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Youth Photographer of the Year Hai Wang

1 year ago
© Hai Wang, China Mainland, Youth Photographer of the Year, Youth competition, Your Everyday, 2023 Sony World Photography Awards

© Hai Wang, China Mainland, Youth Photographer of the Year, Sony World Photography Awards 2023

Congratulations on being awarded the Youth Photographer of the Year title. How does it feel to be a winner in one of the world's most prestigious photography competitions?

I feel relieved, and when I found out I shed a few tears! I want to thank Sony and the World Photography Organsiation for the affirmation. At the same time, it also makes me believe that the foundation of success is persistence. Looking back at when I first picked up a camera, I have always maintained the most sincere feelings for photography. I am proud of my achievements.

Can you tell us the story behind your winning image?

It has always been a tradition at school to set up chairs in the square in front of the main building the day before the opening ceremony. When I saw the volunteers setting up, I realised this was a great opportunity to take an image with a minimalist aesthetic, so I immediately went up to the highest floor, pointed my camera out through the window and clicked the shutter. I thought I could then take a picture from the same position but full of people. That night, the school announced that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the opening ceremony would be online. I suddenly realised that no one would be sitting on those chairs – more than 2,000. A centuries-old tradition had been disrupted. It's not just that day, it's not just that one school in China, it's not just that one opening ceremony, it's all been broken for three years, I spent three years of my youth with COVID-19, not only me, the social and human impact of this pandemic is enormous.

Why did you decide to enter the Sony World Photography Awards?

After I took this photo, it caused quite a stir in my social circle. I then learned that the theme for the 2023 Youth competition was 'Your Everyday' and could strongly relate to it. If you ask me what everyday is, I just want to say, "Being constantly deprived is our day." It may not be positive compared to other works, but I feel like this is our generation's day.

Can you tell us a bit about your overall approach to photography? What do you like to take pictures of?

I like to shoot minimalist scenes, such as buildings with distinct colors highlighting light and shadow, and focus on themes with emotional resonance. I first think about what I want to express and what my idea is after seeing a scene. Finally, I study the composition according to my thinking and then take pictures.

We read in your bio that you enjoy and are inspired by minimalist art. Can you tell us who or what are your influences?    

Wang Yihao, who was a 2021 Hasselblad Masters Champion, is a minimalist photographer and I think he is one of the best photographers today. His use of shadow, colour and sense of order make me feel very calm when I look at his photographs. He has a peaceful and positive attitude towards photography, which is also the reason why I admire him.

Your image was displayed at Somerset House before embarking on an international exhibition throughout the year. How did it feel to have your image printed and hanging on the exhibition walls?

First of all, I would like to thank the judges, Sony and the World Photography Organisation for their appreciation and attention. The sense of honour brought by knowing my work is hanging on hanging on the wall is inevitable. It is a wonderful feeling that my works are being shown on the other side of the earth. I hope the viewer can explore the ideas, styles and themes behind the photographs. Through my perspective, my words can bring you some thoughts and inspirations about the world and myself.

It’s still early days since you received this award, but has anything particularly exciting happened since the announcement?

The best thing is certainly the camera! I've also really focused on my artistic career and have created my first portfolio.

How has this Award had a positive impact on your photography? 

The people around me are proud and excited when I share the news. I am especially grateful to my parents, teachers and friends. After winning the prize, I cherish these people who have been quietly supporting and trusting me even before I succeeded. I will treasure this Award as I've gotten to know more and more great photographers and artists, and my opportunities have grown. Pressure also comes with honor, so I've begun to think seriously about my photography again. I've kept a low profile to polish my work and strive for perfection but my personal standards have been raised to a higher level. I will continue to interpret the ordinary world from a different perspective, and I will not waste my time on this world.