Sony World Photography Awards 2018 / Reviewed by Hazel Simcox / 26.04.18
This year celebrates the 11th Sony World Photography Awards, accumulating in an awards ceremony and exhibition hosted in the United Kingdom. The competition is produced by the World Photography Organisation and brings together the practice of emerging and established photographers from across the globe. This year they received a record of 320,000 entries across the different categories from over 200 countries and territories.
The awards took place in Somerset House which is the perfect location to host the showcase exhibition. The exhibition has been curated by Mike Trow, former Picture Editor of British Vogue. Working with the maze-like structure of Somerset House, Trow had a difficult challenge, yet has effectively utilised the space to separate the categories and accommodate the varying image styles.
The highlight of the show is the work of Candida Höfer who received the annual award for Outstanding Contribution to Photography. Ten of her large-format images are displayed alongside the competition entrants. Höfer’s vast empty interiors fill the walls, providing the viewer with the opportunity to immerse themselves in her work and enter into the grand, elaborate spaces for a brief moment in time.
Alys Tomlinson, from Britain, was selected from the Professional Category winners to receive the overall Photographer of the Year for her project ‘Ex-Voto’. Faith is central to her project as she focuses on pilgrims and pilgrimage sites. The matted glassless finish emphasises the documentary aesthetic, whilst the images themselves are anything but a simple document, rather they are a lyrical homage to the pilgrim tradition. Tomlinson used the lens to capture calm moments of the objects left as offerings, the environment and the people themselves. The subjects are sensitively photographed and the use of a delicate black and white palette humanises and makes the subjects relatable.
Tomlinson also won the Professional Category ‘Discovery’. Many of the entries could comfortably have been entered into multiple categories, however the work of Florian Ruiz, from Japan, is an apt winner for the ‘Creative’ category. His work brings technique and concept together in a methodological manner to create snow-scapes, reminiscent of Japanese engravings. Ruiz has mutated scenes of Fukushima, where a nuclear disaster took place in 2011, using manipulation to twist the canvas inspired by the atoms’ destructive alteration of the landscape.
It is not only the overall winners who require recognition. Margaret Mitchell received second place in the Professional Category ‘Contemporary Issues’ for her project ‘In This Place’. Mitchell’s honest and raw portraits explore social movement. Mitchell depicts the relationship between subject and environment, demonstrating how the situation can define circumstances and ultimately effect who you are and where your life is likely to go. These static, almost timeless portraits, are un-cannily familiar.
Alongside the professionals’ images, up and coming talent was presented on an equal level through the Open, Youth and Student categories. The Student Focus competition required photography students to use creativity to raise awareness of the beauty and fragility of our oceans in response to a brief set by Parley for the Oceans. The work included the hard-hitting commercially inspired portraits, created by Emma Spencer from North Warwickshire and Hinckley College, of subjects about to lick unpleasant plastic-filled ice-lollies.
The exhibition presents the high standard of photographic practice from across the globe created within 2017. Not only will it attract a local audience, but equally an international flow as people travel to see their nation’s success on the global platform. Although some projects will not appeal to all, it is the diversity of approaches which will enable any visitor to find the project to suit their interest, and potentially have their eyes open to other genres of photography or subject matters.
– reviewed by Hazel Simcox
Strand, London WC2R 1LA