Flood survivors, former sex slaves, fantasy masks: the world’s best photo reports of 2021


This year our Goats and Soda blog published a number of photo essays from photographers and artists around the world.

One story puts a human face on the problem we’ve all heard of: pandemic food insecurity, from the Philippines to Tennessee. Readers were so moved they wrote asking for donations to the people we profiled. Another tells the story of a children’s library that was created in two shipping containers in a neighborhood torn by violence in South Africa. Yet another shows the 15 things people can’t live without in a pandemic, from ants to holy water.

Here is a selection of our favorite global photo stories from 2021.

Award-winning photos capture the courage and suffering of South Sudan flood survivors

The series of photos Inflexible floods recently won its fifth prize. It captures the strength and hardships of those affected by flooding of biblical proportions in South Sudan. Posted on November 20, 2021

Mumbai falls in love with its forgotten fountains

They are majestic. They are neglected. And now they are slowly being repaired. Environmentalists are preserving them – and officials hope the fountains will provide free water to the city’s poor. Posted on April 11, 2021

The Hot-Spot Library was born in two shipping containers in a Cape Town slum

It all started with a guy who had a dream: to bring books to children in a neighborhood torn apart by drug addiction and gang violence. This is the Hot-Spot Library in Cape Town, South Africa. Posted on June 27, 2021

Why a Zimbabwean photographer asked his subjects to pose in Victorian costume

“African Victorian,” a series of unconventional portraits by Zimbabwean photographer Tamary Kudita, combines Victorian fashion with her country’s culture to examine the impact of the colonial era. Posted on May 31, 2021

Pandemic sends single mom in big city to simpler, happier life

Ella Guity lived in the capital of Honduras with her daughters and mother. COVID-19 was on the rise. She sent them all to the fishing village where she grew up. Could she – should she – go too? Posted on January 30, 2021

The new faces of pandemic food insecurity: hungry, worried … but generous

A lawyer who lost her job. An HIV positive single mother. A grandmother who thought she had enough money to live on. A former golf coach. They are among the millions who are now struggling to put meals on the table. Posted on September 17, 2021

Former WWII sex slaves still fight for justice in the Philippines

Japanese army soldiers have systematically raped women in the Philippines. What happened to the aging survivors of this atrocity of war in the midst of the pandemic? Posted on September 24, 2021

15 things people can’t live without in a pandemic, from ants to holy water

An anthropologist appealed: take a photo of 15 essential items that help you cope. She heard from over 1,000 people in 50 countries. There are a lot of laptops out there – as well as some wonderful surprises. Posted on July 2, 2021

The history of vaccines repeats itself – sometimes

Since the first vaccine (against smallpox) the questions are the same. How do you transport it? Who’s next to get it? Why so much hesitation? The answers can be similar – or radically different. Posted on May 14, 2021

Mexican masks depict COVID as tiger, devil, man with blue eyes

Two teachers invited indigenous artisans to make masks representing the agent of the pandemic – the coronavirus – through the prism of their cultural traditions. Posted on August 28, 2021

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