With the 2024 Judges announced in September, we speak to the new Jury Chair for the Sony World Photography Awards Monica Allende about her experience in photography and what expertise she’ll be bringing to the judging process. Allende will also be curating the Sony World Photography Awards exhibition at Somerset House, which opens from 19 April to 6 May 2024.
Hi Monica, please introduce yourself and tell us about your experience in the photography industry.
I work as an independent curator, photography consultant, and educator. I have broad experience in the photography industry, having collaborated and held positions across several organisations globally in traditional media roles, publicly funded festivals, grassroots self-funded collectives, corporate companies, and philanthropic foundations. These myriad roles have enriched my knowledge and diversified my perception of the industry’s intersectionality.
When did you decide to dedicate your career to photography?
I started to work as a photo editor straight after graduating from university. I have always been interested in all forms of storytelling and how those forms connect with an audience. I find a medium like photography can incite a viewer's immediate emotional response and it’s easily accessible to a wide audience.
How have you seen photography change as an art form since you started your career?
Photography as a medium and as an industry is constantly changing and evolving. How audiences consume and engage with photography constantly shifts and alters our relationship with it. The expansion of the photographic field has seen more interpretations of ideas and concepts and we are now experiencing new frontiers in photography, spurring many debates.
What makes an image or photo project memorable to you?
For me, context is essential, even if it is not apparent in the image. To perceive the thinking process and concept behind the work makes it memorable. Initially, there is an intuitive, emotional response to capture my attention, and then the added context helps me to preserve it in my memory.
A crucial part of your career is grouping images for a particular platform (magazines, websites, exhibition spaces, and festivals). Do you have any advice for photographers when editing work? Particularly for a competition?
It’s vital to demystify the editing process and lose the fear of doing it. It’s a fundamental skill we all have within ourselves; editing is just the story's composition, it’s what we say and how. One learns through practice, like learning grammar when writing.
Is there a particular project you have worked on that really stands out? If so, why?
All my projects are essential for different reasons, so I choose them carefully. Each one allows me to learn and experiment, contributing to my personal growth as a professional and individual. Some projects bring me more accolades and better remuneration from my professional practice; they all have to coexist. I have worked with Anton Kusters on the Blue Skies project for eight years, I am proud of what we have achieved. I can also describe the importance of many other projects however.
What was it about the Sony World Photography Awards that appealed to you to join as the Jury Chair?
I am always very honoured to be asked and entrusted with the opportunity to lead a project with such a global reach. I was on the jury when the Awards were launched and so it interested me to reconnect, having witnessed the enormous success it has had over the years to become the international brand it is today. I enjoy judging immensely because it allows me to see lots of work and get an insight into current photography trends.
What do you hope to see in this year's entries?
I hope to see considered work addressing the concerns of our time as a global society. I would like to see authentic and principled work in its creation and contextualisation. I am interested in work that is fearless in its proposition.
What advice would you give to photographers thinking about entering this year's Sony World Photography Awards?
Never underestimate the beauty of simplicity. The project’s text should be clear, accessible and straightforward. Edit the work by starting with the strongest image, and then keep the edit consistent both in style and tonality.
As well as the Jury Chair, you will also curate the Sony World Photography Awards exhibition at Somerset House. Have you thought about how you see the curation working this year?
I am incredibly excited about the exhibition. Being very familiar with the space, with its possibilities and challenges, I can't wait to start discussions with the team. My thoughts are around the equilibrium between the volume of the work and the limitations of a physical space; managing expectations while dreaming is very important.
In January 2024 Monica will join the other members of the jury in London to carry out the judging process. View the 2024 judges here.
On 17 October from 11am to 2pm, Monica Allende will be live on the World Photography Organisation Instagram Stories for an Ask Me Anything session. Get your questions ready!