories provides a deeper understanding of the facts.