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Discover the stories behind the best photographs of UNECE global photo contest “Humans locked down: Nature unlocked”

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The COVID-19 pandemic spread around the world at lightning speed, devastating cities and communities and prompting a lockdown. The lockdown period also provided some respite for nature, resulting in memorable sights of ‘nature unlocked’ in our urban habitats.

To immortalize such sights and to mark World Environment Day 2020, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) launched a photography contest: “Humans locked down: nature unlocked” on 5 June 2020, aimed at raising awareness of the destruction of species’ natural habitats that is taking place globally and promoting the preservation and restoration of ecosystems.

The photography contest attracted over 3 000 photographs worldwide. The final selection of the 13 best photographs, displayed in the online gallery below, showcases the most striking submissions to this photography contest.

Each of the photographs captures some of the most telling aspects of the lockdown experience. Some photos show how nature provided comfort to those experiencing solitude during the lockdown. For others, the breath-taking sights of animals occupying and exploring urban spaces served as a reminder of how blurred the boundaries between man-made and natural spaces often are. The power of these photographs, regardless of where they were taken, lies in their ability to re-create the moment which defined the year 2020: that of humans locked down and nature unlocked.

See below the best photographs submitted to the contest and PDF.


A peacock on a bench
A peacock on a bench
Photo credit: Evelina Rioukhina


An eagle flying
Ruling the immensity
Photo credit: Nicolas Escobar Parra


2 buffalos crossing a road
Reclaiming their lands...
Photo credit: Helen McLain


A long-tailed macaque attempts to wear a mask
Meaning and purpose 
Photo credit: Norarsikin Maakim


Monkeys Peering at over deserted city
Peering at over deserted city
Photo credit: Anuj Raina 


Precious  butterfly
Photo credit: Sandra Stoic


A wild boar in Victoria Peak park, Hong Kong
A new chief in town
Photo credit: Julia Ferraz


A fierce leopard
A fierce leopard
Photo credit: Prakhar Saxena


A snail moving from one patch of grass to another one
Photo credit: Rimvydas Alsauskas


2 birds building a nest
A moment of tenderness
Photo credit: Anuj Jain


A deer in the forest
Magical moments
Photo credit: Beatriz Pinho


Bugs on a daisy
Table for three
Photo credit: Mayya Pryakhina


crimson rosellas birds gathered on a fence for their feed
Free birds
Photo credit: Nikhat Fatima 


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