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Winner edition 2020

Santi Palacios

Seniors in Solitude


What happens when you are unable to say goodbye? What should you do when that inevitable farewell, death and subsequent funeral comes in such an inconceivable manner? Our imagined scenarios have been wiped out by COVID-19 in a single blow.

Seniors in Solitude is a photographic tour through nursing homes in Catalonia during the state of alarm declared due to the pandemic. Nursing homes have become one of the tragic focal points in the health crisis caused by the coronavirus in Spain, one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, figures top more than 32,000 deaths, according to official data. Two thirds of these deaths correspond to the elderly: more than 20,000 have died of coronavirus in nursing homes in Spain, mostly isolated and unable to say goodbye to their relatives.

This story take us into nursing homes during the months of March, April and May, when the lack of means of protection, misinformation and fear dominated almost everything. It includes the story of Marita, whose mother died in a nursing home on Easter Sunday, and her frustration at the lack of response from the health authorities, or the despair of Julia, director of a nursing home who lost twelve of her twenty-seven elderly in a month. It is the result of a monitoring of the situation in nursing homes to show what was happening there while the country was confined.

These photographs evoke the emotions that were experienced inside nursing homes during the worst weeks of the state of emergency caused by covid-19: loneliness, fear, isolation, fragility, sadness, documenting the most serious consequences of the pandemic: the death of thousands of people. And they do so respecting the privacy of that group that lived through a civil war and the post-war hardships, the Franco regime, the transition to democracy, the arrival of the new century and, now, a pandemic.

This story was carried out accompanying emergency teams from the NGO Open Arms.


Photojournalist born in Madrid in 1985, currently based in Barcelona and specialized in the international arena. His work has been published in main global newspapers and magazines and has been recognized with many awards including World Press Photo, POY, or the National Photojournalism Award, Spain, 2015, and 2016, among others. In 2018, he was selected as one of the six talents in Europe by the 6x6 program of the World Press Photo Foundation.

A sociologist by training and journalist by trade, his work focuses on migration, conflict, and environmental issues; being of special mention his long-term project on borders and migratory routes.

During the first wave and lockdown in Spain caused by the pandemic of COVID-19, Santi worked daily in nursing homes in the provinces of Barcelona and Girona accompanying emergency teams from the NGO Open Arms.