At the CPB Foundation, we strongly believe in and stand by the power and value of good visual journalism and are excited to bring back the CPB Photo Awards - which will be a yearly opportunity going forward. Visual journalism is significant for us not just because it brings the news and keeps us informed, but because it emphasizes the role image-making and image-viewing plays in our everyday lives. Since last year, among the thousands of lives lost as a result of the pandemic, it was the photojournalists, publications and visual journalism platforms (news channels, social media, digital platforms) that faced the harshest realities, including loss of jobs, and in many cases loss of their own lives as well. Photojournalists and visual storytellers have been at the forefront of reporting and documenting both life-challenging as well as underrepresented stories across the globe. They have worked diligently to keep a record of every incident, every disaster, every shift across time, from ecological collapses and climate change debates to paradigm shifts in culture and society, conversations on gender rights and egalitarian movements, to provide a point of reference to moments that might lose context in an insta world. They could be documenting man-animal conflicts or live protests, reporting on critical situations like rapes or natural disasters - trying to be there at the right moment at the right time, or be documenting a silent inner war like depression - all this, not to win awards, but for the sole commitment to the profession - brining the news and the story to you. It is through their hard work that we get to bear witness to events sitting in the comforts of our homes. A tremendous loss for the Photojournalism community has been the loss of Danish Siddiqui while covering the conflict in Afghanistan - a mentor to many, a caring human being, Pulitzer prize winner and the chief photojournalist with Reuters India. To honour his legacy and the community's love for his work, the CPB Foundation is instituting the Photo of the Year Award in his name. 

Migrant workers looking out of the window after they defy lockdown norms and request to leave for their native places after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the extension of nationwide lockdown till May 3 in the wake of coronavirus pandemic, outside Bandra Railway Station in Mumbai, Tuesday, April 14, 2020.

A brutal reality of tribal Bhil women with a prolapsed uterus who struggle to access medical facilities in Maharashtra's hilly Nandurbar district. They grapples with harsh terrain, no roads or mobile connectivity, unrelenting hard labour and excruciating pain to survive their daily medical ordeal.

"The harsh terrain, lack of medical facilities nearby makes the role of the ASHA workers in the area even more crucial. But they too struggle with limited stocks of medicines and kits. "We don't get a regular supply of iron and folic acid tablets for pregnant women or disposable delivery kits with mask, gloves and scissors," says Vidya Naik (name changed), is an ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) facilitator from Henglapaani, who supervises the work of 10 ASHAs in 10 hamlets. Some ASHA workers are trained to conduct deliveries, but not complicated ones. Vidya records two to three infant mortalities and one or two maternal deaths every month that result from unsafe home deliveries. "We don't need anything else - just give us a safe road to travel for safe deliveries," she says."

In Chhattisgarh, one of India’s poorest states with a large indigenous population, only 40% of Primary Healthcare Centres have a medical officer. The country has an overall shortfall of 1.1 million doctors and 3.5 million nurses and midwives.

India’s crumbling rural health infrastructure was not prepared for the pandemic. As all resources were diverted to fight COVID, treating other diseases became a low priority. For instance, India accounts for 26% of the world’s tuberculosis cases, but reporting of new cases declined by 25-30% between January and June 2020. 

With the lockdown making it virtually impossible for residents from remote villages to travel to the nearest town for healthcare, pictures of people bearing their sick and their dead on their shoulders and on bicycles and push carts went viral. It is to bridge such serious gaps in rural healthcare that some idealist doctors have over the years set up hospitals and clinics catering to the country’s most vulnerable populations. Equipped to perform minor surgeries, their hospitals offer primary critical care to patients before they are moved to bigger hospitals in nearby towns. 

Through the work of doctors working in low-resource settings at four of these organisations with very different backgrounds in interior Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra, the project looks at how the coronavirus affected the largely indigenous and rural populations. It examines the social and economic barriers that prevented the local populations from accessing healthcare during the pandemic and the role of quacks and faith healers in the local public health ecosystem. It also looks at vaccination drives, the role of fake news, and how the diagnosis and treatment of other illnesses took a backseat during the pandemic.

This project depicts properties in the Shiv Vihar quarter of North East Delhi, India, on 3 March, a few days after sectarian riots in the district. India's National Register of Citizens (NRC), a register containing names of all 'genuine' Indian citizens, was first prepared in 1951 to deal with issues regarding illegal migrants in the border state of Assam. In 2019, the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) proposed that the register be extended to cover the whole of India, and on 12 December 2019, parliament passed a Citizenship Amendment Act (CA) to this effect. The new law allowed Hindus and other non-Muslims in Assam who were unable to prove their citizenship status to be included in the NRC, but left Muslims off the registry. This sparked peaceful protests locally, which spread nationwide. In late February 2020, protests tured to rioting in areas of North East Delhi, in what became the worst sectarian violence in the Indian capital in decades. At least 53 people, mostly Muslims, were killed and property was destroyed.

"Burnt Qurans inside the ravaged Madina Masjid. Many places of worship for  Muslims were attacked deliberately by right wing Hindu nationalist who were on a mission  to show their might in the Shiv Vihar neighbourhood of North East Delhi."

The high altitude plains of Eastern Ladakh are home to nomadic tribe called the Changpas. For generations,  their intricate multi-dimensional pastoral system has centred around their livestock. At an unsympathetic  altitude of nearly 15,000ft., the Changpas have lived a life for generations, survived in harmony against unpredictable wild winds and heavy snow that hovers upon their livelihood. But a larger threat of  unprecedented extreme cold and punitive conditions is engulfing the community and their livestock in most winter seasons. In a catastrophic event in 2013, extreme snowfall and plummeting temperatures had  completely cut off all the access to normal winter pastures and around 20,000 livestock perished due to  starvation; with 90% of the young stillborn or dying. Feeling weak against the odds of lurking climate change  threat and deep attachment towards their cultural spirit thereafter, it was distressing to know that Changpas continue to reckon this climatic drift, feeling vulnerable to the re-occurrence of such an event. Most Changpas  also fear gradual declination of their tribe as their children move ahead to prefer an advanced lifestyle. Facing this brunt of harsh climate drift in time, ‘The Silent Disaster’ evolves as my extremely subjective visual journey  that is born from my dystopian fear of a world slowly losing valuable resources and rewinding into stone age. 

Nearing the end of first decade of the catastrophic event, understanding Changpa life and its traditional  pastoral system was necessary, since it accounts for nearly 80% of wool in J&K region. Post 2013 loss, engaging with their micro level practices like breeding of sheep, extraction- collection- forecasting quality wool and documenting cultural practices has been my immediate approach to the story. With their disciplined intricate  systems, I continue to elaborate my project around the powerful Changpa women who remain at forefront  bearing hardships and maintaining ecological-economic balance. Following the stories of ‘legends’, who have  witnessed climate drift over decades and covering the lives of Changpa children at Nomadic School, I continue  to reinforce my idea of restoring their identities. Confronted by effects of climate crisis, I would hope for this  work to be a portal for viewers across the world and become more cognisant of Changpa tribes who continue  to secure our ecosystem by maintaining a cultural practice amidst environmental risks. 

This photo series emerged from a phone conversation with my covid-positive, in-isolation  mother: 

‘How are you, Amma?’ 

‘I’m good,’ she said, ‘I just feel… somewhat lost’. 

Perhaps it’s this feeling that best describes the experience of living through a pandemic – not just for her but for so many of us. 

In my attempt to portray this period in time, I photographed life in lockdown on the near  outskirts of Bangalore, where I live with my family – which is bookended by my 86-year-old  grandmother and 6-year-old niece. I documented their days as they melted from one to  the next, and the world outside as we saw it from our apartment – a world that seems  surreal, a world that feels intangible. 

Simple acts, like breathing the air around us and touching another person, have become  delicate offerings, fragilities that are no longer ours to own. The volatility of these  experiences left us disoriented, often yearning for touch and togetherness, and  questioning who or what we will find ourselves to be on the other side of this  extraordinary time. 

Somewhat lost hopes to speak of this experience – the journey through a time of  displacement and the longing for a world that belongs to us.

My grandmother in the kitchen 

Bangalore, 9th May 2021, 12:39 

Eerie silence of dawn in Sundarban forest is broken as Mondol family’s boat chugs along a narrow creak. Soon the waterway becomes narrower, shallower and the undergrowth thicker. Once the boat gets stuck in the mud; Mr. Mondol, Mrs. Mondol and her brothers disembark. Stepping on the muddy maze of pneumatophores, armed with sickles and chanting the name of goddess Bonobibi; they melt into the mangrove. They are looking for wild honey in a prime tiger territory. Mondol family belong to the community which lives in the fringe areas of Sundarban. They are entirely dependent on the forest for their livelihood. Members of this community gather wild honey and catch mud crabs in the forest. Sundarban, the largest surviving single tract of mangrove forest is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Life in Sundarban is an allegory of edgy coexistence with tigers on land and crocodiles in the water. Mr. Mondol jokingly calls the activities in the forest as a game of ‘hide and seek’ with tigers.

Although the lifestyle of this community is omnipresent in ancient Bengali folklores, very little is known about their present condition. A much bigger threat than tigers, looms large on their lives. Research revealed that sea level is rising at a rate almost double that of global average, causing continuous inundation of a large portion of forest and increase in soil salinity. As an implication plants are becoming shorter with fewer branches and leaves. Honey production has also decreased as quantity of blossoming flowers got reduced. Increase of salinity in the water has negative effect on population of fishes and mud crabs.

This community bears the brunt of climate change. To make their both ends meet, they have to venture deeper into the forest than before. It drastically increases the chances of man – animal conflict. Increased risk and dwindling source of income is causing the young generation to migrate to larger cities in search of livelihood. Mr. Mondol acknowledges that their ancient tradition may not last long. By concentrating on the life of Mondol family, I aim to provide an insider’s prospective to their traditional life style. This work will be a depiction of their daily struggle, hard work and the close tie they share with nature. I also intend to follow the people of this community who are migrating to big cities in search of livelihood.

Award categories
  • The Danish Siddiqui Award for Photo of the Year in honour of Photojournalist Danish Siddiqui, one photograph from all submitted entries in the Single Image submission categories will stand a chance to win the “Photo of the Year Award”.  Award: INR 1,00,000 
  • Photo Story of the Year One Photo essay from all submitted entries in the Photo Essay submission categories will be awarded the “Photo Story of the Year Award”. Award: INR 1,00,000 
  • News and Current Affairs: Single Image Award: INR 50,000 
  • News and Current Affairs: Photo StoryAward: INR 50,000 
  • Climate Change and Conservation: Single ImageAward: INR 50,000 
  • Climate Change and Conservation: Photo StoryAward: INR 50,000 
  • Social Documentary: Photo Essay Two Photo essays from all entries in the submission category will be awarded. Awards: INR 15,000 each + vlogging kits worth 20k each. 

If you missed the ceremony, do go check out the recording on our YouTube channel to hear about the stories behind these images from the awardees themselves here:

Credible awards are essential to validate the important work done by editorial and documentary photographers. More so in a time when the profession of photojournalism is itself under so much strain, undermined by a number of factors beyond the individual’s control.

Prashant Panjiar 

Photojournalist and Editor

Photojournalism has never been so important as it is now. We are bombarded with so many images everyday but what differentiates us is our ability to show the depth and nuances of the issues we care about. Photojournalism comes with a lot of power and responsibility and it is up to us to represent people the right way with empathy and dignity.  For any change to happen awareness and acknowledgement is necessary and our visual stories have the ability to start these conversations.”

Smita Sharma


As a photographer and educator, I have realized over the years how important photojournalism contests are especially at a time when the space for the photographic image is shrinking in newspapers and magazines. With the advent of multimedia and video as a preferred medium of documentation, the still image has been relegated to the corner. In a situation like this, photo contests can be a great way to get your work out into the world. Such awards connect you with people and create more opportunities for your work to be seen widely.

Validation is extremely important especially when people are at the threshold of their career. Being recognised at a photo contest is a great way to keep yourself going and do things that otherwise seem daunting or sometimes, fruitless. It also informs you about the contemporary trends in the field and helps you refine your work.

There has not been a dedicated award exclusively for photojournalism and documentary photography in India. Even if they were in the past, none of them could continue due to various reasons.

As a previous winner, I see this initiative by Chennai Photo Biennale as one of the most significant steps in creating a platform for the recognition of compelling photojournalism in India.

Showkat Nanda 

Documentary Photographer

Photojournalism has a powerful way of establishing credibility at a time when choreographed and manipulated images are leading public opinion. However, shrinking editorial budgets, job insecurities, and safety concerns have dealt a huge blow to covering such socially-relevant stories. Sensitising people about these issues is extremely important given the times, and photojournalists, like always, need to put their best foot forward. Recognising and celebrating photojournalists and their stories is very important at this time.”

Selvaprakash Lakshmanan

Independent Photographer

Today, we live not just in times of manipulation of media and images, but also denialism of fact. Working in the newsroom, there were several instances where we saw this play out. In August 2019, during the revocation of article 370 in Kashmir, the internet was cut off in Kashmir. With information channels cut off, one of the biggest casualties was not being able to see the ground reality. The longer the news was cut off, the longer we were not able to witness the resentment, as well as the resistance of Kashmiris. The longer the images took to come out, the longer it was possible to convince the public at large that the decision was for the Kashmiri people and welcomed by them. 

When we live in an environment where the government that rules us does not even maintain data of the number of migrant deaths that occurred during the exodus in 2020, the photograph acquires a special function. I'd like to quote from a piece I wrote on the function of images during the pandemic, "In the face of gross government mismanagement and narrative spin, photographs take on a crucial function. Ordinarily, when there is wide access to credible data, photographs help humanise crises, helping us see the people behind the numbers. In the absence of data, they do not just document the ground reality, but stand as evidence against false claims." A photograph like Danish Siddiqui's from the crematorium in Delhi or the photograph of the bodies floating in the Ganga evinced the truth that the authorities were trying to deny. 

In today's times, being a journalist is one of the most courageous professions. When we have those like Siddique Kappan who is in jail for more than a year for merely going to document an incident as a part of his job, or when photojournalists are regularly harassed, questioned and detained by authorities in Kashmir, and one even slammed with the UAPA, or those like Danish Siddiqui, that were documenting the ground reality were viciously trolled on social media, it is more important than ever to support visual journalism in all ways possible. This will not only provide the much needed support and motivation for those on the ground today, but also inspire future evidence gatherers that we will definitely need tomorrow.

Tanvi Mishra