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MEE photo competition 2020: Winner and runners-up announced

We received more than 100 entries after we asked our readers to send in pictures that encapsulated hope during the coronavirus pandemic. Discover is pleased to announce the winner and runners-up
This year's competition was on the theme of finding hope during the coronavirus pandemic

In what has been a turbulent and difficult year for many, people have sought to deal with the upheaval brought on by the pandemic in different ways. For some it was through photography that hope was captured and instilled in others.

We asked you to show us what hope looked like through a single picture. After receiving over 100 wonderful entries from across the Middle East and North Africa, Discover is pleased to announce the winner and two runners-up of our photo competition. 

Here are the photographers behind the winning photos:

Winner - Mardin Ahmadi, Iran


Mardin, 19, is a trainee teacher from the city of Javanrud in Iran, who is also studying photography as a profession. As the coronavirus pandemic spread globally, Mardin saw it as an opportunity to photograph the things around him despite some of it being "painful".

How did you come about capturing this picture?

It is always significant and enchanting for me to record the events happening around me. My brother is restless inside the home but he is cheerful outside. This led to me taking this photo of him studying.

How did you first get into photography? 

Mardin Ahmadi says participating in competitions helps photographers to realise their strengths and weaknesses

In 2017, during a visit to a photography exhibition, I realised my interest in photography, and from that year onwards, I started professionally by participating in related courses and workshops.

What does winning MEE's Photo Competition mean to you?

It is an honour for me that my photo has been seen in a competition like yours and it has motivated me a lot.

Is it easy to pursue photography where you live?  

Difficulty means nothing when you are doing something you love. However, there are always some restrictions when taking photos in small towns like Javanrud. But then again you can also find solutions for them by abiding by the ethical values associated with photography. To gain new experiences and to take photos in different places, inside and outside the country, is one of my great goals in life.

What advice would you give to people about photography and entering competitions?

Record new and different scenes, and remember that failure does not mean anything with regard to photography contests. You realise your weaknesses and strengths by participating in competitions.

You can follow Mardin on his Instagram page: @mardinahmadii

Second place: Elaheh Mollaei, Iran


Elaheh, 32, is a dental assistant from the Iranian city of Quchan. The pandemic this year made her value spending time together with her loved ones more.

How did you come about capturing this picture?

The four sides of the carpet in Elaheh Mollaei's photo are a metaphor for the four walls of a house during quarantine

During quarantine, I was looking to record the mandatory quarantine within the four walls of the house. For me, the four sides of the carpet were a metaphor for the four walls of the quarantine prison (the house). The relationships in those four walls dispelled the bitterness of the days of quarantine and created hope among family members for a future without coronavirus.

How did you first get into photography? 

I started taking photos in February 2019. My constant interest in photography and connecting with people, as well as meeting a few photographer friends, led me down this path.

Is it easy to pursue photography where you live?  

There are problems everywhere, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. In Iran, photographic equipment is also very expensive.

What advice would you give to people about photography and entering competitions?

Read, look and take pictures. Experience, experience, experience, and finally, believe in yourself.

You can follow Elaheh on her Instagram page: @elaheh_mollaei

Third place - Fatima al-Zahra'a Mohammed Shbair, Palestine


Fatima, 23, is a freelance photojournalist from Gaza who hopes the coronavirus "ordeal" will be over next year and there will be "wellness for everyone".

How did you come about capturing this specific picture?

Through her photography, Fatima Al-Zahra'a Mohammed Shbair wants to deliver messages about life in Gaza to the rest of the world.

This photo was taken at the start of the coronavirus crisis in Gaza city, which affected the situation of athletes, who made their homes places where they could train after sports clubs were closed. 

How did you first get into photography? 

All the pictures around me attracted me in some way, the way they were taken, their elements and their story. I hoped one day to carry the camera and convey the messages of my homeland to the world. I started by self-learning and that lasted about eight years until I found myself engaged in journalism in some way and doing what I wished. 

Is it easy to pursue photography where you live?  

In general, practising photography in conflict areas, such as Gaza City, is not an easy task with the security restrictions, but there is always a way in which we can deal with matters. You just need to understand the location in order to work within the limits. 

What advice would you give to people about photography and entering competitions?

Look as little as possible to other photographers, work every day even without assignments or money. Work, work, work with discipline for yourself and not for editors or awards. Contests do not always mean everything, they are only a beautiful thing that can add value to your career, so do not despair [if you lose].

You can follow Fatima on her Instagram page: @fatimashbair

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