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Finalist 2006

Mads Nissen

Overpopulation in Manilla, The Philippines


The shanty town of Vitas, next to the old dump site of ‘Smokey Mountains’. A few meters from it people are living in 27 buildings, with 4 floors. Each building has 88 apartments of only 18 sqm each, and these generally house a family of around six people.A young man spends time alone on the rooftop.The only way to get a little privacy in this overcrowded place.


Mads Nissen (1979) is a photographer based in Copenhagen, Denmark.

For Nissen photography is all about empathy - creating understanding, closeness, and intimacy. He strives to build that connection while focusing on contemporary social issues such as inequality, human rights violations, and are often destructive relationships with nature.

After graduating in 2007 with distinction from The Danish School of Journalism he moved to Shanghai to document the human and social consequences of China’s historic economic rise. In 2009, he was selected for the Joop Swart Masterclass.

Since 2014 he has worked as a staff photographer at the Danish daily Politiken. His images are also published in Time, Newsweek, CNN, National Geographic, The Guardian, Stern, and Der Spiegel among others.

He frequently gives lectures and workshops and has had solo exhibitions across Europe and Latin America.

In both 2015 and 2021, his photographs were selected as World Press Photo of the Year. In 2015, his photograph was of an intimate moment between a young gay couple from Russia, and in 2021, ‘The First Embrace,’ depicted an embrace between two women in a care home in Brazil during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2021, he was named ‘Photographer of the Year’ for the fourth time in Denmark. He has also been shortlisted twice as ‘Photographer of the Year’ at the Pictures of the Year International Award (POYi).

Nissen has published three photo books: The Fallen (People's Press), AMAZONAS (Gyldendal), and most recently in 2018 the award-winning We are Indestructible (GOST Books).