10 Examples of Powerful Visual Storytelling in Photos

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The Independent Photographer’s latest global photo contest, centred around the theme of ‘visual storytelling’, showcases the work of 10 talented photographers interpreting the world around them. Leading photojournalist Ed Kashi comments on the elements that make them powerful examples of stories told through images.

Words and Photography by The Independent Photographer

Last month, The Independent Photographer ran a global photo contest on the theme of ‘visual storytelling’. Ed Kashi, a renowned voice in the photojournalism world judged the contest. Represented by VII agency, Ed uses photography to explore geopolitical and social issues that define our time. Through his editorial assignments and personal projects, he has published 9 photobooks and is also a dedicated educator of photographers around the world. 

After receiving and assessing photo submissions from over 50 countries, Ed has selected 10 photos that share a story with awareness and conviction. 

From series 'Banishanta: Living in Solitude', shot by Manel Quiros.

1st Prize – Manel Quiros

Located on a small riverbank village in Mongla, southern Bangladesh, Banishanta is one of twenty legal brothels in Bangladesh. Shanta is only 9 years old. She was born on Banishanta Island after her mum Khadisha fell pregnant following an encounter with an unknown customer. Girls born under these conditions are often forced to follow the path of sex slavery, while boys end up working as drug dealers.


“What is so powerful about this image is the combination of powerful graphics, emotive elements and the seeming plea for help of the young girl. There is also something enigmatic and ambiguous about this image, which for me carries even more weight. This is an image that can convey a message but also be open to a variety of interpretations. Aesthetically it’s very strong and emotionally very powerful.”

Climate activists running into Garzweiler open brown coal mine in Germany, shot by David Klammer.

2nd Prize – David Klammer

Activists from ‘Ende Gelaende’, an NGO that creates spectacular civil disobedience actions against brown coal companies that are among the worst polluters of our atmosphere. On June 24, 2019, thousands of activists blocked coal railway tracks and stormed into the huge open coal mines of Garzweiler near the Neurath power plant in Grevenbroich, Germany.


“This is a very strong new photo that goes beyond the event or moment. It’s somewhat surreal and almost feels staged. The lighting, composition and the one red umbrella gives this image heft beyond the newsworthiness of the event it depicts. This is a lovely example of a journalistic image that transcends the information it’s meant to represent.”

'Maras gang member praying' in San Francisco Gotera jail, El Salvador, shot by Javier Arcenillas.

3rd Prize – Javier Arcenillas

From long term project “Latidoamerica” – this project describes the fear, anger and impotence of victims amidst the daily terror of street gangs, murder and thievery in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Colombia. The photographer wanted to document the heart of uncontrolled violence in Latin America, the social and political factors that aggressively reinforce that violence, as well as the determination to end it.


“Awarded 3rd prize in the ‘Long Term Projects’ category of the 2018 World Press Photo for other images from his essay “Latidoamerica”, Javier Arcenillas’ captivating portrait of a young Maras gang member praying in San Francisco Gotera jail, Sans Salvador perfectly encapsulates the intensity and determination of the subject’s attempt for redemption. Well-composed and perfectly framed, it is a powerful reminder of the uncontrolled gang violence raging in Latin America.”

'Fake forest' in Chongqing, China, shot by Dave Tacon.

Finalist – Dave Tacon

Workers are seen through an entrance in temporary fencing made to look like a forest scene at a construction site in Jiangbei District. Chongqing, which has a population of around 34 million, has been China’s fastest-growing city for 10 straight quarters.

From series 'The dream is always the same', shot by Gianluca Attoli.

Finalist – Gianluca Attoli

In ‘the dream is always the same’, the presence of a strong atmospheric element is the common trait. Fog, mist, snow, powerfully pictorial skyscapes: all of these aspects, individually or combined, make the main subject(s) “recede” for a moment, letting the mood and the atmosphere become the main and most immediate features of each shot.

'Westminster dog show 3' in Westminster, UK, shot by Clara Mokri.

Finalist – Clara Mokri

A young girl and her father backstage with their Great Dane. Part of a series of the 2019 Westminster Dog Show shot for TIME Magazine.

'Jakarta Singing' in Jakarta, Indonesia, shot by Kristof Vadino.

Finalist – Kristof Vadino

Alex, 41, mussel fisherman, lives with his wife and two daughters in a cabin by the sea in North Jakarta. Directly opposite to his home is the future artificial islands of the ‘Garuda project’. In the background is the ‘Bay Walk Mall’, a shopping mall and luxury apartments.

'Roma in Svinia' in Slovakia, shot by Kristof Huf.

Finalist – Kristof Huf

Svinia consists of two settlements of similar size in Slovakia, one inhabited by Slovaks and the other Roma. The conditions in which the Roma are living there are appalling and the unemployment is almost one hundred percent.

'The girl and the flag' in Khan al Ahmar, East Jerusalem, shot by Leonardo Perugini.

Finalist – Leonardo Perugini

A child plays hide-and-seek in front of the “School of Tyre”. The school was built by the Italian NGO “Vento di Terra” as a covered and secure place where children can study. The Bedouin community of Jahalin lives in the village, and just a few meters behind them an Israeli settlement is looming over.

'CRASH' by Yukiko Sugiyama.

Finalist – Yukiko Sugiyama

The “CRASH” series does not refer to incidents or accidents, instead it represents the mutual relationship between nature and artefacts left behind by humans. These artefacts represent the culmination of technologies, abandoned to natural environments. These machines that have been thrown away after being judged not valuable anymore by people, could only surrender themselves to the environment.

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The Independent Photographer

The Independent Photographer started with a simple idea: to celebrate photography and support emerging artists. Launched in 2016, we are today an international network of photographers and photography enthusiasts reached by more than one million visitors each year. Through our monthly competition, we are committed to helping emerging artists kickstart their professional careers and present their work to a jury comprised of acclaimed artists and top editors such as Steve McCurry, Maggie Steber, Jacob Aue Sobol, Alessia Glaviano, and Ed Kashi.