We recently had the pleasure of being invited to attend the tenth anniversary of the planet’s largest and most prestigious celebration of international photography talent: The Sony World Photography Awards, held on London a few days ago.
Out of over 23,000 photos submitted from 180 countries, 10 winners were selected across the award’s professional categories. In addition, renowned British photographer Martin Parr, revered for his humor-filled studies of the idiosyncrasies of British culture, was honored with an “Outstanding Contribution to Photography” accolade. In honor of the winning submission, we we present a duo of works from of the 10 professional winners. Each project is underpinned by sweat, tears, struggles and triumphs – resulting in deeply personal journeys full of heart and inspiration. Get to know the incredible images – and the stories that led to their creation.
ARCHITECTURE, 1ST PLACE
Images © Dongni, courtesy of SWPA
Inspired by the concept of the “mobile city”, Chinese photographer Dongni explored themes of space and urbanism, using a drone to capture her mesmerising cityspace images, which she enhanced and abstracted into a conceptual series. “In a spatial context, when we […] ignore the rules and celebrate the deconstruction and reconstruction of the urban space, the space itself gives us more control and adds more joy to the city,” the photographer said of the impulse behind her work.
CONCEPTUAL, 1ST PLACE
Sabine Cattaneo, Switzerland
Images © Sabine Cattaneo, courtesy of SWPA
For her Master’s thesis, undertaken in France, Sabine Cattaneo tackled the sensitive topic of assisted suicide, which is illegal there. Employing the language of “near documentary” photography, her project combines imagery of some of the last places inhabited by those she followed with text and news reports. “By choosing to show places in relation to the topic of assisted dying instead of people, the images seek to do without the forced empathy imposed by any such physical depiction,” states Cattaneo. “Instead, the viewer is confronted with an abstract notion of “choice” – or lack thereof – and is invited to form their own thoughts on these situations.”
PORTRAITURE, 1ST PLACE
George Mayer, Russian Federation
Images © George Mayer, courtesy of SWPA
CONTEMPORARY ISSUES, 1ST PLACE
Tasneem Alsultan, Saudi Arabia
Images © Tasneem Alsultan, courtesy of SWPA
Saudi-born, US-based Alsultan, whose work includes wedding photography, shot the touching series “Saudi Tales of Love”, which shares the stories of Saudi Arabian women from all walks of life, brought together not only by the constrictions framing their common reality, but by their fighting spirit to challenge the boundaries. Following her subjects for days at a time, Alsultan asked each woman how she wanted to be portrayed in the final shot. The result is an emotional, uplifting portrait series that defies expectation. “I wanted to answer questions shared by many, such as ‘do we need marriage to signify that we have love?’ and ‘do you need a husband to have a meaningful life?’ the photographer explained.
CURRENT AFFAIRS & NEWS, 1ST PLACE
Alessio Romenzi, Italy
Images © Alessio Romenzi, courtesy of SWPA
This confronting war documentary series saw Romenzi spend time in Sirte, self-proclaimed capital of ISIS in Libya, capturing the brutality of daily life in a warzone there. “It took seven months of fighting, five hundred American airstrikes, seven hundred soldiers dead and more than three thousand injured in the Libyan army ranks, to declare the city finally free,” explains Romenzi. The images he captured portray a heart-wrenching reality that cuts through the myriad images of war spread through the news media on a daily basis.
DAILY LIFE, 1ST PLACE
Sandra Hoyn, Germany
Images © Sandra Hoyn, courtesy of SWPA
“The Longings of Others” saw this German photographer temporarily move into the largest and oldest brothels in Bangladesh, the Kandapara, which is almost a mini city in and of itself. “The brothel district is surrounded by a two-metre wall, and in the narrow streets within, there are food stalls, tea shops and street vendors,” Hoyn explains. “More than 700 sex workers live and work here with their children and their madams.” Terrible conditions for the women, many of whom are underage, compound the grim nature of daily life in the brothel. For Hoyn, the hardest element of this project was staying in her role as photographer whilst watching the women, many of whom she had befriended, suffering. The intensity of the expressions in their eyes attests to that conflicting challenge.
LANDSCAPE, 1ST PLACE
Frederik Buyckx, Belgium
Images © Frederik Buyckx, courtesy of SWPA
After having spent a substantial amount of time in the heat of South America, Belgian photographer Frederik Buyckx felt the pull towards climates harsh and cold. Seeking to capture a sense of isolated living and the struggle humans face in the harshest of climates, he traveled around Central Asia, the Balkans and Scandinavia to create his series “Whiteout”, which also won the overall Sony World Photographer of the Year award. “There is a peculiar transformation of nature when winter comes, when snow and ice start to dominate the landscape and when humans and animals have to deal with the extreme weather,” he explains. “The series investigates this struggle against disappearance. The struggle against a whiteout.”
NATURAL WORLD, 1ST PLACE
William Burrard-Lucas, United Kingdom
Images © William Burrard-Lucas, courtesy of SWPA
For his series “African Wildlife at Night”, Burrard-Lucas traveled to Liuwa Plain National Park, a remote area in the west of Zambia, wanting to capture nocturnal animals in their natural habitat. The result is an incredible series of vistas depicting spine-tingling close-ups of wild animals set against the backdrop of the starriest of skies. The photographer explained, “The techniques I employed were only made possible by the low-light ability of modern-day digital cameras and by using remote-control devices such as my “BeetleCam” – a remote-control buggy for my camera.”
This striking black-and-white portrait series, which transcends the borders between fashion, portraiture and conceptual photography, not only questions the ideal of the “perfect woman”, but addresses the duality of dark and light, metaphorically speaking, within us all. Inspired by his experience as a graphic designer, Meyer presents arresting graphic compositions and shapes. “Within the space of the picture, the light becomes at and the dark becomes deeper, highlighting all conventions and details,” observes a text about the works.
SPORT, 1ST PLACE
Yuan Peng, China
Images © Yuan Peng, courtesy of SWPA
This series explores the dedication, effort and expectations of two twin sisters training to become gymnasts at a sports school in Jining, Shandong province, China. Having captured the full spectrum of emotion as the twins go through their daily training, Peng explains, “Liu Bingqing and Liu Yujie … have liked gymnastics since their childhood. They have studied, trained and grown up here.” The series’ title, “The Twins’ Gymnastic Dream”, is an apt reflection of the hope, sweat and tears poured into the subjects’ pursuit.
STILL LIFE, 1ST PLACE
Henry Agudelo, Columbia
Images © Henry Agudelo, courtesy of SWPA
This arresting series draws attention to the issue of missing persons in Columbia, a topic that has been close to the photographer’s heart for several decades now. “In Colombia there are more than 130,000 people who are listed as ‘disappeared’. Because of the war and violence in this country, many bodies that are not identified go to medical universities to be studied pending a family member recognising and claiming them,” Agudelo explains. His still life series is a study of some of the collected and preserved pieces of skin, marked with tattoos: A symbol for the faded hope of that loved will be able to identify those they have lost.