Sony World Photography Awards Open Competition 2020 winners and shortlisted images

The World Photography Organisation has announced this year’s category winners and shortlisted entries in the Open competition of the Sony World Photography Awards, 2020. The annual Open competition, now in its 13th year, recognizes the best single images captured in 2019. Judged by Gisela Kayser, Managing and Artistic Director for Freundeskreis Willy-Brandt-Haus e.V. in Berlin, more than 100 photographs were shortlisted across 10 categories.

‘To have my image make the shortlist of this prestigious contest is an incredible honor, especially when it was selected from such a huge number of entries from around the world. I am over the moon to have my work recognized. Congratulations to all the shortlisted and winning photographers for their amazing work,’ Marc Le Cornu tells DPReview about his recognition in the Motion category.

Each category winner will receive a set of Sony’s latest digital imaging equipment and compete for the Open Photographer of the Year title. The overall winner will be announced on June 9th and be awarded a $5,000 USD cash prize along with recognition on the World Photography Organization and Sony’s online social accounts.

The ten category winners are:

Rosaria Sabrina Pantano (Italy) for ‘Emotional Geography’

Suxing Zhang (China) for ‘Knot’

Antoine Veling (Australia) for ‘Mark 5:28’

Craig McGowan (Australia) for ‘Ice Reflections’ – who was also a finalist for the International Landscape Photographer of the Year

Alec Connah (United Kingdom) for ‘Going Down!’

Natural World & Wildlife
Guofei Li (China) for ‘Tai Chi Diagram’

Tom Oldham (United Kingdom) for ‘Black Francis’

Still Life
Jorge Reynal (Argentina) for ‘A Plastic Ocean’

Street Photography
Santiago Mesa (Colombia) for ‘Colombia Resiste’

Adrian Guerin (Australia) for ‘Riding a Saharan Freight Train’

Due to the current pandemic, this year’s Sony World Photography Awards 2020 exhibition has been cancelled. The World Photography Organisation has launched the Stay Connected page to keep photographers inspired with educational resources. They will also recognize the work of past and current competition winners and finalists across their various online channels.

Open Competition, Travel, Winner: ‘Riding a Saharan Freight Train’ by Adrian Guerin (Australia)

Artist Statement: At 2.5km long, the iron-ore train in Mauritania is one of the longest trains in the world. It covers over 700km on its journey from the coastal town of Nouadhibou to the Saharan wilderness of Zouérat. More than 200 carriages are loaded with rocks in Zouérat, before the train begins its long journey back to Nouadhibou. I rode the train in both directions in July 2019.

On the first leg of the journey I learnt that in order to photograph the full length of the train I needed to stand on the rocks for height, position myself in a rear carriage to get the full view, and keep the sun behind me. Alas, none of this was possible until the morning of day three, at which point I had almost given up.

This shot was taken as I balanced on my toes atop a mountain of rocks, trying to remain steady as the train jolted from side to side.

Open Competition, Street Photography, Winner: ‘Colombia Resiste’ by Santiago Mesa (Columbia)

Artist Statement: In recent years, a number of protests have broken out across Latin America. Reasons for this unrest range from a proposed end to fuel subsidies in Ecuador to a rise in metro fares in Chile, and feelings of inequality and a general lack of opportunity in Colombia. In Medellín, north-western Colombia, workers and street vendors were taking part in a march when the Medellin riot squad dispersed them.

Open Competition, Still Life, Winner: ‘A Plastic Ocean’ by Jorge Reynal (Argentina)

Artist Statement: Each year, eight million tons of plastic end up in our oceans – equivalent to emptying a garbage truck into the water every minute. This is my protest against pollution.

In my language (Spanish), we use the words ‘Naturaleza Muerta’ to refer to still life, which ironically translates as ‘Dead Nature.’

Open Competition, Natural World & Wildlife, Winner: ‘Tai Chi Diagram’ by Guofei Li (China)

Artist Statement: These cheetahs had just eaten an antelope, and were licking the bloodstains off each other’s faces. It’s a very rare posture, and one that reminded me of the traditional Chinese Tai Chi diagram. The picture was taken in Botswana in January 2019.

Open Competition, Portraiture, Winner: ‘Black Francis’ by Tom Oldham (United Kingdom)

Artist Statement: Photographers for MOJO Magazine enjoy a rare degree of freedom and trust with what is usually an open brief. This allows us to capture our own experience with very high profile musicians. However, when photographing famous singers, we are often painfully aware of how many times the sitter has, well, sat.

I like to acknowledge this and asked Charles (aka Black Francis) to show me the level of frustration photoshoots can generate. He offered up this perfect gesture of exasperation, and the image ran as the lead portrait for the feature.

Open Competition, Motion, Winner: ‘Going Down!’ by Alec Connah (United Kingdom)

Artist Statement: Despite measuring 125 metres high, it took the four cooling towers of Ironbridge Power Station in Shropshire, England, just 10 seconds to be demolished on 6 December 2019. The towers had been a feature of the landscape for 50 years, but were brought down as part of a new development on the site.

The demolition had been a long time coming – the towers were close to a river, railway line and protected woodland, so their destruction had to be precise. This picture was taken from my garden, which is on the hillside opposite the site.

Open Competition, Creative, Winner: ‘Knot’ by Suxing Zhang (China)

Artist Statement: This picture is from my series ‘Hua,’ which means flower in Chinese. Flowers are often used as metaphors for life and eroticism in art. Hua explores the commonalities and connections between flowers and the feminine – in particular, emotional vulnerability and sensitivity. Qualities such as calmness, and emotions such as uncertainty, fear, anxiety, and loneliness are translated into conceptual and artistic forms.

In Knot, I use a combination of light and texture to create strong visuals that heighten the senses. I like to use symbolic and metaphoric ingredients in my work, which I hope allows the audience to blend their own subjectivity with the objectivity of the photograph, leading to different interpretations and emotions.

Open Competition, Culture, Winner: ‘Mark 5:28’ by Antoine Veling (Australia)

Artist Statement: When audience members were invited on stage to dance at an Iggy Pop concert in Sydney Opera House, Australia, on 17 April 2019, it showed the warm welcome Aussies extend to overseas artists who travel long distances to reach them.

A woman’s outstretched arm lunges to touch Iggy. He seems unaware of her approach as the crowd presses around him. One of Iggy’s assistants, Jos (in the grey checked shirt) tries to make some space around Iggy. The scene is reminiscent of a passage from the Bible: ‘Because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”’ (Mark 5:25-34, line 28).

The image has been likened to religious paintings by Caravaggio, and his chiaroscuro technique. It went crazy on social media, making 40,000 people, including Iggy Pop, very happy.

Open Competition, Architecture, Winner: ‘Emotional Geometry’ by Rosaria Sabrina Pantano (Italy)

Artist Statement: Having returned to Sicily for the holidays, myself and a group of friends visited Fiumara d’Arte, an open museum showcasing sculptures made by contemporary artists, located along the banks of the Tusa River. Among these works is 38° Parallelo by Mauro Staccioli – a pyramid that stands at the exact point where the geographical coordinates touch the 38th parallel.

Open Competition, Motion, Shortlist: ‘NEOM Spin’ by Marc Le Cornu (United Kingdom)

Artist Statement: This image was taken during a commission to capture the area of NEOM in Saudi Arabia as part of a project for the NEOM tourism team. Our captain asked for a photo of his vessel, and I happily obliged! The golden hour light was catching the boat and its wake, and the patterns on the water looked incredible from above.

Marc elaborated a bit more for DPReview: ‘The inspiration for the shot came from our transport driver who requested a photo of his boat. I couldn’t just give him a standard photo, so I asked him to maneuver the boat in a circle whilst I captured the shot by DJI Inspire 2 drone from above. The light was perfect for giving a lovely, rich, warm feel to the image as it caught the boat’s wake and the boat itself, and the patterns left in the water from the boat’s wake created the final striking image.’

Open Competition, Natural World & Wildlife, Shortlist: ‘A Fever of Cownose Rays’ by Alex Kydd (Australia)

Artist Statement: A rare encounter with a fever of cownose rays on the Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia. The rays were circling and rubbing together in a behavior that is not fully understood. They were spiraling up and down the water column for approximately 20 minutes, at which point they disappeared.

Undeterred by my presence, they continued to focus on each other while I documented the encounter. There have been few reports of cownose rays in the Ningaloo Reef region in recent years. The image was taken while free-diving – it was a once-in-a-lifetime encounter.

Open Competition, Landscape, Shortlist: ‘Come on In’ by Kai Hornung (Germany)

Artist Statement: A small path in the ancient forests of the Anaga Mountains in Tenerife, Spain. The clouds hung inside the moss-covered trees, creating a spooky atmosphere. When I arrived at this spot, I was smiling while setting up my tripod – I just knew I was about to take one of my best images of that tour, if not one of my best pictures of 2019.

Open Competition, Creative, Shortlist: ‘Fractals and Flowers’ by David Swindler (United States)

Artist Statement: The Badlands of Utah, USA, are fascinating to explore and photograph. We had a really prolific wildflower bloom last year, which only happens every decade or so. The yellow flowers added a nice accent to the erosion lines and patterns in the ground. These patterns reminded me of fractal mathematics.

Open Competition, Culture, Shortlist: ‘Colourful Catrina’ by Sergio Carrasco (Mexico)

Artist Statement: My wife dressed as a Catrina – one of the most recognizable symbols of the Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico.

Open Competition, Street Photography, Shortlist: ‘Back Home’ by Liu Jon (China)

Artist Statement: After a downpour, there is often a moment of beauty. Here, a zebra crossing, an umbrella and a lone figure combine to make a colorful composition.

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