Sony World Photography Awards 2017 | The Spirit of Human Endurance

Martin Parr / Gourock Lido/ 2004/ From 'A8'

Martin Parr / Gourock Lido/ 2004/ From 'A8'

As the interest and appreciation of photography increases together with enhanced technical development; the Sony World Photography Awards brings with it redefined boundaries, artistic shifts and an abundance of awe inspiring photography. From the 227,000 entries from 183 countries, this immense exhibition features the winning, short listed and commended work from a diverse selection of photographers.

Frederik Buyckx

Frederik Buyckx

This exhibition is an exploration of human identity, an emotional roller-coaster through the beautiful, the uplifting and the heart wrenching. From the sparse work of Belgian Photographer Frederik Buyckx (1st place Landscape category) to the cataclysmic and emotive works by Italy’s Allessio Romenzi. (1st place Current affairs category) The gut wrenching and deplorable subject matter of Romenzi’s work plunges right into the heart of the viewer. We are forced to swallow relentless brutality and come face to face with the horrendous reality that unfolded last year in Libya. From images showing a rising wave of fighters (of the Libyan forces affiliated to the Tripoli government during an) advance against Isis, to soldiers asleep, leaning on their guns in total exhaustion- The impact of devastation is written across the faces of all, including a mother and child, allegedly family members of an Isis militant being taken out of an area of heavy fighting. This is a raw and gob-smacking capture of such current affairs.  

Germany’s Sandra Hoyn (1st place Daily Life Category)  delivers a truly pungent narrative in ‘The Longing for Others’. Images from the Kandapara brothel in the district of Tangail leave us staring into the eyes of broken, trafficked women, all too often clutching at their babies as they are engulfed by the skin of flesh hungry men. Some of these bonded girls are 12-14 years old and will never leave the constraints of the Kandapara brothel.

 Out of all this heartache within the exhibition we are simultaneously pushed to marvel at the enormity of the natural world, the peacefulness and the quiet. We are urged to admire and take stock of the backdrop where all this emotion takes place. Will Burrard- Lucas’s (1st place Natural World category) ‘African Wildlife at Night’ teases us with unrivaled glimpses of wildlife and nocturnal animals within their true element. These incredible night time images were all take in Liuwa Plain National park, a remote area in the west of Zambia, his technique only made possible by the low-light capability of modern day digital cameras.

Will Burrard-Lucas/ African Wildlife at Night

Will Burrard-Lucas/ African Wildlife at Night

More and more we see the boundaries of our creative limits and technical advancement being redefined.  Personal expression and creativity knowing fewer limits as technical innovation catches up with our minds eye.

Similarly Mexico’s Chritain Vizl (3rd place Natural World category) captures otherworldly, underwater images that appear somewhat sci-fi and ultimately enticing.

Christian Vizl/ Mexico 

Christian Vizl/ Mexico 

Also of note was the presence of words within the work of Sabine Cattaneo (1st place Conceptual category) as she bravely approaches the concept of assisted death. The complex narrative wrestles with the sparseness of her photographs- Impending nothingness and final freedom. The thought of mortality, surrounding questions and the abstract notion of choice culminate to see her thought provoking work take 1st place in the conceptual category.

Sabine Cattaneo/ Art 115/ Switzerland

Sabine Cattaneo/ Art 115/ Switzerland

Martin Parr’s (winner of the outstanding contribution to photography prize) exhibit was an antidote to a rather intense array of emotions - a prevailing sense of humour and ever present undercurrent of whit. A much needed light relief from the renowned social commentator as he spoils us with a look at tourism and the sheer comedy of it all.

Martin Parr/ The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Martin Parr/ The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Parr’s inquisitive images, together with his human exploration, audacity and above all the reflective nature of his work are subtle but undoubtedly controversial. His response to the Iraq War was a gold envelope containing a set of photographs of Saddam Hussein watches.

Martin Parr / Mona Lisa

Martin Parr / Mona Lisa

Parr is honored at the exhibition across three rooms showing various aspects of his work. I was delighted to see a selection of handpicked, rarely seen black and white images from Parr’s early career exhibited together with some of the artists most talked about work and posters.

The Sony world photography exhibition showcases and highlights all aspects of the human condition as moments of nature’s artistic splendor are captured in a flash of a bulb, or lack thereof. The whit, the relentless vigor to which we push ourselves, the extreme power we are capable of, the love and the heartache is all present, as is the contradictory nature of the human race but above all we are confronted by the endurance of the human spirit. This is a remarkable exhibition that will push you to your empathetic boundaries and leave you with more questions than answers- exactly how any good show should be.

Words by Spirit de la Mare

With thanks to Somerset House.

The Sony World Photography Awards & Martin

Parr 2017 Exhibition.

21th April | 7th May

Somerset House | London