Humankind photo contest: Winner and other favorites

September 6, 2014

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  • Photo: Abdul Qadir Memon

We received hundreds of stunning photo submissions for this year's Humankind Photo Contest, and now it's time to reveal the winner and share the other photos that moved us.

We asked you to share what you think unites us around the world — the photos below tell us that it's a kind smile, true friendship, a mother's love and the joy and hope that children carry with them wherever they live.

Scroll down to see photos, from Afghanistan to Tibet, that beautifully depict our shared experience.

The winning photo, shown below, will be featured in the upcoming 2015 Mercy Corps calendar, which showcases photos of our work from around the world taken by Mercy Corps staff, professional photographers, and now our contest winner. Get your copy ▸

Winning photo

Photo: Abdul Qadir Memon
Islamabad, Pakistan

“This picture was taken in one of the Afghan refugee camps near Islamabad where hundreds of children are awaiting an uncertain future. According to the official estimates there are almost one million Afghan refugees scattered throughout Pakistan. They have become a largely forgotten community, pushed into poverty and living on the margins of our consciousness. The worst victims of this conflict are the children living in the camps where there are hardly any basic amenities of life. Despite hardships they still smile.”


Photo: Sabrina Aggarwal
New Delhi, India

“If there is one thing that unites us around the world, it's water: whether we have access to it or not. We need water not only to survive, but also to bathe and restore our sense of dignity. In this photo, this woman's face epitomizes dignity as she collects water — what she probably spends most of her day doing.”

Photo: Jennifer Parsons
Leyte Province, Philippines

“I met this woman while bringing food and supplies to the Philippines about one month after Typhoon Haiyan. After so much loss, Filipinos ‘Bangon’ (rise up) as they rebuild their lives and communities. Their smiles are a testament to their resilience and hope. Their spirit is a gift to all who meet them.”

Other favorites

Photo: Abhilasha Udayashankar
Bengaluru, India

"I captured this moment of togetherness at a brick-making factory in a small village. Education is only a privilege of a few here, but I was delighted to see the friendship between the school kids (in uniform) and the ones working in the factory. Children do not know any discrimination. It instilled a feeling of hope in me."

Photo: Paul Wedig
Pokhara, Nepal

"No matter where in the world, a friendly smile speaks the same language. When walking the streets in Pokhara, Nepal, I photographed these two young girls greeting me in the customary ‘Namaste.’ Their warm smiles transcended any language barrier."

Photo: Tina Mason
Ajuong Thok, South Sudan

"This photo captures the endurance and innocence of children, amidst all the challenging circumstances within a refugee camp. This shows how infectious emotions are and how rapidly a smile and excitement can spread. I smile every time I look at this picture, it's just plain and simple happiness."

Photo: Paula Fernández Seijo
Ifoulou, Morocco

"Fátima, like the other girls in the village, faces hardship every day because of the lack of clean water, proper health services and even an appropriate meal. Many of them have to spend the whole day with their little brothers and sisters while working large hours to help their families and the community. Despite all the obstacles and hardships, her smile and kindness are a clear example of what unites all of us, humanity."

Photo: Laurie Bergner
Lhasa, Tibet

"Tibet is such a spiritual country! All day and into the evening people walk with prayer wheels and prayer beads in hand, around and around the city. But like old people everywhere, they stop to take a break, to share stories and laugh. Here, outside the Jokhar Temple, were two old friends, stopping to enjoy the satisfactions of old, comfortable friendship, like old friends everywhere in the world."

Photo: Abigail Moldover
Granada, Nicaragua

"While out walking I saw this man walking down the street towards me. I know very little Spanish, but I caught his eye and pointed to my camera asking ‘foto?’ He didn't say anything, but paused where he was and looked directly into my eyes. I clicked the picture and he continued on his way. I never saw the man again and probably never will, but this photograph is a reminder of the brief connection we shared."

Photo: Zirak Malya
Laghman Province, Afghanistan

"When I drove my car to my destroyed village to take pictures, I stopped for few moments near the river. I found these children full of enthusiasm who wanted to take their boring day into the river and change the exhausted time into pleasure and happiness. The river is the only spot for their happiness."

Photo: Ryan McCarrel

"Sharing smiles and stickers. Proof that - no matter where you're from, or what language you speak — a small act of kindness can transcend any barrier."