The overall winners of the prestigious Sony World Photography Awards 2023 were revealed today at a special gala presentation in London presented by broadcaster and art historian Kate Bryan.
The Photographer of the Year title has been awarded to the acclaimed photographer Edgar Martins (Portugal) for his series Our War, a homage to Martins’ friend, photojournalist Anton Hammerl, who was killed during the Libyan Civil War in 2011. Martins won a $25,000 (USD) cash prize and a range of Sony digital imaging equipment. Additionally, Martins receives a solo presentation of his work as part of next year’s Sony World Photography Awards exhibition. This opportunity allows photographers to further develop their winning project or exhibit a brand new body of work, gaining them additional exposure for their practice.
Martins was selected from the 10 category winners of the Professional competition who were announced today alongside those in 2nd and 3rd place in each Professional category. The overall winners of the Awards’ Open, Youth and Student competitions were additionally revealed.
Also announced is Alessandro Cinque (Italy), the first-time winner of the Sustainability Prize – developed in collaboration with the United Nations Foundation and Sony Pictures’ Picture This initiative – this new $5,000 (USD) award recognises the stories, people and organisations whose actions highlight one of the United Nations’ environmental Sustainable Development Goals.
The Sony World Photography Awards 2023 exhibition opens at Somerset House, London from 14 April – 1 May 2023, featuring over 200 prints and hundreds of additional images in digital displays from winning and shortlisted photographers. Also presented are works by this year’s Outstanding Contribution to Photography, the esteemed Japanese photographer Rinko Kawauchi.
PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR
Our War by Edgar Martins (Portugal) is an original and nuanced tribute to the photographer’s late friend the photojournalist Anton Hammerl, who was abducted and killed on 5 April 2011 by government militia, during the Libyan Civil War.
Frustrated by unsuccessful attempts to ascertain the whereabouts of his friend’s last mortal remains, Martins took matters into his own hands and travelled to Libya. He was brought in covertly by a petrol smuggler and was immediately faced with enormous challenges working in such a volatile environment. Realising that he would not be able to carry out a thorough and independent investigation, Martins instead chose to reflect on the question: ‘how does one tell a story when there is no witness, no testimony, no evidence, no subject?’
In Our War Martins conjures and alludes to the absent central figure through a series of portraits of the people Hammerl had connected with and those involved in the fighting (freedom fighters or their descendants, ex-militia, local residents, Gaddafi loyalists or lookalikes, and so on). They were chosen because they either resembled him, had similar ideas and beliefs, or reminded Martins of him at different stages of their friendship. The project explores the idea of absence, of documenting, grieving, and honouring a subject as well as reflecting on the role of photography within a conflict zone. Martins’ approach is to confront these questions head-on: to embrace the idea of the fragmentary and the many contradictions and ambiguities intrinsic to war.
Commenting on his win Martins says: ‘It is a huge honour to be recognised and although I am philosophical about awards and the subjective nature of someone’s choice, knowing that there were over 180,000 entries to this year’s Professional competition, is very humbling. In this case, it is also quite an emotional experience because I get to honour my friend on a world stage and bring attention to the family’s plight to find his remains. There’s no award that has the reach of the Sony World Photography Awards.’
Commenting on Martins’ winning project, Mike Trow, Chair of the 2023 Professional competition says: ‘Photography is so often about memory and its nature. Long-term memory is about the conscious recollection of past events and our knowledge of them – be it through direct experience or mediated through the myriad of media we use. Our War by Edgar Martins has used memory and invention to give us a powerful, personal set of portraits that attempt to explain the last days of his friend, the photojournalist Anton Hammerl. His work highlights the lengths photographers will go to to tell a story and create meaning; each image giving a sense of the journey Anton took without ever being explicit about how his life ended. The entire jury this year was fulsome in their appreciation of the work and its narrative force.’
PROFESSIONAL CATEGORY WINNERS
Winning photographers in the Professional competition have been selected by a panel of expert judges for submitting an outstanding body of work of five to 10 images, ranging from stories of war and reconciliation, to the empowerment of women through education, and original approaches to the genres of still life and sport.
All category winners receive Sony’s digital imaging kit. This year’s winners are:
ARCHITECTURE & DESIGN
WINNER: Fan Li (China Mainland) for his series Cement Factory
Finalists: 2nd place Servaas Van Belle (Belgium); 3rd place Andres Gallardo Albajar (Spain)
WINNER: Lee-Ann Olwage (South Africa) for her series The Right to Play
Finalists: 2nd place Noemi Comi (Italy); 3rd place Edoardo Delille & Giulia Piermartiri (Italy)
WINNER: Hugh Kinsella Cunningham (United Kingdom) for his series The Women’s Peace Movement in Congo
Finalists: 2nd place Mohammed Salem (State of Palestine); 3rd place Tariq Zaidi (United Kingdom)
WINNER: Marisol Mendez (Bolivia) & Federico Kaplan (Argentina) for their series Miruku
Finalists: 2nd place Jonas Kakó (Germany); 3rd place Axel Javier Sulzbacher (Germany)
WINNER: Kacper Kowalski (Poland) for his series Event Horizon
Finalists: 2nd place Bruno Zanzottera (Italy); 3rd place Fabio Bucciarelli (Italy)
WINNER: James Deavin (United Kingdom) for his submission Portfolio
Finalists: 2nd place Marylise Vigneau (France); 3rd place Marjolein Martinot (Netherlands)
WINNER: Edgar Martins (Portugal) for his series Our War
Finalists: 2nd place Ebrahim Noroozi (Islamic Republic of Iran); 3rd place Jean-Claude Moschetti (France)
WINNER: Al Bello (United States) for his series Female Pro Baseball Player Succeeds in All Male Pro League
Finalists: 2nd place Andrea Fantini (Italy); 3rd place Nicola Zolin (Italy)
WINNER: Kechun Zhang (China Mainland) for his series The Sky Garden
Finalists: 2nd place Carloman Macidiano Céspedes Riojas (Peru); 3rd place Jagoda Malanin (Poland)
WILDLIFE & NATURE:
WINNER: Corey Arnold (United States) for his series Cities Gone Wild
Finalists: 2nd place Adalbert Mojrzisch (Germany); 3rd place Sriram Mural (India)
To find out more about this year’s winning and finalist projects please visit our online winners galleries
OPEN PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR
The Open competition celebrates the power of a single image. Winning photographs are chosen for their ability to communicate a remarkable visual narrative combined with technical excellence. Chosen from the 10 Open category winners, Dinorah Graue Obscura (Mexico) is Open Photographer of the Year 2023 and the recipient of the $5,000 (USD) cash prize, Sony digital imaging equipment and global exposure.
Graue Obscura won for her arresting image entitled Mighty Pair, entered in the Natural World & Wildlife category. The black and white photograph depicts a pair of crested caracara birds in Southern Texas, perched together upon a branch, and staring fixedly in the same direction. The photographer felt as if the majestic birds of prey were almost posing for the camera, as they sat motionless and identical, gazing out beyond the frame.
Speaking of her win, Graue Osbcura says: ‘It is an absolute honour to receive the Open Photographer of the Year 2023 award. I am absolutely certain that this recognition will contribute to the dissemination of my work as a wildlife photographer, which aims to transmit and show people the beauty I see in Nature. I believe that photography is a very powerful tool that can be used to raise awareness about the fragility of our natural world.’
STUDENT PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR
For this year’s Student competition, students were invited to submit a series of five to 10 images responding to the brief In a Changing World, highlighting positive stories of development and progress from across the globe.
Long Jing (China Mainland) of Yunnan Arts University, has been awarded Student Photographer of the Year, winning Sony digital imaging equipment worth €30,000 for his university. Jing’s winning series Keep the Yunnan Opera goes behind the scenes to show the dwindling groups of performers and spectators of the opera in Yunnan. In vivid colour the series celebrates the multiculturalism of southwestern China reflected in the performances.
Commenting on his win Jing says: ‘A picture is worth a thousand words, and my goal has always been to give warmth to images and to uncover the stories behind them. Being chosen as the Student Photographer of the Year 2023 has given me the confidence to believe that I can create even more warm and engaging works in the future.’
YOUTH PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR
This year entrants to the Youth competition were invited to respond to the theme Your Everyday and share their unique view of the world around them. Selected from a shortlist of 7 photographers under the age of 19, Hai Wang (China Mainland, 17 years-old) is the Youth Photographer of the Year, receiving Sony digital imaging kit and global exposure.
Wang’s winning photograph depicts seemingly endless rows of deserted brightly coloured chairs at a school ceremony cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The strong composition and striking framing highlight the sense of emptiness and give a surreal quality to the image.
Commenting on his win Wang says: ‘I appreciate all the attention and support the public gives to global teenage photographers. As a member of this age group, I can say that we are trying to make a change throughout the world in a brand-new way, to try not to waste a single second of our lives.’
Alessandro Cinque (Italy) is announced as the first-time winner of the Sustainability Prize, receiving a $5,000 cash prize and a presentation of his project as part of the Sony World Photography Awards exhibition in London. This brand new prize, developed in collaboration with the United Nations Foundation and Sony Pictures’ Picture This initiative, recognises the stories, people and organisations whose actions highlight one of the United Nations’ environmental Sustainable Development Goals.
Cinque won for his series Atrapanieblas (Fog Nets) which documents an innovative solution helping to tackle chronic water shortages in Lima, Peru. Cinque shows how fog nets are used to catch droplets of airborne moisture and can collect about 200 litres (53 gallons) of water per day for local residents.
Commenting on his win Cinque said: “I am very honoured and happy to have won this prize. I like to think that, through my photography and thanks to the wide reach of this award, we are helping give a voice to people who struggle daily with water scarcity, a problem that affects more than 40% of the world’s population according to the United Nations. It is important to highlight the efforts in Lima to combat this shortage, in the hope that these stories will stir consciences and that, finally, we will understand the importance of joining together to address climate change and create a fairer world for all.”
OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO PHOTOGRAPHY
This year’s Outstanding Contribution to Photography has been awarded to the celebrated photographer Rinko Kawauchi. One of the most important Japanese photographers working today, Kawauchi has achieved international renown for her intimate and luminous images, capturing ephemeral moments of everyday life.
More than 20 images by the photographer will be shown at the Sony World Photography Awards 2023 exhibition. The selection, made by the artist, spans over two decades of her career and highlights significant milestones and themes across some of her most iconic series: Illuminance (2011), AILA (2004), Utatane (2001), and Ametsuchi (2013).
ADAM FERGUSON | SOLO PRESENTATION
In addition to the work of this year’s overall and category winners the Sony World Photography Awards exhibition features a solo presentation by the 2022 Photographer of the Year winner Adam Ferguson (Australia).
The acclaimed photographer presents a selection of images from his series Silent Wind, Roaring Sky, documenting the remote lives of communities in Australia’s Outback. The exhibition charts repeated journeys deep into rural Australia, revealing a landscape and a community in a state of dramatic transition.