From now until 18th May, Somerset House is hosting the Sony World Photography Awards; an exhibition displaying the winning and shortlisted entries from this year’s competition. With 139,000 submissions from photographers all around the world, the competition was tougher than ever. This visually and emotionally stunning work is split into categories ranging from photojournalism, to fine art, to lifestyle.
Lucky enough to get a sneak preview, on the morning of the awards ceremony I went along to Somerset House to check out the photographs that had made the final cut. The gallery space displays a multitude of images ranging from the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, with people rebuilding their homes in post-apocalyptic landscapes; to Sara Lewkowicz’s series titled ‘Shane and Maggie’ telling the story of a young couple as deeply disturbing scenes of domestic violence unfold. Exquisitely detailed snippets of the secrets of the natural world include roaring lions, polar bears in desolate landscapes and a small tree frog perched atop a glistening stag beetle.
As well as observational photography, the exhibit shows work using interesting techniques such as light manipulation and the results of photographers toying with perspective. Alison Crea’s glass of strawberry milk acts as a gigantic wave, crashing down on a helpless toy boat complete with tiny plastic people; and a favourite of mine by Francesco Romoli shows a man approaching a cardboard shopfront in a ghostly abandoned town.
A light hearted and witty take on the ‘portraiture’ category can be found in the work of Sophie Gamand, whose subjects are perhaps not what you’d expect. Her humourous collection of nine disgruntled and rather comical canines celebrates anthropomorphism and the sense of embarrassment dogs often feel at their most vulnerable.
With the morning’s images still flicking through my mind, I wondered who would be the proud winners of this year’s Sony World Photography Awards. I was about to find out, as I had been invited to attend the award ceremony gala dinner. I had my fingers crossed for the wet dogs.
Hosted at the Hilton Park Lane, the gala dinner and award ceremony was every bit as grand as I would’ve imagined. A red carpet led to a winding staircase to the ballroom, where glittering chandeliers hung over decorated tables.
Our hosts talked us through each category, with the winner of each taking to the stage to give their acceptance speech as I nodded and clapped with unrivalled enthusiasm while trying to remain classy and demure. The ceremony was accompanied by a delicious meal of sea bass, and lamb with dauphinoise potatoes & redcurrant jus. The panna cotta dessert with its delicate chocolate ‘twists’ and tumbling berries was certainly pretty as a picture.
The award ceremony drew to a close with Sara Lewkowicz very deservedly winning the ultimate award; the L’Iris D’or – taking the title of ‘Professional Photographer of the Year’ for her hard-hitting series. I was also ecstatic to hear that Sophie Gamand’s ‘Wet Dog’ had won the portraiture category. So much so, that I lost my resolve and whooped and cheered for the little sodden fellows. Fortunately I was in good company as a ripple of laughter spread around the ballroom when photographs of the dogs appeared on the big screen.
This exhibition is a celebration of aesthetics across the globe with photographers finding beauty in the most unlikely places. Evoking a rainbow of emotions with its many categories and diverse range of styles, subjects and techniques; the Sony World Photography Awards collection has something for everyone.