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Finalist 2008

Mads Nissen

Sichuan Earthquake Series


On 12 May 2008, an earthquake measuring 8.0 on the Richter Scale shook China’s Sichuan province. The epicenter was located in the Wenchuan district, but its effects were felt throughout the mainland. felt throughout the mainland. The area most devastated by the earthquake was the city of Beichuan. Beichuan city. Almost all of its buildings were destroyed. Where once a city stood, now all that remains is an endless mass of concrete rubble.

The province was almost destroyed; the quality of the region’s buildings is subject to public and institutional inspections. The quality of the region’s buildings is subject to public and institutional inspections. The disaster claimed 70,000 victims and 17,500 people are still missing. 17,500 people are still missing. National and foreign relief workers have been working diligently to rescue victims. However, their chances of finding survivors have greatly diminished over the last few weeks.


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).