- Text by Michael Segalov
- Photography by 2017 Sony World Photography Awards, lead image by Yuan Peng
It’s been ten years since the launch of the Sony World Photography Awards, a decade since this annual celebration of photographers and their work began. This year, some 227,000 entries were received from over 180 countries, making it the world’s largest photography competition.
Born in Antwerp in 1984, Frederik Buyckx, a freelance photographer for the Belgian newspaper De Standaard, was awarded Photographer of the Year 2017. Buyckx’s images have been published and exhibited internationally and most recently he was shortlisted for the ZEISS Photography Award.
This image of Buyckx’s captures a shepherd in the North of Montenegro walking to his herd of sheep with a self-made broom in his hand. The broom was used to wipe off the snow lying on the back of the sheep.
It’s part of the winning series, Whiteout, which was taken in the Balkans, Scandinavia and Central Asia, remote areas where people often live in isolation and in close contact with nature.
“There is a peculiar transformation of nature when winter comes, when snow and ice start to dominate the landscape and when humans and animals have to deal with the extreme weather,” Buyckx explains. “The series investigates this struggle against disappearance.” It’s a beautiful investigation into the superhuman force of nature.
Frederik Buyckx, Belgium, Photographer of the Year, Professional, Landscape, 2017 Sony World Photography Awards.
We take a look at the crème de la crème of this year’s other winners…
Diego Mayon: Athens Studio
Diego Mayon’s ethereal project, mostly shot at night, has a beautiful Lynchian vibe. Prostitution is legal in Greece and the authorities have decided to stipulate that all brothels must have permits.
There are different kinds of brothels, the upper class ones are called ‘Studios’. A person welcomes the clients and once inside there is a waiting room where the women come out to show themselves. At this point the clients decide whether to stay or to leave.
These brothels are recognisable by a pink light sign with the word Studio.
Diego Mayon, Italy, 3rd Place, Professional, Architecture, 2017 Sony World Photography Awards.
Yuan Peng: The Twins’ Gymnastics Dream
This series was taken in a sports school in Jining in Shandong province, China. Liu Bingqing and Liu Yujie are twin sisters, who have liked gymnastics since their childhood. They have studied, trained and grown up here.
Yuan Peng, China, 1st Place, Professional, Sport, 2017 Sony World Photography Awards.
Will Burrard-Lucas: Spirit of the Night
To show hyenas in their element, Burrard-Lucas wanted to photograph them at night. “The stars in Africa are so beautiful that I also wanted to include them in my image,” he explains.
“I used a remote-control ‘BeetleCam’ to position my camera on the ground so that I could photograph the hyena with the beautiful starry sky behind. This is a single exposure. I lit the hyena with two wireless off-camera flashes and used a long shutter speed to expose the stars. Since there was no moon to cause ghosting, it didn’t matter if the hyena moved after the initial flash.”
All of the images were taken in Liuwa Plain National Park, a remote area in the west of Zambia.
Will Burrard-Lucas, United Kingdom, 1st Place, Professional, Natural World, 2017 Sony World Photography Awards.
Tasneem Alsultan: Saudi Tales of Love
While Saudi Arabia is an international symbol of Islam, many Saudis would agree that there’s a strong disconnect between the Qur’an and local traditions, suggests Tasneem Alsultan. “I wanted to answer questions shared by many, such as, ‘Do we need marriage to signify that we have love?’ and, ‘Do you need a husband to have a meaningful life?’”
“I started the project thinking only about my own personal story. I was married at the age of 17 but living separately as a single parent for the final six years of an unhappy 10-year marriage. Many family members commented on how foolish I was to ask for a divorce. Only later did I realise that there were many Saudi women who had had similar experiences, more than I had expected of typical Saudi housewives.”
“With each story, I found more women sharing complex marriage theories and experiences. I followed the stories of widows, happily married women, and divorced women. I explored the concept of love, photographing my young daughter and grandmother.”
Tasneem Alsultan, Saudi Arabia, 1st Place, Professional, Contemporary Issues, 2017 Sony World Photography Awards.
Romina Ressia: I Know What Beauty Looks Like
“This project explores the idea of beauty,” explains Ressia. “When I launched the casting for this project the number of applications was incredible. I was very surprised to see how many people that you would have never thought could be interested, showed their enthusiasm for taking part in this.”
“They are not models, they are common people wearing common clothes, but all of them beautiful. I looked for women of all ages, with different measurements, weight and heights. Women with complexities, not pretentious; self-confident and honest women.”
Romina Ressia, Argentina, 2nd Place, Professional, Portraiture (professional), 2017 Sony World Photography Awards.
Christian Vizl: Silent Kingdom
Vizl’s intention in his work is to capture the essence of being immersed in the experience and presence of the animal or habitat he’s photographing, to share their splendour, beauty and true nature.
“Today, the world’s oceans are in grave danger,” he explains. “Overfishing, pollution, climate change, acidification and more threaten the fundamental nature of the ocean, and its animals are being pushed to the edge of extinction. Sadly, the majority of humans see marine animals merely as food.”
“As we can’t understand their voices, the higher purpose of my images is to be a voice of, and for the ocean, hoping that people can get a glimpse of who they really are; beautiful sentient individuals with feelings, personalities, complex behaviours and interesting lives that science is only starting to understand.”
Christian Vizl, Mexico, 3rd Place, Professional, Natural World, 2017 Sony World Photography Awards.
Eduard Korniyenko: Pumping Iron in Russia
In the Soviet era, the sport of bodybuilding was not welcomed by official institutions, as opposed to weight lifting, which was judged acceptable and included in the Olympic programme. But people everywhere, from small towns in the far North-East to Siberia, Moscow and even the foot of the Caucasus Mountains, persisted in going to the “sweat box” gyms in cellars, to “build a body.”
Western magazines crammed with images of unrealistically muscled male and female bodies passed from hand to hand and an additional impetus to this semi-legal sport came with the growth of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s popularity.
Today, with the ban lifted, bodybuilding’s popularity has not diminished. The only difference is that some of the clubs have moved from their old basements into modern fitness centres, although the basement scene remains.
A couple of times a year the participants climb the podium during various amateur and even professional tournaments. Here you can meet anyone; tax inspectors and businessmen, housewives and popular TV presenters.
Regardless of social status, or whether you live in a small town in the centre of Siberia, or in a big city, the only important thing for these people is making their bodies look perfect, and being admired by others.
Eduard Korniyenko, Russian Federation, 2nd Place, Professional, Sport, 2017 Sony World Photography Awards.
Ivor Prickett: Caught in the Crossfire
As the fight for Mosul continues, thousands of civilians remain caught between Iraqi and coalition forces on one side, and Islamic State group fighters on the other. Over 800,000 people are still trapped in Mosul, according to estimates from the United Nations.
Tens of thousands are sheltering in neighbourhoods declared liberated by Iraqi forces and many more remain in parts of the city under ISIS control.
Ivor Prickett, Ireland, 3rd Place, Professional, Current Affairs & News, 2017 Sony World Photography Awards.
Sandra Hoyn: The Longings of the Others
The Kandapara brothel in the district of Tangail is the oldest and one of the largest in Bangladesh – it has existed for some 200 years. It was demolished in 2014 but has been re-established with the help of local NGOs.
The brothel district is surrounded by a two-metre wall, and in the narrow streets within, there are food stalls, tea shops and street vendors. More than 700 sex workers live and work here with their children and their madams. Many of the women were either trafficked or born inside the brothel’s walls and in this way their livelihood is secure.
Their customers are policemen, politicians, farmers, fishermen, factory workers and groups of teenage boys.
The brothel is a place with its own rules and power hierarchies, which are completely different from mainstream society.
Officially, sex workers must be 18 years old, but most are underage. They have no freedom or rights; they belong to a madam, have debts and are not allowed to go outside or keep their money.
From the moment a woman has paid her debts, she is free to leave. Although prostitution inside registered brothels has been legal in Bangladesh since 2000, these women are socially stigmatised outside their “homes” and thus often choose to stay and continue supporting their families with their earnings.
Sandra Hoyn, Germany, 1st Place, Professional, Daily Life, 2017 Sony World Photography Awards.
Li Song: I Want to Have an Ordinary Life
25 November 2016 in Changchun city, Jilin province, China. A fire treatment, another weight loss attempt.
Li Hang, an eleven-year-old boy from Harbin, arrived at Changchun weight loss centre determined to lose weight. He had been diagnosed with Prader-Willi Syndrome when he was 3 years old, and on admission, his weight had reached 155 kilograms.
Prader-Willi Syndrome is a disease related to an abnormality in chromosome 15, and in around 70% of patients is inherited from their father. It occurs in 1 in 15000 people. Li Hang was being treated with traditional Chinese medicine every day, including massage, acupuncture, fire treatment and cupping therapy.
Aside from medical techniques, Li Hang also did a great deal of exercise daily with the fitness instructor.
Li Song, China, 2nd Place, Professional, Contemporary Issues, 2017 Sony World Photography Awards.
Lorenzo Maccotta: Live Chat Studio Industry
The adult webcam industry is worth $1 billion annually, and is growing fast as the technology becomes better and cheaper. Collectively, the sites are estimated to be visited daily by some 5 percent of the web’s global users and the number of models performing live online shows from private apartments or from specialised studios is increasing worldwide.
Romania, a country with one of the highest rates of youth unemployment in the EU, is now the undisputed world capital of studio-based cam operations, thanks to widespread wireless broadband access.
The industry has grown substantially since 2001, and most major Romanian cities now count hundreds of facilities offering English-speaking male and female models – most in their twenties – fast internet connections, high definition webcams and decorated rooms where they can turn into the virtual best friends and cybersex partners of paying clients, mostly from North America, but also from European and Asian countries.
Lorenzo Maccotta, Italy, 3rd Place, Professional, Contemporary Issues, 2017 Sony World Photography Awards.
The winning images are being exhibited at Somerset House, London from 21 April – 7 May 2017.