3 mins

The most fascinating portraits from Wanderlust's Photo of the Year

We reflect on some of the best photographs of people taken for our Photo of the Year competition, to inspire your Wanderlust Writing Challenge entry. Meet the locals in Iran, Sri Lanka, Cuba and beyond...

Sri Lanka (Photo of the Year)

Over the last few years, countless insightful photographs of people have been entered into Wanderlust's Travel Photo of the Year competition.

This selection, including category winners, highly commended shots and finalists, was entirely photographed by amateur travel photographers across the globe. Meet people from Cuba, Iran, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar (Burma), the Netherlands, Italy and beyond.

P.S. If you're entering the Wanderlust Writing Challenge, hopefully they'll inspire you to write to the theme: the kindness of strangers.

You want it that big? Havana, Cuba (Bun Ngo Leung)

You want it that big? Havana, Cuba (Bun Ngo Leung)

This photo was taken of a lady haggling outside a butcher shop in Havana.

From the gesture of the shopkeeper, it seemed that she was trying to confirm the size of the piece of pork that her customer was trying to buy.

In Cuba, people love to eat, particularly sweet things like ice cream. Most of the buildings in Cuba, like this shop, are painted brightly – just as the Cubans are colourfully dressed too.

 

- Bun Ngo Leung

Old woman, Lorestan Province, Iran (Meisam Abdoli)

Old woman, Lorestan Province, Iran (Meisam Abdoli)

An old woman with her keys
on the streets of the city of
Khorramabad.

 

- Meisam Abdoli

Colourful fishing West Bengal/Jharkhand border, India (Debasish Chakraborty)

Colourful fishing West Bengal/Jharkhand border, India (Debasish Chakraborty)

This picture was captured in the bordering areas of West Bengal and Jharkhand.

In contrast to many other parts of India, the women here have come forward to uplift their socio-economic status, formed self-help groups, bought fishing nets and they are now earning their livelihood by selling the fish they catch at the village markets.

They are sending their children to school. This is one of the most remarkable examples of women empowerment that I’ve seen.

- Debasish Chakraborty

The sculptor. Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma) (Aung Ya)

The sculptor. Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma) (Aung Ya)

The man in the image is a sculptor. His life is spent creating art, cherishing the sense of immortality that his work brings.

His sculptures may be shipped around the world; they may even be worshipped – even if he himself will never be.

He lives in a small village and is not famous; not many people know him, and while his art graces big cities and will be seen by many people, it is unlikely he will ever see them enjoying it.

- Aung Ya

Jewish Quarter, Jeruslaem (Thomas Kast)

Jewish Quarter, Jeruslaem (Thomas Kast)

I took this shot on a trip to Jerusalem, where I was captivated by the solitary figure of a lost-in-thought Rabbi, surrounded by a small crowd of religious Jews bustling underneath the Western Wall.

I found it as I searched for a discreet yet representative motif of Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter; a scene conveying the atmosphere of the place.

A fusion of history, modernity, impassioned flurry and silent contemplation.

- Thomas Kast

Fishing net Nha Trang, Khánh Hòa, Vietnam (Khanh Phan Thi)

Fishing net Nha Trang, Khánh Hòa, Vietnam (Khanh Phan Thi)

The local women are checking the net after a fishing vessel arrives back at the port. Their job is to patch up the perforated mesh before it heads out on its next job.

I took this photo while travelling in Nha Trang. Visiting the fishing port, I was fascinated by the colours of the nets while the women stood out against the blue background.

- Khanh Phan Thi

Butha-Buthe, Lesotho (Bart Brouwer)

Butha-Buthe, Lesotho (Bart Brouwer)

A Mosotho man stands in front of his house in a small village in Butha-Buthe, a rural area in north-eastern Lesotho.


- Bart Brouwer

Incendies, St Petersburg, Russia (Pavel Galkin)

Incendies, St Petersburg, Russia (Pavel Galkin)

I was waiting for my friend near the subway, looked back and saw a couple who communicated emotionally: they hugged, kissed, laughed and cried.

I didn’t know what they were talking about, but their feelings were genuine. In total, I photographed them five times and each shot captured their emotion.

This picture left the biggest mark on my heart.

- Pavel Galkin

Taj behind the colour. Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India(Sanghamitra Sarkar)

Taj behind the colour. Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India(Sanghamitra Sarkar)

The Taj Mahal, one of the true wonders of the world, is photographed here through a veil of yellow gulal powder during Holi Festival, when people around the Taj Mahal celebrate by sprinkling coloured powder on one another. 

Seen through the veil of yellow gulal, I hoped to capture the beauty of the Taj Mahal and also the Holi Festival, as both are part of India’s unique heritage.

- Sanghamitra Sarkar

Descent of the Ukukus. Qullqipunku Glacier, Peru (Christopher Roche)

Descent of the Ukukus. Qullqipunku Glacier, Peru (Christopher Roche)

Qoyllur Rit’i is a festival that takes place in the Peruvian Andes. A mix of old Incan traditions and Catholic influences, it attracts 80,000 pilgrims.

During the night, bands of Ukukus (pilgrims dressed as mythological tricksters) head up to the holy glaciers and perform initiation ceremonies at an altitude of around 5,600m, before descending back down at dawn, which is when this image was taken.

- Christopher Roche

Lost in travel in West Bengal, India (Indranil Sengupta)

Lost in travel in West Bengal, India (Indranil Sengupta)

The morning commute in Ollyantaytambo, Peru (Matt Hill)

The morning commute in Ollyantaytambo, Peru (Matt Hill)

Kayaw Kitchen. Loikaw, Kayah State, Myanmar (Burma) (Ko Ko Zaw)

Kayaw Kitchen. Loikaw, Kayah State, Myanmar (Burma) (Ko Ko Zaw)

This is the traditional Kayaw ethnic kitchen style in Myanmar, where a Kayaw lady is preparing some raw chillies to dry and fry.

The Kayaw live among the Karen people, near Loikaw in Kayah State, and they only reside in Myanmar. Their primary language is Kayaw and their main religion is Protestant Christianity.

- Ko Ko Zaw

Terrified passenger in Cuba (George Abdilla)

Terrified passenger in Cuba (George Abdilla)

One of the excursions I took in Cuba was to this beautiful place in the middle of nowhere, which had a viewpoint overlooking a wide panorama.

There was also some kind of hotel and a parking area, and it was there that I noticed this nice old man, who was having a discussion with the driver of a truck.

As soon as he climbed into the cab, the driver put his foot down and I could see the terrified old man trying desperately to hold onto anything.

- George Abdilla

Amsterdam bruin café. Amsterdam, the Netherlands (Victoria Maguire-Rajpaul)

Amsterdam bruin café. Amsterdam, the Netherlands (Victoria Maguire-Rajpaul)

Franchises and international brands dilute the distinguishing quirks of cities. So, I felt privileged to witness this authentic Dutch scene in a ‘bruin café’ (brown café).

They’re so-named for their cosy and dark wooden interiors, as well as their nicotine-stained walls. Many Amsterdammers treat these neighbourhood pubs as an extension of the home – somewhere to read a newspaper or meet friends.

- Victoria Maguire-Rajpaul

Human canvas, Ethiopia (Biljana Jurukovski)

Human canvas, Ethiopia (Biljana Jurukovski)

This portrait is of a young woman belonging to the remote Surma tribe that resides on the border of Ethiopia and South Sudan.

Surma people are an inspiration to me as they only use natural products to decorate and beautify themselves.

I asked the girl to stand in front of a dark backdrop as I wanted the whole focus of the viewer to be on her beauty and artistic skills.

- Biljana Jurukovski

Koggala stilt fishermen: Koggala, Sri Lanka (Kevin Lloyd)

Koggala stilt fishermen: Koggala, Sri Lanka (Kevin Lloyd)

Stilt fishing is unique to Sri Lanka’s south coast. The technique originated around the time of the Second World War as food was in short supply and traditional fishing spots became overcrowded. Fishermen perch on a horizontal ‘petta’, lashed to a pole in the sand just offshore.

Although it’s mostly done for the benefit of tourists these days, the spots were originally hard-fought for and are passed down through families. My aim was to capture the weather-beaten character of the men that continue the tradition.
Dominoes in the back streets of Havana, Cuba (Kevin Lloyd)

Dominoes in the back streets of Havana, Cuba (Kevin Lloyd)

I’d read that daily life in Cuba doesn’t take place behind closed doors; it spills out onto the streets.

I witnessed this firsthand when I spotted these men playing dominoes on a residential street a couple of blocks from Havana’s Plaza Vieja. I watched in fascination for more than ten minutes as one man repeatedly taunted his unlucky friend after every hand.

Sensing the loser would eventually tire of being roundly mocked, I choose my moment and captured a shot that shows the antagonist’s cheeky demeanour after yet another successful round.

- Kevin Lloyd

Pushkar Fair, Rajasthan, India (Khairel Anuar Che Ani)

Pushkar Fair, Rajasthan, India (Khairel Anuar Che Ani)

This was taken at Pushkar Fair. During the fair, camels from all over Rajasthan are gathered here, ready to be sold.

- Khairel Anuar Che Ani

Mountain farmer, South Tyrol, Italy (Josef Hinterleitner)

Mountain farmer, South Tyrol, Italy (Josef Hinterleitner)

During a mountain hike in the Villnösstal Valley in South Tyrol, I met this proud mountain farmer on a hay-strewn pasture.

- Josef Hinterleitner

SiyaRam. Varanasi, India (Matt Parry)

SiyaRam. Varanasi, India (Matt Parry)

64-year-old SiyaRam has been training in this kushti wrestling akhara for the last 13 years. What started as a hobby is now very much a part of his daily life.

Along with his fellow wrestlers, they train here daily and bouts take place every day except Wednesdays – this is the day reserved for cleaning the akhara. Kushti wrestling is a dying sport, as the government encourages participants to favour the more modern mat-based format in order to compete at an international level.

In this image, SiyaRam hangs from the beams above the wrestling pit where he had been doing stomach crunches as part of an intense warm-up routine that belied his age.

- Matt Parry

Howrah, West Bengal, India (Abhijit Chatterjee)

Howrah, West Bengal, India (Abhijit Chatterjee)

I wanted to capture the spirit of brotherhood and devotion.

- Abhijit Chatterjee

A celebration of Hindu tradition Dhaka, Bangladesh (Muhammad Amdad Hossain)

A celebration of Hindu tradition Dhaka, Bangladesh (Muhammad Amdad Hossain)

Thousands of Hindu devotees sit on the floor to worship in front of Sri Sri Loknath Brahmachari Ashram in the Narayanganj district during a fasting ritual called kartik brati or rakher upobash.

I had been planning this image in advance; using a prime lens, I took the image from the third floor of a nearby building.

- Muhammad Amdad Hossain

The Enchanted. Jodhpur, India (Matthieu Rivart)

The Enchanted. Jodhpur, India (Matthieu Rivart)

A monsoon suddenly struck and the city was flooded within a few minutes. I finally managed to find shelter under a porch.

An Indian lady was already waiting there, protecting her face from the wind and rain with her traditional sari. I was so drawn by her eyes that it took me a few minutes before being able to take this photo.

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