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Stunning and evocative images celebrated in new global portrait photo contest

Tribal Africans stood on a mound above river
Second place in the Family Sitting category went to Horde of The Suri Tribe. "I took this picture when I was in Ethiopia to visit the Suri tribe who have lived in the Ethio-Sudan border area for many generations," says Thai photographer Jatenipat Ketpradit. "This picture shows the whole family of their clan in their habitat." (Image credit: Jatenipat Ketpradit)

Never heard of the International Portrait Photographer of the Year? Well that's not too surprising. Because 2021 is the inaugural year for this new competition, based in Sydney, Australia and open to photographers around the world. 

The IPPOTY invites both professional and amateur photographers the chance to share in a prize pool of US$10,000 cash, and be among the top 101 images published in an accompanying Awards Book

It's just announced the winners of the 2021 competition, which were judged by Charmaine Heyer, David Burnett, Martina Wärenfeldt, Rocco Ancora, Sanjay Jogia and Sarah Ferrara. The overall winner was Australian photographer Forough Yavari for Solitude, a panoramic multiple-exposure shot shown below.

Solitude by Forough Yavari was the overall winner and first place in the Portrait Story category.  (Image credit: Forough Yavari)

Other images were awarded 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes in the following categories: Environmental Portrait, Portrait Story and Character Study.

First-prize winner in the Environmental Portrait category was Swiss photographer Josef Bürgi for this image of a cattle herder, shot in South Sudan. 

The Mundari cattle herder: Mother, always the watchful care-giver, together with Father, built a life. And towards the end of his, her greatest strength was called upon. This image, days before my Father died, typifies their devotion: ever present. They once said "till death do us part" and they stayed together until it did. (Image credit: Josef Bürgi)

First-prize winner in the Character Study category, meanwhile, went to Zay Yar Lin for Tribal Identity, shown below. It features members of the Suri tribe in Ethiopia's Omo Valley. 

Tribal Identity: A young Suri boy paints his face with white clay, surrounded by Suri women decorating their hands with bronze bracelets. Suri tribe in the Omo Valley. Ethiopia maintains important symbols of tribal identity, such as face and body painting.The shapes and colors convey a strong bond and meaning amongst them. (Image credit: Zay Yar Lin)

Zay Yar Lin also won first in the Family Sitting category, for this image of a 25-year-old maiden of the Suri tribe.

Maiden of the Suri tribe: She is 25 years old, not yet married, and still guarded by her family. She is still waiting for her husband. A man in the Suri Tribe can only marry a girl when he has sixty cattle which are presented to the girl's family as the price of marriage. (Image credit: Zay Yar Lin)

The second- and third-prize winners are featured below. Meanwhile, for full details of the Awards and details how to enter next year's competition, visit the International Portrait Photographer of the Year's website.

Second place in the Environmental category went to Ern, Cat and Verandah: Ern Hendry lives in Point Turton on Yorke Peninsula in South Australia. (Image credit: Karen Waller)

Second place in the Character Study category went to this untitled portrait  (Image credit: Forough Yavari)

Second place in the Portrait Story category went to The Loneliness of Grief (Image credit: Forough Yavari)

Third place in the Character Study category went to Bonn Mariee: Asking the Question. Bonn Mariee was born just over a couple of decades ago with an innate curiosity, red hair and freckles. A moment in a friend’s studio shed. Bonn actually shut up asking questions for long enough to get some images made that portrayed her ‘red head’ character. (Image credit: Brian Cassey)

Third place in the Family Sitting category went to Little Lord Fauntleroy: a character from the children's classic novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett Little Lord Fauntleroy written in 1886 (Image credit: Nancy Flammea)

Third place in the Environmental Portrait category went to The Man of Golden Fibers: Workers appear to be wearing large golden wigs as they carry a heavy bundle of jute fiber. Their bodies are enveloped with the heavy natural fibers, with only their faces visible as they each carry around 50kg of jute on their shoulders. (Image credit: Azim Khan)

Third place in the Portrait Story category (Image credit: Nancy Flammea)

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Tom May is a freelance writer and editor specializing in art, photography, design and travel. He has been editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine. He has also worked for a wide range of mainstream titles including The Sun, Radio Times, NME, Heat, Company and Bella.