10 haunting images from the Sony World Photography Awards
From gorgeous natural spaces to riveting portraits, the shortlisted photographers for the professional competition of the Sony World Photography Awards offer an alluring range of powerful images.
The 2019 competition received a record-breaking number of entries with more than 326,000 photos from 195 countries and territories including Gabon, Paraguay and Cote D’Ivoire. The entries include striking architecture, haunting landscape, documentary features and intriguing wildlife.
Here’s a selection of some of the shortlisted images from categories in the Professional competition. The winners will be announced on April 17.
‘At the End of the Day’
‘At the End of the Day’ (Photo: © Laetitia Vançon, France/Shortlist, Professional, Portraiture (Professional competition), 2019 Sony World Photography Awards)
Photographer Laetitia Vançon of France spent two years forming a portrait of the younger generation who live in the Outer Hebrides, a string of islands in the far north of Scotland. In creating her series, Vançon asks, “What is the daily life of these young people, in a place where the population is aging and the economy is declining, where jobs and studies but also their choice of partners are limited? How do the young people develop a sense of belonging strong enough to decide to stay and keep the islands afloat?”
Above, Danielle Mac Gillivray raises her son, Peter, alone on Benbecula, the island where she grew up. A single mother with multiple sclerosis, Mac Gillivray works in her father’s souvenir shop.
“Danielle is aware that in her small community it will not be easy to rebuild her life,” Vançon writes. “Overall, the young people show a common ability to bounce back. A kind of happy fatalism. It is as if they are tied by elastic: most of them want to go elsewhere, but they are ceaselessly brought back to their islands. By attachment but also, very often, by fear of the unknown.”
‘The Day Before the Corban Festival’
‘The Day Before the Corban Festival’ (Photo: © Boyuan Zhang, China/Shortlist, Professional, Discovery (Professional competition), 2019 Sony World Photography Awards)
The Corban Festival is an annual celebration for Chinese Muslims when livestock are sacrificed. Here, photographer Boyuan Zhang captured people returning to their hometown for a reunion the day before the festival.
“Xinjiang is the largest autonomous region in North Western China, where I was born. For hundreds and thousands of years, it used to be known as the Western Regions and is now a place where dozens of ethnic groups cohabit,” Zhang writes.
“Walking along the river, you can see the rapid development of the social system, while seeing the legacy of human civilization from thousands of years ago. If you haven’t seen the Buddhist temple ruins, murals and [artifacts] that were buried under the sand dunes, it is impossible to imagine that the place that was once called Altishahr in the Qing Dynasty and was a holy place of Mahayana Buddhism in the sixth century. The replacement of civilization is just like a city in the desert: it appears after being blown by the wind, eroded by the wind, and, finally, obscured by the sands.”
‘The Avondale Primary Majorettes’
‘The Avondale Primary Majorettes’ (Photo: © Alice Mann, South Africa/Shortlist, Professional, Brief, 2019 Sony World Photography Awards)
Photographer Alice Mann of South Africa created a series focused on the Avondale Majorettes, one of several all-female teams of drum majorettes in the country. The girls range in age from 6 to 13 years old.
“These images depict the unique and aspirational subculture surrounding all-female teams of drum majorettes in South Africa, affectionately known as ‘drummies,’ based in some of the country’s most marginalized communities. For the girls and young women involved, being a ‘drummie’ is a privilege and an achievement, indicative of success on and off the field,” Mann writes.
“Being part of a team offers them a sense of belonging and increases their sense of self-worth, vital in communities where opportunities for young women are severely limited. A female-only sport, it’s a safe space where they are encouraged to excel; their distinctive uniforms are a visual marker of success and emancipation from their surroundings. This is part of my ongoing work exploring notions of femininity and empowerment in modern society and I hope these images communicate the pride and confidence these girls achieve through identifying as ‘drummies’ in a context where they face many social challenges.”
‘Miss Faversham, Margate, Kent’
‘Miss Faversham. Margate, Kent’ (Photo: © Edward Thompson, United Kingdom/Shortlist, Professional, Brief, 2019 Sony World Photography Awards)
U.K. photographer Edward Thompson captured these beauty contestants as part of a series called, “In the Garden of England.”
“This body of work is part of a culmination of eighteen years of predominantly photographing the South East of England. There are a number of themes at work in this photo-series covering nostalgia, class and the beautiful uncanny of everyday English life,” Thompson writes.
“As a photographer, the work represents the continued pursuit of my visual style and approach to photography. It has taken a long time to get here and now, going through the wider edits of this work, I can appreciate that I always saw the world in this way.”
‘Untitled’ (Photo: © Felicia Simion, Romania/Shortlist, Professional, Architecture (Professional competition), 2019 Sony World Photography Awards)
Romanian photographer Felicia Simion captured an ethereal building shrouded in mist. It’s part of her series dubbed, “Home.
“In the traditional Romanian mindset, the house is considered the nucleus of family life, a primordial space which generates and preserves vital energies,” Simion explains.
In her work traveling across the country, she said she has watched villages and towns being architecturally transformed due to cultural appropriation and as part of the globalization process.
“I photographed the remains of a so-called ‘traditional’ world and also a more ‘modern’ approach to the concept of home, featuring imposing, palace-like houses and apartment complexes built on cities’ outskirts,” she writes. “By isolating them in natural landscapes, as a form of decontextualization, I questioned the meanings and attributes of these habitats, and how they are reflected in the fluidity of architectural styles. Is the house still a primordial site, or have its functions diminished to the merely utilitarian? Has the house been relocated from the center of the world to its periphery?”
‘Yellow and White Cabana’
‘Yellow and White Cabana’ (Photo: © David Behar, United States of America/Shortlist, Professional, Architecture (Professional competition), 2019 Sony World Photography Awards)
American photographer David Behar shot a series featuring the colorful cabanas along Miami Beach in Florida.
“There is an intrinsic charm in the cabana rental structures of Miami Beach,” he writes. “Each is unique and often paired with the umbrellas it rents out to form a small community of matching hues. The hotel staff will even have matching uniforms to top it off.”
Behar says he started the series after he grew tired of shooting Miami’s lifeguard towers. “Everyone does it and everyone’s seen them, but the cabanas are often overlooked,” he says. “There are dozens of them but most people have no idea unless they’re willing to walk for hours. Now this series exists you don’t have to, but you still should.”
‘A Symbiotic Relationship’
‘A Symbiotic Relationship’ (Photo: © Liang Fu, China/Shortlist, Professional, Natural World & Wildlife (Professional), 2019 Sony World Photography Awards)
Liang Fu of China photographed this image of a white-banded cleaner shrimp hopping into the mouth of a grouper.
“A cleaning station is like a mutual symbiotic community underwater. Every individual living in the community benefits from the others,” Fu writes. “The grouper and moray eel have their dead skin, bacteria, and parasites cleaned by the shrimps and wrasse, while at the same time the cleaner species receive nutrients and protection from the fishes. I have spent years studying the symbiotic behavior between shrimps and different fish underwater. The photos I took are from different locations, showing a lively mutual symbiosis relationship.”
‘Lee Dickerson’ (Photo: © Sigurd Fandango, Norway/Shortlist, Professional, Sport (Professional competition), 2019 Sony World Photography Awards)
Norwegian photographer Sigurd Fandango photographed Lee Dickerson, a team member of the Hot Rod Hoodlums as he enjoyed a cigarettes after a successful run at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
“Ever since the car was invented, people have gathered at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, US, to set land speed records,” Fandango writes. “‘The Flats’ are the remains of an ancient lake, a dreamlike, vast expanse of salt, where 70-year-old grandfathers zip by at speeds of 450 miles per hour.”
‘Akashinga’ (Photo: © Brent Stirton, South Africa/Shortlist, Professional, Documentary, 2019 Sony World Photography Awards)
In the Phundundu Wildlife Area in Zimbabwe, 30-year-old Petronella Chigumbura, an elite member of the all-female Akashinga conservation ranger force, undergoes stealth movement and concealment training in the bush near their base. Petronella told photographer Brent Stirton that she previously worked on her ex-husband’s family tobacco farm in slave-like conditions. But this new job has increased her self-respect and the salary has enabled her to leave her abusive husband.
“She is now engaged in trying to get her children back and is being helped by the support of her ranger sisters to do so,” Stirton writes. “Petronella is regarded by her instructors as easily as good as the best of the men they have trained for similar difficult conservation work. She also brings the added value of better community relations and intelligence gathering as a woman, the instructors are quick to add.”
Akashinga means “the braves ones” in Zimbabwe’s Shona dialect. The rangers come from disadvantaged backgrounds and now have become an example to women all across Africa, Stirton says. “The members of Akashinga have a community-driven, interpersonal focus, working with, rather than against, the local population for the long-term benefit of their own communities and nature.”