Photography 4 Humanity

About the Project, supported by United Nations Human Rights

Photography 4 Humanity calls on photographers around the world to bring the power of human rights to life with their imagery. With compelling images that illustrate courage, despair, hope, injustice, and compassion, as well as human rights victories and failures, large and small, this project aims to inspire people to get involved and take a stand for human rights.

The United Nations and Human Rights

The promotion and protection of human rights – civil, cultural, economic, political and social – is a key purpose and guiding principle of the United Nations, which has created a comprehensive body of human rights law and established mechanisms to promote and protect these rights and to assist States in carrying out their responsibilities.

"The first words of the Charter – "we the peoples" – are a summons to place people at the centre of our work. These rights are not a favour to be rewarded or withheld. They are an endowment for simply being human... every measure to uphold human rights helps deliver sustainable development and peace."

- Antònio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is the leading UN office on human rights with a unique mandate to promote and protect all human rights for all people. Under the leadership of the High Commissioner, with a staff of 1,300 working in more than 70 countries, it aims to make human rights a reality in the lives of people everywhere.

All Human Beings Are Born Free And Equal In Dignity And Rights

Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination.

Human Rights Are Universal

The principle of universality of human rights is the cornerstone of international human rights law. This principle, as first emphasized in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, has been reiterated in numerous international human rights conventions, declarations, and resolutions. The 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights noted that "All human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated."

Universal Declaration Of Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected and has been translated into over 500 languages.

Ladi, an incredibly courageous girl, is determined to pursue her dreams and acquire an education despite her ordeal.

Photography 4 Humanity is an international initiative that calls on photographers from around the world to bring the power of human rights to life through their images. Highlighting the most compelling human rights imagery – illustrating courage, despair, hope, injustice and compassion in ways small and large – the images serve to inspire people to personally get involved and take a stand for human rights.

At the core of the Photography 4 Humanity initiative is a global call to action for amateur and professional photographers alike, to submit images for an annual competition where the top finalists each year have their photographs exhibited at the United Nations and Fotografiska New York.

The exhibit is developed to highlight the top finalists of the Photography 4 Humanity Global Prize Competition and to inspire photographers to document the power of human rights around the world. It is presented by Global Partner United Nations Human Rights, Presenting Partner Fotografiska New York and Creator David Clark Cause.

The Last Rites

The photo captures both the human and systemic costs of COVID-19 in Delhi.

As the death toll continues to rise on a daily basis, the capital’s limited number of burial sites are becoming increasingly overwhelmed by victims of the disease, with bodies typically arriving in multiple numbers. There is added challenge as gravediggers, contractual laborers, and ambulance drivers must work in extreme heat and while wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).

Even more difficult is the seemingly endless grief, helplessness, and desperation of victims' family members. It is common to see the indignity of bulldozers digging a grave at the same time the family, forced to stand far from the burial site, is performing customary rituals, including the final namaz, or final prayer.

Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee (New Delhi, India - May 2020) 2020 Global Prize Recipient


In March 2020, the Bangladesh government announced a series of sudden lockdowns to prevent the spread of the pandemic. Seemingly overnight, markets were being bought out and many had fled. Panic grew to such an extent that even hospitals were reluctant to care for patients. Many low-income families were completely cut-off from their basic needs.

This picture, taken in Dhaka, shows a mother trying to reduce her young daughter’s fever, as her eldest daughter recites the Quran. The girl was not allowed admission to the hospital, and the family was further isolated as their friends and neighbors left fearing they, too, might catch the virus.

Photographer: Sharwar Hossain Apo (Mawa, Bangladesh - May 2020)

Freedom in Freedom

Taken during the 2019 FIFA World Cup Qualifier at Azadi Stadium in Tehran, Iran, the photo captures the first time, since 1980, Iranian women were allowed to watch football in the same stadium as men.

This shift in rules was the result of protests that gained global attention and increased public pressure on FIFA. This was a historic moment for Iranian women and very personal for photographer, Maryam Majd, a sports photographer and long-time advocate for women’s rights. Maryam was arrested in her place of residence on 21 June, a day before a planned trip to Germany to photograph the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Photographer: Maryam Majd (Tehran, Iran - October 2019)

COVID-19 Funeral

Cemetery officers carry the bodies of COVID-19 victims arriving from the hospital to be buried at Pondok Ranggon, one of two public cemeteries in Jakarta, Indonesia dedicated to those taken by the disease. In an effort to minimize the spread of the coronavirus, the government requires that bodies be immediately placed into graves, without being preceded by a final tribute ceremony, as is customary.

The photo underscores the tragic nature of the disease in the country, as the funerals of victims are notably reserved in contrast to traditional ceremonies because family and friends are prohibited from approaching the cemetery until after the bodies are buried.

Photographer: Totok Wijayanto (Jakarta, Indonesia - July 2020)

Heroes 3

Ladi, pictured here at 16, was born in Northeast Nigeria. She was abducted by her uncle, a Boko Haram sympathizer, and twice forced to marry terror group fighters. With both having died in military base attacks, and without a husband to protect her, she was strapped with a bomb to detonate in a church. She fortunately survived and later gained her freedom.

The image depicts her incredible courage, passion, and determination to pursue her dreams and acquire an education despite her ordeal.

Photographer: Emeke Obanor (Nigeria - January 2020)

A Evolução das Espécies (The Evolution of Species)

Rio de Janeiro is a city of contrast, with wealth and poverty living side by side, and the pandemic has created even greater disparity. As extreme poverty continues to spread, it is resulting in a record number of people living on the streets.

A man, wrapped in a sheet, fell asleep under an engraving that represents the Evolution of the Species. The photo asks the question: have we evolved to this end? And it suggests a political and social panorama that reveals stark inequalities.

Photographer: Luis Teixeira Mendes (Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro - March 2020)

Hope To Get Well

Taken at a traditional Islamic rehabilitation facility for drug abusers in Tangerang, Indonesia, this photo tells the story of a 16-year-old addict confined to a small cell due to his aggressive behavior. According to caregivers, this is among the many side effects of using “gorilla drugs,” which contain synthetic cannabinoids.

The teenager had to drop out of school because of addiction and was sent by his family for rehabilitation. Of the estimated 4 million Indonesians struggling with drug addiction, most are teenagers. While being observed by the photographer and caregivers outside his cell, the teenager said he looks at a beam of light with the hope that he will get well soon.

Photographer: Arie Basuki (Tangerang, Indonesia - September 2019)

Life Force: What Love Can Save

Taken during the COVID-19 pandemic in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the photo captures Jorge and his daughter, Ángeles, playing and spending time together.

Jorge was born with a congenital anomaly caused by Thalidomide, a drug once prescribed to pregnant women as an anti-nausea medication and mistakenly considered harmless. Despite reports that the drug caused thousands of babies worldwide to be born with congenital challenges, Thalidomide continued to circulate for decades without safety concerns for the patient. This was the case for Jorge.

Even at her young age, Ángeles already has a profound respect for people's differences and their ability to overcome the challenges of a physical disability.

Photographer: Constanza Portnoy (Buenos Aires, Argentina - August 2020)

Protest Embrace

In 2020, the killing of George Floyd in the United States sparked protests around the world, including many throughout Paris. During a protest in front of the Eiffel Tower, riot police encircled a group of peaceful protestors. Tensions rose and the force with which the police closed in became more and more violent.

In the middle of the chaos, the photo captures a moment in sharp contrast to the day’s events: a couple hugging while being surrounded by police in full riot gear. It was as if, in that single instance, nothing around them was happening – a protest embrace.

Photographer: Louis Mack (Paris, France - June 2020)

Their Home

To most people, the train station offers a means of transportation. To some, however, this train station in Chittagong, Bangladesh offers a home. They spend their days and nights on this platform.

They live off of the money they earn in exchange for carrying the luggage of railway passengers or from begging. And they sleep soundly on the platform, even when trains travel through the station.

The photo is intended to raise public awareness of the dangerous and unhealthy living conditions these disadvantaged people are living in, with the hope of getting them the help they need.

Photographer: Mohammed Shajahan (Chittagong, Bangladesh - April 2020)