Dubai photographer's lockdown portrait wins National Award for Sony World Photography Awards 2021

The awards received more than 100,000 submissions from over 50 countries this year

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A monochrome portrait of a girl with a painted face mask and a steely expression has become the winning image for the UAE in the National Award for Sony World Photography Awards 2021.

Shot by Barcelona-born photographer Mireia Vilaplana, who lives in Dubai, the image features Clara, her 9-year-old daughter, and belongs to a series titled Masquerade.

Conceptualised by Vilaplana as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the photo project is what she describes as a "visual exploration of our true selves". She recruited her twin children as her subjects, donning them in masks made of leaves, twigs and even toilet paper. The entire series was shot in their Dubai garden during lockdown.

“Face masks have become, without a doubt, the symbol of the global pandemic affecting us all in 2020,” the photographer said in a statement. “This photographic series explores the symbolism of masks through the use of photography’s particular ability to describe an historical moment in a conceptual form.”

Scroll through the gallery above to see the other winners of the National Awards 2021.

Vilaplana has been a Dubai resident since 2016. A self-taught photographer, she specialises in black-and-white photography and portraiture. Her images of domestic scenes and quotidian life often play with deep contrasts and shadow. “Through mundane, everyday moments, I like to incite and push the viewers on an exploratory journey of their own emotions,” she said.

Her image was selected from more than 165,000 submissions to the Open competition, in which Vilaplana’s work was entered into the portraiture category.

Part of the Sony World Photography Awards, the National Awards programme was developed by the World Photography Organisation and Sony to highlight photographers from around the globe. It received submissions from more than 50 countries this year.

Other National Awards 2021 winners include Prajwal Bhattarai, who has captured a volleyball game in the mountains of Nepal; Patrick Mueller, an American photographer whose unusual image of a sand dune and mountains was taken in Death Valley; and Saudi photographer Naif Albugami, whose highly stylised photo shoot features a man in silvery suit atop a broken-down car.

The overall winners in remaining competitions of Student, Youth, Open and Professional categories of the Sony World Photography Awards 2021 will be announced in April.