The scholar: Uttar Pradesh, India (Rajesh Dhar)
List 29 January 2019

The finalists: 10 fascinating photos of people from this year's Photo of the Year finalists

Ahead of the Wanderlust Photo of the Year 2018 results on Friday 1 February, we give you a sneak preview of this year's top ten images from the People category...

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.
The Bishwa Ijtema is a huge annual gathering of Muslims in Tongi, set on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh. They come together on the banks of the River Turag to pray, then everyone returns to their respective homes. But the railways struggle to cope with transporting the millions of people, and many end up riding on the tops of the coaches.

 

 

 

 

An innovative way of boarding trains: Tongi, Bangladesh (Deba Prasad Roy)

An innovative way of boarding trains: Tongi, Bangladesh (Deba Prasad Roy)

The face of Kulasai: Tamil Nadu, India (Shibasish Saha)

The face of Kulasai: Tamil Nadu, India (Shibasish Saha)

Kulasekarapattinam is a remote Indian village in India’s Tuticorin District that is best known for its grand Dussehra Festival. During this event, people from all over Tamil Nadu throng its temple to offer special prayers. On the tenth day after the new moon, some 1.5 million devotees gather. Those who have fasted for the previous 41 days dress like gods and goddesses and march here from neighbouring villages, they fall into a trance-like state as folk music plays all around them.

 

 

 

 

 

Terrified passenger: Cuba (George Abdilla)

Terrified passenger: 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.
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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Novice monks at abandoned monastery: Bagan, Myanmar (Burma) (Marios Forsos)

Novice monks at abandoned monastery: Bagan, Myanmar (Burma) (Marios Forsos)

One of our last stops in Bagan was a set of temples on the edge of the temple area. We were waiting for the right light when the two novice monks accompanying our fixer ventured to this old abandoned monastery/orphanage and started talking to the abbot. We approached and, upon seeing the interior, begged him to allow us to shoot inside. It took a lot of convincing and bargaining, but he relented in the end. This shot was taken while the two novices were getting set up.

 

 

 

 

 

The thinker: Jewish Quarter, Jerusalem (Thomas Kast)

The thinker: Jewish Quarter, Jerusalem (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 – its fusion of history, modernity, impassioned flurry and silent contemplation.
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.

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

The scholar: Uttar Pradesh, India (Rajesh Dhar)

The scholar: Uttar Pradesh, India (Rajesh Dhar)

Sanskrit is the language of ancient India and has a documented history of about 3,500 years. It is also the primary language of Hinduism and most works of the Hindu philosophy. Here you can see young pupils being educated in a Sanskrit school in Uttar Pradesh.

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