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Fourteen spectacular winning images from the Sony World Photography Awards 2021

The World Photography Organisation has announced the overall winners in the prestigious Sony World Photography Awards 2021. The Photographer of the Year title and accompanying $25,000 (USD) cash prize and a range of Sony’s digital imaging kit is awarded to the esteemed documentarian Craig Easton (United Kingdom) for his series Bank Top. Also announced are the ten category winners alongside 2nd and 3rd place of the Professional competition as well as overall winners of the Open, Student and Youth competitions.

PROFESSIONAL CATEGORY WINNERS

PORTRAITURE AND OVERALL PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR

WINNER: Craig Easton (United Kingdom) for his series Bank Top. Bank Top, a collaboration with writer and academic Abdul Aziz Hafiz, examines the representation and misrepresentation of communities in northern England, focusing on the tightknit neighbourhood of Bank Top in Blackburn. The project forms part of Easton’s wider work in the region including Thatcher’s Children (2nd place, Documentary Projects, 2021 Professional competition,), an investigation into the chronic nature of poverty as experienced by three generations of one family; and Sixteen (shortlisted in the Portraiture category of the 2017 Awards), a look into the dreams, aspirations and fears of 16 year-olds from all walks of life.

Bank Top, a collaboration with writer and academic Abdul Aziz Hafiz, examines the representation and misrepresentation of communities in northern England, focusing on the tightknit neighbourhood of Bank Top in Blackburn.
Credit: Craig Easton/SONY WORLD PHOTO AWARDS

ARCHITECTURE & DESIGN

WINNER: Tomáš Vocelka (Czech Republic) for his series Eternal Hunting Grounds. The former Drnov military complex had been abandoned for 17 years when two friends, Martin Chlum and Michal Seba, bought the dilapidated facility in order to realise their dream of building a final resting place for pets.  With the help of Czech minimalist architect Petr Hajek they established what is now known as the Eternal Hunting Grounds, a space comprising a mourning hall, a crematorium and approximately 40 hectares of surrounding land where wildlife can thrive.

The former Drnov military complex has been abandoned for 17 years when two friends, Martin Chlum and Michal Seba, bought the dilapidated facility in order to realise their dream of building a final resting place for pets
Credit: Tomáš Vocelka/Sony World Photography Awards

 ENVIRONMENT

WINNER:  Simone Tramonte (Italy) for his series Net-zero Transition. The coronavirus pandemic has led to the most severe economic downturn the world has seen in recent years. However, this crisis also presented countries with an unprecedented opportunity to shift towards sustainable living.  Iceland is isolated and challenged by a harsh climate and following the financial crisis in 2008 has successfully transformed its economy through the use of renewable energy, to producing 100% of its electricity from renewable sources. This transition nurtured an ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship that grew profitable businesses aiming to make minimal impact on the environment.  This small nation presents many ways in which the global climate crisis can be tackled and is leading the transition to a net-zero sustainable future. Below: Elisabet controls barley seedlings at Bioeffect carbon-negative greenhouse, in Reykjanes Peninsula. The scientists of Bioeffect have developed a method to genetically engineer barley and produce Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF). This is a protein that stimulates cell growth and is used in luxury cosmetics to rejuvenate skin. This greenhouse holds up to 130,000 barley plants growing in inert volcanic pumice. The greenhouse is powered by clean geothermal energy and heat supplied by the neighbouring Svartsengi Power Station. A single gram of pure EGF has a market value of 10k$

Elisabet controls barley seedlings at Bioeffect carbon-negative greenhouse, in Reykjanes Peninsula. The scientists of Bioeffect have developed a method to genetically engineer barley and produce Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF). This is a protein that stimulates cell growth and is used in luxury cosmetics to rejuvenate skin. This greenhouse holds up to 130,000 barley plants growing in inert volcanic pumice. The greenhouse is powered by clean geothermal energy and heat supplied by the neighbouring Svartsengi Power Station. A single gram of pure EGF has a market value of 10k$
Credit: Simone Tramonte/ Sony World Photography Awards

 PORTFOLIO

WINNER:  Laura Pannack (UK) for her submission Portfolio Overview. Her intimate and playful portraits exploring subjects such as what Brexit means for love; youth culture in the UK’s Black Country; young British naturists; and her documentation of a young Hasidic man breaking out on a new path. Laura has previously won the John Kobal Award and the Juliet Margaret Cameron Award.  She was also a Portrait of Britain finalist and won first place in the World Press Photo Awards.

Her intimate and playful portraits exploring subjects such as what Brexit means for love; youth culture in the UK’s Black Country; young British naturists; and her documentation of a young Hasidic man breaking out on a new path. 
Credit: Laura Pannack/Sony World Photography Awards

 WILDLIFE & NATURE

WINNER: Luis Tato (Spain) for his series Locust Invasion in East Africa. Desert locusts are the most destructive migratory pests in the world.  Swarms of desert locusts from the Arabian Peninsula began rampaging across East Africa in early 2020, devouring crop and vegetation where they landed. The crisis reached historic proportions, with 10 countries in the Greater Horn of Africa and Yemen experiencing infestations. Some areas of East Africa, such as Kenya, had not seen such severe desert locust outbreaks in more than 70 years. Covid-19 restrictions have significantly slowed efforts to fight the infestation, as crossing borders has become more difficult, creating delays and disrupting the supply chains of pesticides and products needed to prevent these pests from wiping out vegetation across the region and exposing millions of people to high levels of food insecurity. Below: Herny Lenayasa, a Samburu man and chief of the settlement of Archers Post tries to scare away a massive swarm of locust ravaging an area next to Archers Post, Samburu County, Kenya on April 24, 2020

Herny Lenayasa, a Samburu man and chief of the settlement of Archers Post tries to scare away a massive swarm of locust ravaging an area next to Archers Post, Samburu County, Kenya on April 24, 2020
Credit: Luis Tato/Sony World Photography Awards

CREATIVE 

WINNER: Mark Hamilton Gruchy (United Kingdom) for his series The Moon Revisited. Using previously unprocessed images from NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Mark has repurposed, processed and composited imagery to express not only contemporary issues but also some that were relevant at the time of the Apollo missions.  These playful photos create a conversation about the unchanging aspect of the Moon contrasted with the Earth, which continues to be a dynamic place where change cannot be prevented. 

Using previously unprocessed images from NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Mark has repurposed, processed and composited imagery to express not only contemporary issues but also some that were relevant at the time of the Apollo missions.
Credit: Mark Hamilton Gruchy/Sony World Photography Awards

DOCUMENTARY PROJECTS

WINNER: Vito Fusco (Italy) for his series The Killing Daisy. His work delving into the pyrethrum flower, known as the 'flower of death', cultivated in the hills of Nakuru in Kenya as a natural insecticide.  Having hit the global market it was abandoned during the 1980s due to the pyrethrum crisis but Fusco documents the journey of this flower and its market return under the Kenyan government in an ambitious attempt to help farmers meet the growing global demand for organic products.

Having hit the global market it was abandoned during the 1980s due to the pyrethrum crisis but Fusco documents the journey of this flower and its market return under the Kenyan government in an ambitious attempt to help farmers meet the growing global demand for organic products.
Credit: Vito Fusco/Sony World Photography Awards

LANDSCAPE

WINNER: Majid Hojjati (Islamic Republic of Iran) for his series Silent Neighborhoods. The forces of the world are as they have ever been; the waves of the sea, storms, the earth itself.  But ultimately it is humanity, marching everywhere, claiming everything, proving to the world that it will endure. We have raced to eternity, knowing life is fleeting, leaving the lights on behind us as if to say that once upon a time we were alive. Here are the silent neighbourhoods: those places free of the presence of humanity. The noise of their silence can be heard everywhere – but here in these places we are condemned to hear nothing.

Finalist, Silent Neighborhoods by Majid Hojjati
Credit: Majid Hojjati/Sony World Photography Awards

SPORT

WINNER: Anas Alkharboutli (Syrian Arab Republic) for his series Sport and Fun Instead of War and Fear. Sport and Fun Instead of War and Fear is a poignant project documenting a village karate school (near the city of Aleppo) which is helping children with and without disabilities overcome the traumas of war.  

Sport and Fun Instead of War and Fear is a poignant project documenting a village karate school (near the city of Aleppo) which is helping children with and without disabilities overcome the traumas of war.
Credit: Anas Alkharboutli/Sony World Photography Awards

STILL LIFE

WINNER: Peter Eleveld (Netherlands) for his series Still Life Composition, Shot on Wet Plate. For this project, Peter used ordinary objects, like glassware, fruits and flowers and applied the wet plate collodion technique to turn them into something extraordinary.  Once he found his subject he started imagining how it would look printed. This particular process requires a lot of patience and careful planning of composition, lighting and exposure times. The hard work pays off when finally it all comes together in one unique, magical moment when the photograph slowly develops and you’re left with one of a kind image (plate).

Peter used ordinary objects, like glassware, fruits and flowers and applied the wet plate collodion technique to turn them into something extraordinary
Credit: Peter Eleveld/Sony World Photography Awards

OPEN PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR

The Open competition celebrates the power of single images. Winning photographs are selected for their ability to communicate a remarkable visual narrative combined with technical excellence. Chosen from ten Open category winners, Tamary Kudita (Zimbabwe) is Open Photographer of the Year 2021 and the recipient of the $5,000 (USD) cash prize, Sony’s digital imaging equipment and global exposure.

Kudita won for her outstanding portrait African Victorian submitted to the Creative category. The photograph depicts a young black woman dressed in a Victorian dress and holding traditional Shona cooking utensils. The image probes at stereotypical contextualising of the black female body and offers an alternative visual language through which a multifaceted African identity is presented.

Speaking of her win Kudita says: ‘African Victorian pays tribute to the contemporary being who is also rooted in history. I am deeply honoured to have been chosen as the winner of the Open competition. This award is a testament to the role we play as creators in shaping visual culture. A central notion in my work is the importance of African representation and I am thankful to have received the opportunity to put Zimbabwean art on the map.’

a young black woman dressed in a Victorian dress and holding traditional Shona cooking utensils. The image probes at stereotypical contextualising of the black female body and offers an alternative visual language through which a multifaceted African identity is presented.
Credit: Tamary Kudita/Sony World Photography Awards

STUDENT PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR

Coenraad Heinz Torlage (South Africa) of the Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography has been awarded Student Photographer of the Year 2021, winning €30,000 worth of Sony photography equipment for his institution. Torlage was chosen for his series Young Farmers, created in response to the brief Our Time which asked students to depict the way they and their contemporaries see the world and how they plan to change it for the better. In Young Farmers Torlage, who grew up on a farm himself, set out to photograph the next generation of farmers as they face challenges concerning severe droughts, safety and debates around land ownership alongside their contributions towards a fairer and more equitable future of sustainability and food security.

Commenting on his win Torlage says: “I have been through an experience that is almost impossible to describe. I often dreamt of winning and prayed that I could share my country and the amazing people in it with the world. I believe in the young farmers of South Africa which this country needs in terms of food sustainability and ecological awareness. Winning is a dream made possible by the amazing people that I photographed and everyone who helped and supported me. I believe in hard work, family and most of all the grace of God. I am truly humbled that my images could even be considered for such a prestigious competition."

 In Young Farmers Torlage, who grew up on a farm himself, set out to photograph the next generation of farmers as they face challenges concerning severe droughts, safety and debates around land ownership alongside their contributions towards a fairer and more equitable future of sustainability and food security.
Credit: Coenraad Heinz Torlage/Sony World Photography Awards

YOUTH PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR

Selected from six category winners, Pubarun Basu (India, 19 years-old) has won Youth Photographer of the Year 2021 for his image No Escape from Reality. In the photograph the shadows of railings projected onto curtains create the illusion of cage bars from behind which a pair of hands is seen as if trying to break through. The illusion of shadows and hands gesture convey a sense of entrapment shared by so many across the world this past year. For his win Basu receives Sony’s digital imaging kit and global exposure.

Commenting on his win Basu says: “I am incredibly humbled to have been announced as the Youth Photographer of the Year. Participating in this competition has given me a fresh perspective on my art. I have seen some extraordinary photographs by my fellow youth photographers from around the world, and I take immense pride in the fact that my generation has such brilliant minds. I aspire to improve myself as an artist and would like to express my gratitude to my friends and family for always encouraging me to go the extra mile.”

the shadows of railings projected onto curtains create the illusion of cage bars from behind which a pair of hands is seen as if trying to break through. The illusion of shadows and hands gesture convey a sense of entrapment shared by so many across the world this past year.
Credit: Pubarun Basu/Sony World Photography Awards

OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO PHOTOGRAPHY

This year’s Outstanding Contribution to Photography has been awarded to the acclaimed Mexican photographic artist Graciela Iturbide. Widely recognised as Latin America’s greatest living photographer, Iturbide’s work offers a photographic account of Mexico since the late 1970s and is celebrated for its defining contribution to the country’s visual identity. In images of everyday life and its culture alongside those of ritual and religion, Iturbide’s work explores her country’s many complexities and contradictions, questioning its inequalities and highlighting the tensions between the urban and rural, modern and indigenous. Her photographs go beyond straight documentary narratives and aim to provide a poetic vision of their subjects informed by the photographer’s personal experiences and journey.

Graciela Iturbide's work offers a photographic account of Mexico since the late 1970s and is celebrated for its defining contribution to the country’s visual identity
Credit: Graciela Iturbide/Sony World Photo Awards

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