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PetaPixel The Winning Photos of the 2018 Sony World Photography Awards


Apr 9, 2018
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The prestigious Sony World Photography Awards has announced its overall winners for the 2018 competition. The Photographer of the Year award was won by British photographer Alys Tomlinson for her series Ex-Voto.

Here’s the description of Tomlinson’s project:


A handwritten note neatly folded and hidden in the crevice of a rock, crosses etched onto stone, ribbon carefully wrapped around piles of twigs. These are all offerings of religious devotion, known as ‘Ex-Voto’ and found at Christian pilgrimage sites worldwide. Often placed anonymously and hidden from view, pilgrims leave ex-votos as expressions of hope and gratitude, creating a tangible narrative between faith, person and the landscape. Taken at the pilgrimage sites of Lourdes, France, Ballyvourney, Ireland, and Grabarka, Poland, the project images encompass formal portraiture, large format landscape and small, detailed still-life images of the objects and markers left behind. Shot on 5×4, large format film, the images evoke a distinct stillness and reflect the mysterious, timeless quality present at these sites of great spiritual contemplation. People and landscape merge as place, memory and history entwine.

The project was praised by the contest’s jury for “its beautiful production, technical excellence and sensitive illustration of pilgrimage as a journey of discovery and sacrifice to a greater power.”

As part of her win, Tomlinson takes home a cash prize of $25,000. Ex-Voto was also the winner of “Discovery,” one of the 10 categories in this year’s contest.

The Sony World Photography Awards is in its 11th year, and this year saw a record-breaking 320,000 submissions from photographers based in over 200 countries and territories.

Here are the other major winners of this year’s competition:

Open Photographer of the Year: Vaselin Atanasov, Bulgaria


Photo © Veselin Atanasov, Open Photographer of the Year, Open, Landscape & Nature (2018 Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

The autumn has begun to decorate with its colors the woods of the Balkans. National Park – Central Balkan, Bulgaria.
Youth Photographer of the Year: Megan Johnson, US, 16 Years Old


Photo © Megan Johnson, United States of America, Youth Photographer of the Year, Youth, Your Environment (2018 Youth competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

This image was shot on October 22, 2017 on the cliffs right near my house. It was taken on an iPhone 7 for the following: life, to me, has more detail in black and white. This image represents my current state at home and school. Despite having a social group and a caring family, I often find myself alone, left to watch what goes on around me, all the while being caught up in the very center of it. This glimpse through the trees of the figure on the cliff represents the courage it takes to be one’s self in today’s society, and how even when you’re on the inside, you can be pushed out.
Student Photographer of the Year: Samuel Bolduc, Canadian, 20 Years Old


Photo © Samuel Bolduc, Canada, Student Photographer of the Year, Student Focus, 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

My photography is a poetic work. It puts in relation the beauty of our bodies of water and the devastation caused by man. Tearing the paper creates a direct link with the waves of the Saint-Laurent river. It can also be read as a sign which emphasises damages caused by man. My work is constituted by three photographs. The images were printed with an inkjet printer on matt paper. Afterward, I tore and assembled them to create a 3D model. A photographic reproduction was made to create a shadow under each level of the model.
Architecture: Gianmaria Gava, Italian with Buildings


Photo © Gianmaria Gava, Italy, 1st Place, Professional, Architecture (Professional competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

The project Buildings is a research about the archetypical forms of architecture. When functional elements have been removed, the constructions appear as pure geometrical solid shapes. As such, they seem uninhabitable. Nevertheless, these buildings arise questions about the function and accessibility of architecture in both the public and private space.
Contemporary Issues: Fredrik Lerneryd, Swedish with Slum Ballet


Photo © Fredrik Lerneryd, Sweden, 1st Place, Professional, Contemporary Issues (Professional competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

Every Wednesday at Spurgeons Academy, a school in the middle of the indecipherable maze of Kibera’s narrow streets and alleys, students take the chairs and benches out of a classroom and sweep the floor. The school uniforms are switched to bright-coloured clothes. When teacher Mike Wamaya enters the classroom, the students get into position and place one hand on the concrete wall as though it were a ballet bar. Classical music plays out of a small portable speaker, and the class begins. The Ballet class is part of Annos Africa and One Fine Days charity activities in slum areas around Kenya. In Nairobi they work together with two schools in Kibera and one school in Mathare, another slum closer to the city centre. The dance is a way for the children to express themselves and it strengthens their confidence in life, and a belief that they can become something great. Some of the children are now dancing several days a week in a studio called “Dance center Kenya” in a upper-class area of Nairobi and living in a boarding school, so thanks to their talent they have taken themselves away from the harsh conditions in the slum.
Creative: Florian Ruiz, French with The White Contamination


Photo © Florian Ruiz, France, 1st Place, Professional, Creative (Professional competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

In the snowy landscapes of the heights of Fukushima, I have captured the invisible pain of radiation. Inspired by the drawings of Japanese engravings, I hoped to capture the fleeting moments, the ever-shifting perceptions of nature, where radiation accumulates the most. The title is the measure of contamination of landscapes in becquerel (Bq), a unit that expresses atom disintegration and its mutation’s number per second. By a process of staggered superimpression, I intended to show the atom’s alteration in my pictures. The transparency effects, the broken perspectives give rise to a shape that is in motion, an impermanent world. Then, I created a vibration, a departure from the reality of the subject that reveals the presence of radiation in the image. The process reinvents and twists the very landscape, leading to a sort of vertigo, a threatening danger hidden behind the purity of the white of the landscapes.
Current Affairs & News: Mohd Samsul Mohd Said, Malaysian with Life Inside the Refugee Camp


Photo © Mohd Samsul Mohd Said , Malaysia, 1st Place, Professional, Current Affairs & News (Professional competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

Ethnic Rohingya in Rakhine state has taken a turn for the worse, where on Aug 25, more than 400 houses were burnt, and within this two weeks, nearly 125,000 Rohingya refugees left Myanmar for Bangladesh. International organizations have reported claims of human rights violations and summary executions allegedly carried out by the Myanmar army. Now Over 400,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled from Myanmar into Bangladesh since violence erupted in the Rakhine state. This pictures show their life inside the Balukhali camp in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh.
Landscape: Luca Locatelli, Italian with White Gold


Photo © Luca Locatelli, Italy, 1st Place, Professional, Landscape (Professional competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

Rarely has a material so inclined to stay put been wrenched so insistently out of place and carried so far from its source. In Italy’s most marble-rich area, known as the Apuan Alps, the abundance is surreal. Hundreds of quarries have operated there since the days of ancient Rome and Michelangelo sculptured most of his statues from this stone. Now the trade is booming due to the demand in Saudi Arabia and other gulf states. The photographs of this area’s majestic quarries reveal their own isolated world: beautiful, bizarre and severe. It is a self-contained universe of white, simultaneously industrial and natural.
Natural World & Wildlife: Roselena Ramistella, Italian with Deep Land


Photo © Roselena Ramistella, Italy, 1st Place, Professional, Natural World & Wildlife (2018 Professional competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

Deepland is a personal journey that started on May 2016. I traveled on the back of a mule the old Sicilian trails, starting at Nebrodi, passing through the Madonie, Peloritani and all the way to the Sicani Mountains. The mule track is a rural road similar to a trail, but also suitable for the circulation of pack animals. Prior to the development of the modern road network itself, it represented the link and trade route between the towns and the farmland. Until about fifty years ago, mules had a prominent role in Sicilian country life providing employment and assistance to the local farmers. Due to the economic crisis, many people are moving back to the countryside, especially the young, who have chosen to react to this difficult historical moment by working the land, planting local crops and breeding livestock, creating a new rural economy. The project is divided into two parts, research of local communities still living in remote areas and the track of a new map, a document of what remains of the old mule tracks, the last update comes back to the 50’s. Ongoing.
Portraiture: Tom Oldham, British with The Last Of The Crooners


Photo © Tom Oldham, United Kingdom, 1st Place, Professional, Portraiture (Professional competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

The Last of The Crooners is a portrait of what was. Long before Gilbert and George made art in the East End of London, in a corner of every pub at weekends you’d find pub singers crooning their way through a set of jazz standards, entertaining audiences all over Hackney and Bethnal Green. These sharply turned out ladies and gentlemen entertained the throngs—and kept them in the pub. The audience for this form of entertainment has obviously changed over the decades, with only one notable venue still continuing to honour this tradition, with the rigid commitment of consistently hosting guest singers, three times every single weekend for over forty years, The Palm Tree in Bow, E3. Rich in warmth and familiarity, The Palm Tree is world famous for maintaining its original East End atmosphere despite the impact of gentrification, land value, council pressures and independent pubs generally feeling the pressure of the shifts in habits of its clientele. It is a rich culture, though now sadly remains as a unique and lone stalwart. These really are The Last of The Crooners. After several years of asking, this family-run pub has finally allowed me access to document the many great characters who still perform here, in a bid to capture this slice of time while it hopefully remains as it always has been—a beautiful and celebrated discovery, cherished by every visitor.
Sport: Balazs Gardi, Hungarian with Buzkashi


Photo © Balazs Gardi, Hungary, 1st Place, Professional, Sport (Professional competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

In buzkashi, Afghanistan’s violent and ancient national pastime, riders battle for control of an animal corpse that they carry toward a goal. Sixteen years after the U.S.-led invasion that ousted the Taliban, the sport is dominated by rival warlords who will do anything to maintain power in a turbulent country that once again is up for grabs.
Still Life: Edgar Martins, Portuguese with Siloquies and Sililoquies on Death, Life and Other Interludes


Photo © Edgar Martins, Portugal, 1st Place, Professional, Still Life (Professional competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

Siloquies and Soliloquies was produced at the National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences (INMLCF), in Portugal. A significant number of the images produced at the INMLCF depict forensic evidence, such as suicide notes, letters and other objects used in suicides and crimes as well as inherent in the work of the pathologist. The images here included represent a variety of suicide letters written by individuals who took their own lives. The work explores the tension between revelation and concealment questioning, amongst other things, the ethical implications of representing and divulging sensitive material of this nature. Edgar Martins’ decision to work in the National Institute of Legal Medicine stems from his interest in highlighting the historic and symbolic role of one of the places that, in the context of modernity, institutionalized—through scientific practice and judicial discourse—the representation, analysis and scrutiny of death and the dead body. In this sense, the incursion of a photographic artist into a place so charged with scientific character (medical, judicial, ideological) necessarily calls on epistemological, psychological and semantic questioning: e.g. what distinguishes a documental image of a corpse or a crime scene from an image that reproduces the staged creation of a mental image of a corpse or a crime scene? What effect do these differences have in the viewer’s imagination? How do the retrospective and prospective horizons appear in the face of these different types of image? The Suicide tool as Destinerrance proposes to scrutinize the tensions and contradictions inherent in the representation and imagination of death, in particular suicide, and, correlatively, the decisive but deeply paradoxical role that photography—with its epistemological, aesthetic and ethical implications—has played in its perception and intelligibility.

You can find the entire gallery of 2018 winners here. The 2019 edition of the Sony World Photography Awards will open for entries starting on June 1st, 2018. You’ll be able to enter your photos for free at the contest’s website.


Image credits: Header photo © Alys Tomlinson, United Kingdom, Photographer of the Year and Winner Professional Discovery category, 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

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