Catrin by Sujata Setia, Winner

After returning from a ski trip in the French Alps, Catrin’s coach crashed. The driver died after warning the passengers of the crash, saving their lives. Catrin was left with third-degree burns over 96% of her body. She was given a one in one thousand chance of survival.

“Following three months in coma, 200 surgical procedures, and four years of rehab, Catrin defied destiny,” the photographer Sujata Setia says. “She lives… and she lives with elan.” Setia’s portrait of Catrin, the result of their collaboration, has been selected as the winner of the Indian Photo Festival Portrait Prize 2021, a competition for portrait photographers from the Indian subcontinent.

The 20 finalists from the prestigious award are now on view at the Indian Photo Festival (IPF) in Hyderabad. The awards were judged by Vineet Vohra, the prominent photographer, Leica Ambassador, and Founder of The APF Magazine. Second Prize went to Kushal Gangopadhyay for his street portrait of watch repairers in Kolkata, while Ritagnik Bhattacharya took home the Third Prize award for a group portrait with a surreal twist, created using car windows and reflections.

Watch repairers by Kushal Gangopadhyay, 2nd Prize
Layers of the Mind by Ritagnik Bhattacharya, 3rd Prize

The finalists of IPF Portrait Prize 2021 speak to this unprecedented moment in global history, touching on the aftermath of the pandemic, and the realities of climate change. Mili Paul documents life on Delhi’s sacred Yamuna river, one of India’s holiest rivers and also one of the most polluted. There are personal stories too, often with far-reaching implications. In West Bengal, Shibasish Saha met a family forced out of their homes by flooding. “The father had nothing left except a beloved daughter and son and a kid goat, which he considered as a family member too,” the artist says. “In this image, they were to cross a river to start a new beginning.”

An image of a family crossing the land which was flooded due heavy monsoon in the rural areas of West Bengal by Shibasish Saha, Finalist
Devotees busy celebrating Chhath Puja at the Yamuna, which is rather full of froth and toxic industrial waste, Delhi by Mili Paul, Finalist

Spanning continents and themes, perhaps the thread uniting all the finalists from the Indian Photo Festival Portrait Prize 2021 is a sense of fearlessness and courage. When Catrin, the crash survivor, shared the portrait she made with Sujata Setia on Instagram, she wrote, “The scariest photos to share when you have scars are usually the most powerful.” See the unforgettable exhibition in person at the Indian Photo Festival through December 19th, and learn more about IPF over on their website. See all the winners and finalists here.

Shakti by Raggeshre Das, Honorable Mention
Mother and Child portrayed through a window in Sinquerim, Goa by Sandip Dey, Finalist. “The photograph depicts an everyday moment of love and innocence in the lives of the subjects”
A man carries a child as people who were stranded in crisis-hit Afghanistan arrive by a special repatriation flight of IAF at the Hendon Air Force Station, Ghaziabad by Arun Sharma/PTI, Finalist
WE IN UNISON by Aditya Sharma, Finalist. “This photo is of parade rehearsals 2021, the time just after the first wave of Covid. ‘We’ is the first word of our constitution. To me, this photo represents our solidarity.”