A Portrait of Humanity

A Portrait of Humanity

Slice-of-life snapshots from cities around the world prove that there is more that unites than divides us

This article appears in Volume 28: The
Cities Issue

term “humanity” has two meanings. Not only does it refer to
the entire human race, but it also denotes the quality of being
compassionate to your fellow man. In recent years we have seen a
rise in intolerance and witnessed a desire to build walls to
retreat behind in an infantile fear of the unknown. In contrast,
“Portrait of Humanity celebrates global citizenship at a time of
great instability,” explains Fiona Rogers, COO at Magnum Photos. Tired of the mainstream media
showcasing constant divides, 1854 Media, in collaboration with
Magnum Photos, launched an award that aims to display our
differences in a positive light. Thousands of entrants from all
corners of the globe submitted portraits that highlighted how,
besides our cultural contrasts, we all share the same needs and
desires. We all have mouths that laugh, eyes that cry and hearts
that yearn to be loved.

Photography allows the world to be brought to you, a snapshot in
time in a four-cornered frame. Creatures, places and people that
you could have only imagined are brought to life and you are
awakened to a culture of which you were previously ignorant. As we
flick through the pages of Hoxton Mini Press’s photobook of the
shortlisted images we do see diversity, but we also relate to the
people that stare back at us. We recognise ourselves in them. As
the photographer Edward Steichen once quipped, “photographs are a
mirror of the essential oneness of mankind”.

Portrait of Humanity traces people from the fields to the towns,
showing how it is not the buildings or the environment that defines
these landscapes, but rather those that live within them. The lens
focuses in on the personal. Instead of images dominated by
architecture, we see people going about their daily lives, caught
in a moment after church, at a boxing club or inside their home. As
the private becomes public, stereotypes evaporate and we become
witness to a cultural melting pot of individuals that redefine the
meaning of the term “global citizens”.

When Alice Zoo photographed the female swimmers of London‘s Hampstead Heath during
winter’s depths, Ray stood out as “bold and resilient”. Her red
swimsuit, yellow gloves and blue hat were bright against the grey
mist, the colours vibrant in comparison to the brown, autumnal
leaves floating like a thin crust upon the pond. As viewers, we can
almost feel the chill of her purple-blushed skin and

Meanwhile in Michal Solarski’s cover image, Zlata poses in soft
evening light at the waterfront in Odessa. The photographer
explains that she was there as one of the contestants in a local
beauty pageant and that the headdress she wears is ingrained in
Ukrainian culture, “usually worn by young, unmarried women as a
sign of their purity, or after the Revolution, worn to symbolise
national pride”.

These photographs are not about judgement; they are a
celebration of humanity in all its shapes and sizes. They make us
excited about our distinct cultures and lifestyles. When Roman
Shalenkin spotted a female miner splattered in coal dust, he
immediately questioned why she worked in “the dark, damp and dirt”
and her response surprised him. “I am not envious of other people;
jealousy makes you unhappy. We humans have forgotten how to love
each other and ceased to respect each other. If we begin to relate
to each other a little differently, the world around us would be a
better place”. Her comment is symbolic of Portrait of Humanity in
its entirety. If we could only learn to look more carefully, we
would realise that we are much more alike than we might think.

Portrait of Humanity is out now and published by Hoxton
Mini Press.


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