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Two young photographers share $5,550 Unpublished Photo 2021 prize

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Images by Khanh Bui Phu (left) and Mouneb Taim (right) at the Unpublished Photo 21 private view (Image credit: © MUSEC)

Vietnamese photographer Khanh Bui Phu and Syrian photographer Mouneb Taim are the joint winners of the 2021 edition of Unpublished Photo (UP21). 

And Avinash Mishra from India and Li Zhang from China are joint winners of the competition to have their work exhibited at MUSEC (Museo delle Culture of Lugano, Switzerland) and to appear in the dedicated show catalogue. 

The winning works of all four young photographers have just gone on display at MUSEC, and the exhibition will run until 27 February 2022. 

Khanh Bui Phu and Mouneb Taim will also share a scholarship of CHF 5,000 ($5,550). 

Over 160 applications were made to the awards, with Asian artists predominant, according to the organisers; an international jury chaired by German photographer Hans Georg Berger bestowed the honours. 

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Khanh Bui Phu‘s series ‘Make a nomadic living on the water ecosystem’ (left) and Mouneb Taim‘s ‘War Notes’ (right) shared top billing in Unpublished Photo 21 (Image credit: © Khanh Bui Phu/ © Mouneb Taim)

Unpublished Photo has been running since 2018 and aims to give a voice to “new trends of contemporary photography.” 

Open to photographers aged 18-35, there were no specific topics or categories in UP21; entrants just had to submit a series of images linked by a common theme. 

Khanh Bui Phu entered ‘Make a nomadic living on the water ecosystem’, a series of images that depict the life of nomadic fishermen on Tuyen Lam Lake in Lam Dong Province, Vietnam. The judges praised his great poetic intensity and skilful use of colour contrast, the series. 

‘War Notes’ by Mouneb Taim is an impressive document of daily life during the recent civil war in Syria. Charged with a lyrical message, Taim’s photos express feeling part of a wounded culture, but also a profound note of hope that prevails amidst the destruction. 

A member of the LGBT community, Taim was arrested for being homosexual by Islamic organisations during the war and had his photographic equipment taken from him and confiscated.

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(Image credit: © MUSEC)

‘The Colors Empire’, a series by Indian photographer Avinash Mishra, was taken during the famous colour ceremony in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, India. 

The judges noted how the choice of black and white photography transforms the substance of chromatic contrasts into a vivid representation of humanity and the religious sense of life. 

‘When I was a Child’ by Li Zhang is a series that reworks old pictures taken by the photographer's grandfather, using a scanner and camera. 

With a language tinged with subtle poetry, the images conduct an introspective investigation into Li’s childhood and build a visual and stylistic bridge between the 1990s and contemporary times. 

View winning images from Unpublished Photo 2021

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An image from the series ‘Make a nomadic living on the water ecosystem’, by Khanh Bui Phu, joint winner of Unpublished Photo 21 (Image credit: © 2021 Khanh Bui Phu)

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An image from the series ‘War Notes’, by Mouneb Taim, joint winner of Unpublished Photo 21 (Image credit: © 2021 Mouneb Taim)

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An image from ‘The Colors Empire’, a series by Indian photographer Avinash Mishra, one of the finalists of Unpublished Photo 21 (Image credit: © 2021 Avinash Mishra)

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One of the images in the series ‘When I was a Child’ by Li Zhang, a finalist in Unpublished Photo 2021 (Image credit: © 2021 Li Zhang)

Click here to view all the Unpublished Photo 21 images.

The UP21 finalists’ exhibition is open now at MUSEC until 27 February 2022.

When the show closes, the exhibited works will be added to the MUSEC collection, expanding a photography archive that features more than 40,000 works from the mid-19th century to the present day. 

And a limited edition artist’s book dedicated to the work of Khanh Bui Phu will be published by the De Pietri Artphilein Foundation, one of the UP21 project partners.

Unpublished Photo 2022 will launch next spring – we’ll bring you all the details in due course. 

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Niall Hampton

Niall is the editor of Digital Camera Magazine, and has been shooting on interchangeable lens cameras for over 20 years, and on various point-and-shoot models for years before that. 


Working alongside professional photographers for many years as a jobbing journalist gave Niall the curiosity to also start working on the other side of the lens. These days his favored shooting subjects include wildlife, travel and street photography, and he also enjoys dabbling with studio still life. 


On the site you will see him writing photographer profiles, asking questions for Q&As and interviews, reporting on the latest and most noteworthy photography competitions, and sharing his knowledge on website building.