1st Place Award (DFA Fall 2021). Photo Story “More Than A Year” by Emily Schiffer (United States). “April 27, 2020: One more day in the living room. Weeks have stretched into months. I attempt to include myself in these photographs. Another day is passing, and my husband Thierry and I urgently need to work.”

Photo Stories – Award Gallery

We are proud to share with you the award-winning photographs from our 10th international competition celebrating the very best in documentary family photography.

Award winners were chosen during the final round of judging recorded live from our three judges’ locations at the time in Miami (USA), Victoria (Canada) and Denver (USA). The final round of judging in its entirety was subsequently streamed online over three days from January 24th-26th, 2022. Viewers had the opportunity to watch the unfiltered discussions and constructive feedback as winners were collectively chosen by esteemed judges Carl-Philippe Juste, Jenna Shouldice and Kirsten Bethmann.

The following award-winning photographs have been through two rounds of critical review and selection. Congratulations to the winners!

1st Place Award – Photo Story

“More Than A Year

Photo Story by Emily Schiffer (United States)

Here in New York, the pandemic started like a bomb. Hospitals were full and morgues were overflowing. Ambulance sirens blared around the clock, reminding us not to take life for granted. My husband and I are sustaining the unsustainable: working from home without childcare, forgoing sleep to meet deadlines, and overseeing remote
school for the first year and a half. As stress builds, we have not lost sight of our luck. Our children keep us going. I admire how they honor their feelings. Children have a unique ability to experience love, joy, and fear simultaneously, without compartmentalizing their experiences. My images explore their play and angst as we adapt to the new normal.

2nd Place Award – Photo Story


Photo Story by Julia Matthews (United States)

Watching my husband father our girls is a thing of beauty. From the very first moment he became a father he wrapped his little ones in love and held them close. He is gentle and kind, thoughtful and encouraging, joyous and silly. He shows his girls how to reach for the stars and is always ready, with wide open arms, to catch them if they fall. Dada, Daddy, Dad- his relationship with the girls is constantly changing but the love and connection remains the same.

3rd Place Award – Photo Story


Photo Story by Kristen Emack (United States)

I’ve been photographing my daughter and three nieces for close to a decade. There is something sacred about the lives of girls, and their innocent, confident relationships to themselves, their world and one another is gravitational. Between them is an intimate and spiritual knowledge, both ordinary and extraordinary, and my aim is to capture the brilliance of their communion. My hope is that when they look back on this work, they will see their beauty, and their devotion to each other, and will find themselves here, in this work we made together, reflected with love. This project is ongoing.

4th Place Award – Photo Story


Photo Story by Takako Kido (Japan)

Skinship is a Japanese word that describes the skin-to-skin relationship between a mother and a child or family. Skinship includes cuddling, breastfeeding, co-bathing or co-sleeping which build intimacy. Through an experience of loving touch, a child learns caring for others. Japanese skinship is considered to be important for strengthening the bond of family and also for the child’s healthy development. Because the idea of skinship was perfectly natural to me as Japanese, only after I was arrested in New York because of family snapshots of skinship, did I realize how unique and shocking it could be in other cultural contexts. Living in both Japan and America showed me a cultural comparison and paradox clearly. In Japan, I gave birth to my son in 2012 and started making self-portraits, somehow, in the chaos of everyday life flying by. There seemed no boundary between our bodies, a symbiotic union. Photographing my son growing up and enjoying skinship also enabled healing my old wound. When I was a kid, my late grandmother told me by looking at me crying for the idea of her death that you would be ok because we would go in order. Now as I see my son grows, I accept the aging of myself, my husband and my parents with a smile. As a mother, I understand what my grandmother said and the cycle of life and death.

5th Place Award – Photo Story

Living for Death”

Photo Story by Alain Schroeder (Belgium)

In Toraja, Indonesia, the rituals associated with death are complex and expensive. Therefore, when a person dies, it can take weeks, months even years for the family to organize the funeral. In the region of Pangala, the Ma’ Nene, or cleaning of the corpses ceremony, takes place after the rice harvest. Coffins are removed from their burial sites and opened. Families reunite and the mummies are cleaned, dried in the sun and given a change of clothes. Expressions of sadness are mixed with the overall happy atmosphere surrounding these moments of bonding with loved ones and honoring ancestors.

6th Place Award – Photo Story

she and her”

Photo Story by Nina Tberg (China)

“Slow down the time! Let her be! And let me be her witness for just a little more time”. This is my story of my little girl and her doll, growing up in Beijing, China. Her doll is her constant companion – not only around every room in her home, not only when she plays or paints, but also outside of the safe cocoon. The doll goes with her shopping, navigating through big city traffic and travelling. This series shows you how it feels for me to see my little girl growing up. Soon she will lose interest in playing with dolls and take her first steps turning into a teenager, into a woman. Other things will catch her eye. Other things will replace her doll, who will merciless be moved out of the room. This is growing up. It’s a chapter that will be closed brutally one day. This series shows a tender melancholy of me – her mother – embracing the innocence of my girl playing with her doll. The intimate scenes shared in this series are small paintings by my mother’s hand, trying to close the cocoon for just one other picture, before the butterfly will spread her wings.

7th Place Award – Photo Story

Childhood In the Time of Corona”

Photo Story by Agata Szymanowicz (United Kingdom)

It was the first lockdown in London. My kids’ worlds simultaneously contracted and expanded as, with no school, no nursery, no friends and not much on their daily agendas, they were free to explore kind of entertainment our house and garden can offer. It was very much up and down, black and white, love and hate, highs and lows. Watching them that spring taught me a lot about creativity and resilience. And how, in the midst of darkness, chaos and constant flux, we can find happiness and joy.

8th Place Award – Photo Story

Kris and Marius”

Photo Story by Wendy Stone (United States)

In the middle of March 2020, our lives changed overnight with the news of a global pandemic. Our son Kristopher was in the second grade. He had to stop going to school and worse, could not play with his friends. His dog, Marius became his constant companion. Like any brothers, they had good days and bad days together. And although they had their conflicts during those long days and weeks, Kris was always happy to have Marius there by his side. This photo series ends on August 30th, 2021, the first day of Kris’ return to school. When I drove him back to the school, Marius poked his head out the window and they said goodbye.

9th Place Award – Photo Story


Photo Story by Marta Szyszka (Poland)

Sue and Zoe. Between them is nearly 7 years difference. They try to be together but sometimes they are apart. They argue, laugh and cry together. I hope, as their mother, that they will be always important for each other.

Photo Story Finalists

Our preliminary round guest judges evaluated every single submission we received and selected thirty or less of their favourite photo projects to move forward to the live-judging round as finalists. Our deepest thanks to Irmina Walczak (Poland), Julia Chang-Lomonico (United States) and Zun Lee (Canada) for their hours of dedication during this process. Congratulations to these photographers who were nominated as finalists for consideration during the final round of live judging.

Finalist photo stories by Alessio Angilletta, Amélie Pelletier, Angelika Kollin, Ania Zimnoch, Anna Rabkina, Avishag Shaar-Yashuv, Christina Hasslinger, Diego Parlange, Fabian Hammerl, Farida Alam, Franziska Nauck, Gabby Jones, Gerrit De Heus, Hally Pancer, Irene Alison, Jennifer Schäufelin, Julia Rose-Greim, Katie Haslam, Katie Langmuir, Kristin Anderson, Laura Beth Davidson, Magdalena Adamczak, Manuela Franjou, Mea Baráth, Milene Van Arendonk, Miranda Schmitz, Polina Saran, Qiwen Xue, Saskia Albers, Séverine Sajous, Stefania Genovese, Sylvie Redmond, Xu Li and 信和 姜.

(click or tap image collage to a view larger )

Re-watch the live judging for this category

Stream on iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku, and Chromecast.

Did you submit to our Fall 2021 Call For Entries? If so you will be emailed with a unique promo code to access the archive for free! If you did not submit and would like to watch/rewatch the judging a purchase option is available.

The Documentary Family Awards is an international competition in search of the insightful and meaningful ways that documentary photographers explore the interpretation of family.