The world in a photo: Shutterbugs capture “The Future I Want” in UN Viet Nam photo contest

A woman happily dries out a fishing net.
Caption: Photo entitled, "Happy work", depicts a woman cheerfully drying the net as she helps her husband and children fish.
Photo: Hồ Anh Tiến

Sometimes we see a whole world in a single photo.

We see personal moments; we see grand struggles.

We see ourselves and, if we are tenacious, we see others.

We feel the stirrings of memory, we imagine the possibilities.

We see all this and more in the winners from the UN in Viet Nam’s “The Future I Want” photo contest, seen by upwards of 100,000 people on social media and in person, and marking the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. 

Children play outside. Two boys are on the ground touching their feet, while one girl is frozen in the air happily jumping above them.

Caption: Afternoon in the highland

Photo: Hồ Anh Tiến

Talent from across the globe

Out of nearly 1,000 entries, 49 photos were chosen to be exhibited at the Vietnamese Women’s Museum in October as part of the UN75 commemoration. The photographers came from all over Viet Nam, and ranged in age from 12 to nearly 70. In his first-place photo, “Continuing the dream,” Nguyễn Thanh Cường captures the image of a man whose leg has been amputated playing football with his son. His crutch serves as a goalpost. 

Photo shows a close-up between the legs of an man with an amputated leg. Through this angle you can see a soccer ball being kicked towards the man by a young boy.

Caption: Continuing the dream

Photo: Nguyễn Thanh Cường

Looking forward

1945 was a landmark year for Viet Nam and the world—it was the year of Vietnamese independence, and the year of the founding of the United Nations. Winning photos looked toward a future that might be. Second-place winner Hồ Anh Tiến gives us “Happy old age,” a photo of a couple now in their 80s who were young witnesses to that remarkable year. In them, we find renewed hope for better things.  

Two cheerful older women look happily at the camera.

Caption: Happy old age

Photo: Hồ Anh Tiến

Healthy and happy

Good health is at the foundation of a happy life. That’s why it is one of the Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by the nations of the world in 2015. In Phạm Quốc Hưng’s third-place photo, a father beams as he holds his tiny baby in the vaccination clinic. His wife is happy that he is taking on a responsibility that was once left solely to women. Vaccinations ensure that children get a good start in life. 

A father holds his newborn baby in the waiting space of a vaccination clinic where other parents sit along the hallway with their babies.

Caption: Caption: A father beams as he holds his tiny baby in the vaccination clinic.

Photo: Phạm Quốc Hưng

Decent work for all

The work is hard; the pay is minimal. A woman dyes fibers by hand. This is just one of the steps in an arduous process to make beautiful mats that people will use for eating, for prayer, for music, for rest. This winning photo by Trần Đình Duy and Tạ Quốc Hội reveals the working conditions behind some of the everyday things we take for granted and prompts us to think how those conditions could be made better.  

Working conditions at a facility show people working in a space with steam surrounding them.

Caption: The photo reveals the working conditions behind some of the everyday things we take for granted.

Photo: Trần Đình Duy and Tạ Quốc Hội

An inclusive and accessible world

Forty-nine of the winning photos were chosen by a panel of seven judges from photojournalism, youth groups, diplomacy, the United Nations, and the Vietnamese Women’s Museum. One photo was chosen by a popular vote on social media for the “People’s Choice Award.” Shot by Nguyễn Trung Hiếu, the photo “Drawing dream” brings us into the home of a man whose hands and lower arms have been amputated. His practice of drawing hands is a model of determination for his son, who looks on. One out of about every 30 people in Viet Nam has a disability, many of them with amputations, whether from unexploded ordnances, or infection, or other causes.  

Black and white photo of a man and boy. The man has an amputated hand, sit together on the ground drawing and writing on sheets of paper.

Caption: Drawing dreams

Photo: Nguyễn Trung Hiếu

Leave no one behind

In their 2015 pledge to fulfil the Sustainable Development Goals, the nations of the world committed to “leave no one behind.” Among the furthest behind are the mother and son depicted in “Where childhood is left,” by Nguyễn Hữu Khiêm, who was “very sad to see this scene.” The two scavenge for anything of value—recyclable plastic, small items that can be resold. Their struggle stirs us to work toward a fairer world.  

Mother and child scavenge for valueables—recyclable plastic, small items that can be resold.

Caption: Where childhood is left

Photo: Nguyễn Hữu Khiêm

Facing COVID-19 together

As COVID-19 continues scything its way through communities the world over, people have adapted as best they can, remaining isolated from one another. “Stay home with grandma,” a photo by Đinh Công Tâm, shows a young girl puzzling out her next move in a game of chess with her grandmother. In her expression, we see ourselves reflected, facing an uncertain future.

Black and white photo of a young girl puzzling out her next move in a game of chess with her grandmother.

Caption: Stay home with grandma

Photo: Đinh Công Tâm

The power of solidarity

“The United Nations symbolizes the power of solidarity to overcome global challenges,” says Kamal Malhotra, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Viet Nam.

“Only when we come together, can we tackle the challenges and convert the high aspirations of the UN Charter into reality for the future we want.”

In the photo “For a clean, green environment,” Đỗ Trọng Hoài Ân gives us the vision of people working together to collect garbage that floated in from the sea. When we join hand in hand, across nations, we are greater than the challenges we face.  

People working together to collect garbage that floated in from the sea.

Caption: For a clean, green environment

Photo: Đỗ Trọng Hoài Ân


Produced by the UN Communications Group in Viet Nam, with special thanks to Trinh Anh Tuan and Yoomi Jun from the UN country team in Viet Nam. To learn more about the work taking place in the country, visit:

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United Nations Resident Coordinator Office

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