Life through the lens of the young

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A global photography competition to celebrate the UN's Youth Day gives new insights into the theme of city living

They opened the eyes of the world. The young photographers who took the pictures shown here caught the attention of the UN, winning a competition designed to display the artistic vision of the planet's youth.

The pictures are the highlights of Shoot Nations, a global youth photography project, which, working in partnership with Plan UK, celebrates the UN's International Youth Day on 12 August each year. Entrants from more than 100 countries have entered the competition since it began in 2006.

This year's theme, City Living, shows how the young think urbanisation exacerbates poverty and affects their lives. But the pictures also catch how their environment inspires photographers.

The pictures were presented to the UN last Thursday – Youth Day – by Plan UK youth member Katie Washington, along with the UK winner, Emily Rycroft, and teenagers from Plan USA.

Sophie Batterbury, IoS picture editor and one of the judges, said: "Judging a competition like this is always very difficult. The standard of photographs on the shortlist was fantastically high. On one level, like with music, there's very little that hasn't been done before in photography. If it sparks a new emotion, and creates a point of engagement that draws the viewer in, then it works."

Best photo (aged 11-16)

Category: What does 'city' mean to you?

Janice Paglinawan, 15, Vietnam

'Being whoever and whatever I want to be. Their views vary, but I know who I am. Individuality'

Best photo (aged 11-16)

Category: Country to city, city to country – people on the move

Elisaveta Kusnezova, 15, Russia

'In the country you are convinced of the uselessness of the internet'

Ambassadors of youth Katie Washington, of Plan UK, who presented the competition to the UN last Thursday, with other Plan UK and USA members

Best overall photo worldwide

Category: What does 'city' mean to you?

Lazar Bogdanovic, 24, Serbia

'Electric city ghost'

Best photo (aged 17-25)

Category: City living, as a boy or girl

Zabir Hasan, 21, Bangladesh

'Basking under city lights – these girls are street children. Within the harsh life they do find little joys of life'

Best photo (aged 17-25)

Category: What does 'city' mean to you?

Marija Sajekaitfó, 19, Lithuania

'City simply means: never stop swinging'

Best photo (aged 17-25)

Category: Country to city, city to country – people on the move

Cosmin Racianu, 23, Romania

'A metaphor about country urbanisation with representative symbols'

Best photo (aged 11-16)

Category: City living, as a boy or girl

Daenaf Teng, 15, Vietnam

'In the city, the only person who can stand in your way is you'

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