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Out of time: Álvaro Laiz's portraits of an indigenous community

5 years ago

Spanish photographer Álvaro Laiz won the Professional competition's Portraiture category in the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards. We caught up with him to discover more about his practice and his thoughts on the positive impact the Awards has on the photographic community. 

What makes a powerful portrait?

For me, a powerful portrait needs to evoke emotional and intellectual responses – both in equal measure. I do consider myself more of a storyteller, a translator of other people's stories, than a portrait photographer.

Can you explain who the people are in your winning series?

The people in my winning series are the Chukchi people, an indigenous group of people inhabiting the Chukchi Peninsula and the shores of the Chukchi Sea and the Bering Sea region of the Arctic Ocean, found within the Russian Federation. I was really interested in them because they live in such a different environment to the wider world, where culture and nature work in harmony. These kinds of places aren't easy to find anymore.

Why did you choose black & white for this series?

As I'm looking at time in my series, I needed the aesthetic to be timeless. Black & white gives a sense of being out of time somehow.

Did you respond to your works differently when you saw them at the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition at Somerset House?

The first time I saw my series on the walls of Somerset House it was amazing, my dream has always been to have the work printed in large format. 

Are competitions key to the photography industry and if yes, what do you think the Sony World Photography Awards brings to the industry?  

As a photographer, a big part of my job is to seek out stories and translate those stories into images. Those photographs (and stories) then need to reach people. Through the Sony World Photography Awards, my work can reach thousands of people which is a real privilege

What do you think is the most inspiring element of the Sony World Photography Awards for photographers?

My career in photography is twofold: I'm a documentary photographer as well as an artist and I think Sony World Photography Awards shares this vision. We’re kind of talking the same language.

See Álvaro Laiz's portfolio here