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Surprising Images From Up-And-Coming Photographers


Maysa entered a beauty pageant for young black Brazilian women — and won.
/ Luisa Dorr | VII Mentor Program
Maysa entered a beauty pageant for young black Brazilian women — and won.

A young girl in pursuit of a crown for "black beauty." Homeless transgender women who stand out with their self-made fashion. Somalis in search of water.

These are some of the winning images in the Flash Forward Emerging Photographers Competition. Hosted by the , a Canadian arts charity, the competition recognized 100 photographers under the age of 34 and also gave special mention to photographers addressing such topics as race and the environment and the LGBTQ community.

Here's a sampling of the winning photos from those three categories, taken in countries we cover in our blog.

Brazilian photographer follows Maysa, a young Brazilian girl participating in Young Miss Sao Paulo, a pageant that crowns both a black and white beauty queen. Dörr explains in her statement about the project: "Brazil and Young Miss Brazil Black Beauty created to encourage black girls to participate. Racism is, unfortunately, very common...."

Maysa, left, her little sister Luana and mother Ana on a street in Sao Paulo. They just returned from buying bread for Sunday morning breakfast.
/ Luisa Dorr | VII Mentor Program
Maysa, left, her little sister Luana and mother Ana on a street in Sao Paulo. They just returned from buying bread for Sunday morning breakfast.

Maysa won the title of Young Miss Sao Paulo "Black Beauty" in 2015. She lives in Brasilandia, a large slum neighborhood.

Dörr would like to continue following Maysa, who dreams of one day becoming Miss Brazil. The photographer wants to "document how [it is] to be a black in this society that glorifies white beauty."

Photographer was awed by some of the transgender sex workers he met in Cape Town, South Africa in 2016. They manage to look "gorgeous, even though most of them live in the streets," he said in an email to NPR.

A transgender woman known as Gabby, right, wears a self-created outfit.
/ Jan Hoek / Duran Lantink / Sistaazhood
A transgender woman known as Gabby, right, wears a self-created outfit.

Hoek, who is from Amsterdam, partnered with fashion designer Duran Lantink and transgender support group SistaazHood to document the city's transgender sex workers. Named "Sistaaz of the Castle," the series highlights their self-made fashion. With little to no money, the women use objects and garments they find on the streets to create elaborate outfits. For some of the shoots, Lantink helped created the women's outfits.

A transgender woman who goes by Joan Collins, 60, poses under the bridge in Cape Town where she and a group of transgender sex workers live.
/ Jan Hoek / Duran Lantink / Sistaazhood
A transgender woman who goes by Joan Collins, 60, poses under the bridge in Cape Town where she and a group of transgender sex workers live.

"Normally, trans sex workers are only in the news when something negative happens," Hoek wrote in an email to NPR. "This was a way that they could show a whole new side."

A transgender woman who goes by the name Cleopatra wears an outfit created from found objects and garments.
/ Jan Hoek / Duran Lantink / Sistaazhood
A transgender woman who goes by the name Cleopatra wears an outfit created from found objects and garments.

documented climate change and conflict in Somalia and Somaliland, where drought is a growing problem.

"I'm driven to share these stories of people struggling to cope with a dramatically altered environment in the hopes of raising an alarm," she said in an email to NPR.

Forced to travel far beyond their traditional nomadic routes because of drought, Muumina Farah and her daughter camp by the side of the road outside the western Somaliland town of Habas.
/ Nichole Sobecki/VII
Forced to travel far beyond their traditional nomadic routes because of drought, Muumina Farah and her daughter camp by the side of the road outside the western Somaliland town of Habas.

A fisherman at the port of Bosaso, Somalia.
/ Nichole Sobecki/VII
A fisherman at the port of Bosaso, Somalia.

Sobecki told the story behind one of her most striking images: a veiled woman walking through a cactus field. She had been driving through western Somaliland when, she says, "I came across a group of women washing their clothes in a roadside puddle — the only water they could find."

A woman walks through a cactus field in a drought-stricken area of western Somaliland.
/ Nichole Sobecki/VII
A woman walks through a cactus field in a drought-stricken area of western Somaliland.

The photographer briefly chatted with the women about the hardships they now face, including animals lost to dehydration and wells that had run dry.

Sobecki says, "As they turned to walk home I took this image of one of the women ... The colors of her scarf melded into the vegetation and sky, and I was reminded of how intimate the ties are between people's lives and the land."

is a freelance journalist and science writer. Her work has appeared inScience, The Washington Post and NPR. Find her on Twitter @NadiaMacias .

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.