Behind the Scenes: A Look at 2013 Professional Jury Decisions and Insights

Date
14th Feb 2013

© Ed Kashi, United States, Current Affairs, Shortlist, 2013 Sony World Photography Awards

You’ve seen the shortlisted images. Now learn what went on behind the decisions of this year’s professional Honorary Jury, which included industry leaders from around the globe: Chien Chi Chang (Magnum Photos Photographer, Taiwan),  Catherine Chermayeff, (Director of Magnum Special Projects), Andrew Sanigar (Comissioning Editor at Thames & Hudson), Juana de Aizpuru (Gallery Director, Galeria Juana de Aizpur, Spain), Fiona Schields (Picture Editor, The Guardian,UK), Tim Paton (Managing Director, Balcony Jump, UK), Bradei Estes (Associate Director, Galerie Nelson Freeman in Paris), Francesca Sears (Director, Panos Profile for Panos Pictures Agency, UK), Macduff Everton (Photographer, USA), Caroline Metcalfe (Conde Nast Traveller, Director of Photography), Monica Suder (International Consultant and Coach, Germany), Edmund Clark (photographer).

From over 54,000 entries to the professional competition alone, the 2013 Honorary Jury selected 111 shortlisted series that stood out as among this year’s best imagery.

Just two weeks prior to the February 5th announcement, the twelve judges reviewed each of the submitted bodies of work over a four-day period. Broken into four groups, each of which specialise in a particular genre of the industry, the judges critically examined and critiqued series after series from among the entries. After two days of culling the selections down to 7-10 shortlisted works in each category, the judges honed down on their top choices for the 2013 Awards, defending each selection in a roundtable discussion.

As every year, the selections range greatly in subject matter.  Within the traditional photojournalism categories, stories depict the effects of Hurricane Sandy on the United States’ Eastern Seaboard, the rebel movements within Mali and an inside look at the “Hermit Kingdom” of North Korea.   Those that stood out from among the fine art categories included a classic scene of fruits on a table, which stood out all the more due to their representation of Spanish women’s migration. Within the commercial categories – a sneaker campaign shot in the most clever of ways in Hong Kong, an Icelandic take on fashion, and an intimate look at President Barack Obama’s reelection.

© Christian Aslund, Sweden, Shortlist, Campaign, Professional Competition, 2013 Sony World Photography Awards© Klaus Thymann, United Kingdom, Shortlist, Fashion & Beauty, Professional Competition, 2013 Sony World Photography Awards

Left: © Christian Aslund, Sweden, Shortlist, Campaign, Professional Competition, 2013 Sony World Photography Awards, Right: © Klaus Thymann, United Kingdom, Shortlist, Fashion & Beauty, Professional Competition, 2013 Sony World Photography Awards

Conflict images from Syria and portraits of survivors of a Norwegian mass shooting silenced the jury, while images portraying the human-like characteristics of a chicken brought a fun air to the judging rooms.

 This year’s shortlist is diverse, eclectic, and represents the highest number of entries to date.

How do we, the jurors, look at literally thousands of photographic stories and find the most potent examples of how photographs tell these stories,” Honorary Jury Chair Catherine Chermayeff asks. “So many photographs are made for so many reasons and so often the simplest are the most powerful.”

Judging an award on this scale, is far from an easy task, and many of the jury refer to it as overwhelming.  Yet as challenging as it may be, each one of the twelve jury members take their job during those four days very serious.  “It is a great responsibility we have to photographers, our colleagues and our industry and each entry must be given a fair evaluation”, Juana de Aizpuru remarked on the third day of the process.   Ultimately however, “It comes down to the individual photographer’s command of using photography as a language,” says Chien-Chi Chang.

© Andrea Gjestvang, Norway, Shortlist, People, Professional Competition, 2013 Sony World Photography Awards
© Andrea Gjestvang, Norway, Shortlist, People, Professional Competition, 2013 Sony World Photography Awards

This year’s jury members were looking beyond those images that best encapsulated photography’s top trends; they were seeking the extraordinary.

“It’s best to create a trend rather than follow one,” Monica Suder states. “What’s most successful is what’s most unique and most extraordinary. It’s different from the mainstream.”

General trends that the jury remarked on included a heavy use of colour and saturation techniques, which didn’t exactly impress the panel.

“There was a lot of [high contrast] in still life and in architecture,” Andrew Sanigar said. “One of the things that counted against [several series] was the post-production.”

The increased accessibility of digital editing software – now as accessible as built-in apps – has more photographers experimenting with filters, saturation and colour.  In order to be successful, Sanigar says “there had to be something new that they were trying to say.”

Judging Current Affairs, Contemporary Issues, People and Arts & Culture, Fiona Shields commented, ‘it seems really fashionable at the moment to desaturate’. Alternatively, Macduff Everton says images submitted to the Travel, Landscape, and Nature & Wildlife categories were eliminated for their use of oversaturation.

© Nenad Saljic, Croatia, Shortlist, Landscape, Professional Competition, 2013 Sony World Photography Awards
© Nenad Saljic, Croatia, Shortlist, Landscape, Professional Competition, 2013 Sony World Photography Awards

Likewise however, black & white photography seems to be making quite the resurgence.  Tim Paton comments, ”it seems to be the year of black and white.” 

Thirty-one series chosen for the shortlist are black and white. One beautifully executed black and white series showcased the Matterhorn – a collection of images Chermayeff calls “majestic”.

Somewhat surprising to some of the jury members was the absence of Instagram and Hipstagrams’ influences. Despite a surge in desire to utilise post-production techniques coupled with mobile photography’s increasing popularity, few series manipulated by the mobile apps were found among the professional entries. Two series’ shot on iPhones however, did make it to the shortlist - Ed Kashi’s coverage of Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey and Satirat Damampai’s campaign, “I’m Gay”.

© Satirat Damampai, Thailand, Shortlist, Campaign, Professional Competition, 2013 Sony World Photography Awards

In the end, what stood out to jury members the most was work delivered with clear, distinctive messages, possessing strong conceptual ideas.

“There are certain pictures, that when you see the pictures, you feel you see the personality of the photographers,” says Chien-Chi Chang. “It should be just as distinctive as recognizing someone’s voice the moment I pick up the phone.”

With those types of works, Tim Paton adds, “I understood exactly what they were trying to say.  One per cent of photographers really manage that.” 

Seems as though not enough photographers have something to say, or else, are struggling to articulate it within their work.  Those that did however, quickly rose to the top and are recognised on the shortlist here.

Left image: © Satirat Damampai, Thailand, Shortlist, Campaign, Professional Competition, 2013 Sony World Photography Awards



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