It's time to reveal the latest announcement from the Sony World Photography Awards 2021 and we're delighted to share with you all the Professional competition finalists and shortlist! We've selected the strongest work from each of the celebrated 88 series to bring you the most fascainting stories and images of our time.
With the highest number of international entrants to the Professional competition in the Awards' 14 year history, this year's successful series really do give us an excellent insight into contemporary photography on a global scale. Learning more about the world we live in through the wonderful photo projects recognised this year, here we celebrate a selection of the 30 finalist photographers that caught our eye. Commenting about this year’s finalists and shortlist Mike Trow says: ‘The integrity, intentionality and considered edits presented in this year’s projects stirred up debate and genuine appreciation among the jury. Photographers rose up to the challenges of 2020 using the time to delve deeper into personal projects and explore the stories unfolding in their local communities. Their efforts have truly paid
off with shortlisted and finalists’ works presenting a noticeable step up in quality, which made the competition feel special this year.’
Among the collection featured here, you'll see Jane Hilton's empowering black & white portraits of Drag Queens and Lorenzo Tugnoli's sobering documentation of the ammonium nitrate explosion in Beirut – both series really stood out to the editorial team. The finalists go on to the next stage of the competition to compete to be the winner of their category and, if successful, then go on to be considered for the Photographer of the Year title which will be announced in a special digital programme on 15 April hosted by art historian Jacky Klein and entertainer Nish Kumar, which will be available to stream on the World Photography Organisation online platforms. Don't miss it!
Make sure you check out our takeover on Instagram this week, where we're sharing some of our favourite photographs from 58 photographers shortlisted in this year's competition.
Drag Queen Cowboys
Jane Hilton, United Kingdom, Portraiture, Finalist
'These portraits were taken just before the pandemic reached the USA in February 2020. Drag Queen Cowboys is a collaboration with the vibrant community of performers based in Las Vegas. Set in Nevada, and inspired by the locations and displacement of characters in John Houston’s film The Misfits (1961), all drag queens chose and painstakingly made their own ‘Western’ outfits; including accessories, wigs and applying their own make-up. After gaining their trust, I steered them away from their nocturnal habitat of bars and clubs. With no artificial lighting or digital technology, I shot these portraits on black-and-white film, using a plate camera, in the natural light of the American West.'
Frank Machalowski, Germany, Archtiecture & Design, Finalist
'Over the past few years, I have visited and photographed Walter Gropius’s Masters’ Houses in Dessau numerous times. The images form a body of work called Multiexpo, and are all taken on film, using multiple exposure techniques.'
Sasha Bauer, Russian Federation, Creative, Finalist
'A new ethnic group of German colonists emerged in the mid-18th century, when Empress Catherine II published ‘Manifesto on Allowing Foreigners to Settle in Russia’ in 1762. But by the beginning of the 20th century, they became hostages of interrelations between Russia (then USSR) and Germany, which were enemies in two world wars. Two months after the start of the Great Patriotic War, the Presidium of the USSR adopted a decree, ‘On the resettlement of Germans living in the Volga region’, as a result of which the entire German population (more than 800,000 Germans) was deported to Siberia and Kazakhstan. Among them was my grandfather, who lost his parents in labour camps. He lived in an orphanage and served in the Russian army, but was not afraid to keep his German surname. This project is a visual statement about my connection with my grandfather through genes and the same name.'
Beirut Port Explosion
Lorenzo Tugnoli, Italy, Documentary Projects, Finalist
'A few minutes after 6pm on August 4, 2020, a massive explosion shook Beirut, obliterating its port and destroying swathes of the city. At least 200 people were killed and more than 6,000 injured when 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate detonated. The material had been stored in a warehouse in Beirut’s port since being seized by custom authorities in 2014, despite repeated warnings of the danger from port officials and its proximity to a densely populated area of the city. In the following days, as bodies continued to be pulled from the rubble, protesters occupied government ministries, set fires and faced off against security forces.'
A City Under Dust Clouds
Mohammad Hossein Madadi, Islamic Republic of Iran, Environment, Finalist
'Ahvaz has been consistently ranked as one of the world's worst cities for air pollution according to the World Health Organization, topping the list on numerous occasions in the past decade. Industrial sources, chief among them the refineries and other components of the vast petrochemical industry in Khuzestan Province, as well as massive dust storms, are the main contributors to air pollution. The poor air quality has a significant impact on the lives of the residents of Ahvaz. Each year, thousands seek medical treatment for respiratory conditions. The air pollution has also increased immigration out of the city, limited investments and tourism, damaged infrastructure, and added to the already high electricity and water consumption of the city.'
Fyodor Savintsev, Russian Federation, Landscape, Finalist
'I took these photographs during my first trip to the volcanoes of Kamchatka in eastern Russia. I visited in the autumn, when there is no snow covering the volcanoes, and was struck by how the yellowing leaves looked against the black ash. My visit lasted around two weeks and I photographed in all different weather conditions and times of the day. The Kamchatka Peninsula is completely different from anything else I’ve seen. I was completely absorbed by its beauty and wanted to portray the volcanic belt as a living organism. I plan to continue the series this year.'
Citizens of Tomorrow
Loli Laboureau, Argentina, Portfolio, Finalist
Citizens of Tomorrow started as my personal project during the quarantine. It's a work in progress that combines the world as we used to know it and a series of portraits, describing the new normal in a dramatic way.'
Farzam Saleh, Islamic Republic Of Iran, Sport, Finalist
'In March 2020, in reaction to the Covid-19 outbreak, the Iranian government announced the immediate closure of all athletic venues, sports clubs and training centres across Iran. Following the implementation of this mandate, athletes in Iran took to training on the rooftops of their homes in order to maintain a degree of their physical and mental fitness and prowess.'
Paloma Rincon, Spain, Still Life, Finalist
'Mexican Feast is a celebration of Mexican culture through its gastronomy and its handcraft traditions. In this series I bring these two worlds together in compositions that mix the edible with the imaginary. As a Mexican born photographer, the influences of colour, textures, bright lights and handmade goods form an important part of my style. My images juxtapose Mexican food platters and ingredients with traditional handcrafts and recognisable everyday local props. This series was shot in a studio in Madrid, where I am based.'
Angel Fitor, Spain, Wildlife & Nature, Finalist
‘I have imagined the ocean as a superorganism, with the world's seas as its organs, and its creatures as the tissues that interconnect everything. Sinking further down on to it, there is nothing… but sea drops.’ This figurative concept opens Sea Drops, a photo essay aimed to explore the effervescence of life inside drops of sea water. By using lab micropipettes, and a self-designed micro studio setup, the project captures the beauty and manners of live plankton, which are in the range of 200 to 1,500 microns, inside specially lit drops of water. It tells the story of one of Earth's most pivotal biological communities with an innovative perspective, falling somewhere between art and science. The images reveal the astonishing diversity of creatures otherwise invisible to the naked eye, as well as their amazing behaviour, some of which is likely never to have been documented before. It may even be new to science. From the enthralling beauty of sea sapphires, to the mesmerisingly mysterious dances of annelid worms, the project opens a drop-shaped window to a new world. All specimens were carefully handled under a biologist's expertise, and released alive and unharmed back into the sea.
ABOUT THE PROFESSIONAL COMPETITION
Focused on awarding outstanding photo series, the Professional competition required photographers to submit five to 10 images across 10 categories: Architecture, Creative, Documentary Projects, Landscape, Natural World & Wildlife, Portraiture, Still Life, Sport, Environment and Portfolio. The latter category, new for 2021, asked photographers not to submit a series of images but a set of single images that encapsulate their vast range practice.