Surprising Images From Up-And-Coming Photographers

A young girl in pursuit of a crown for "black beauty." Homeless transgender women who stand out with their self-made fashion. Somalians in search of water.

These are some of the winning images in the Flash Forward Emerging Photographers Competition. Hosted by the Magenta Foundation, a Canadian arts charity, the competition recognized 100 photographers under the age of 34 and also gave special mention to photographers addressing such topics as race and the environment and the LGBTQ community.

Here's a sampling of the winning photos from those three categories, taken in countries we cover in our blog.

Brazilian photographer Luisa Dörr follows Maysa, a young Brazilian girl participating in Young Miss Sao Paulo, a pageant that crowns both a black and white beauty queen. Dörr explains in her statement about the project: "Brazil and Young Miss Brazil Black Beauty created to encourage black girls to participate. Racism is, unfortunately, very common...."

Maysa won the title of Young Miss Sao Paulo "Black Beauty" in 2015. She lives in Brasilandia, a large slum neighborhood.

Dörr would like to continue following Maysa, who dreams of one day becoming Miss Brazil. The photographer wants to "document how [it is] to be a black in this society that glorifies white beauty."

Photographer Jan Hoek was awed by some of the transgender sex workers he met in Cape Town, South Africa in 2016. They manage to look "gorgeous, even though most of them live in the streets," he said in an email to NPR.

Hoek, who is from Amsterdam, partnered with fashion designer Duran Lantink and transgender support group SistaazHood to document the city's transgender sex workers. Named "Sistaaz of the Castle," the series highlights their self-made fashion. With little to no money, the women use objects and garments they find on the streets to create elaborate outfits. For some of the shoots, Lantink helped created the women's outfits.

"Normally, trans sex workers are only in the news when something negative happens," Hoek wrote in an email to NPR. "This was a way that they could show a whole new side."

Nichole Sobecki documented climate change and conflict in Somalia and Somaliland, where drought is a growing problem.

"I'm driven to share these stories of people struggling to cope with a dramatically altered environment in the hopes of raising an alarm," she said in an email to NPR.

Sobecki told the story behind one of her most striking images: a veiled woman walking through a cactus field. She had been driving through western Somaliland when, she says, "I came across a group of women washing their clothes in a roadside puddle — the only water they could find."

The photographer briefly chatted with the women about the hardships they now face, including animals lost to dehydration and wells that had run dry.

Sobecki says, "As they turned to walk home I took this image of one of the women ... The colors of her scarf melded into the vegetation and sky, and I was reminded of how intimate the ties are between people's lives and the land."

Nadia Whitehead is a freelance journalist and science writer. Her work has appeared in Science, The Washington Post and NPR. Find her on Twitter @NadiaMacias.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit