The Sony World Photography Awards are just about to ring in their fifth year this Thursday (April 26th), when guests and judges gather at the awards ceremony to pick out winning photographers from a myriad of categories. In a similar fashion to the National Geographic's Photography Contest and heavier photojournalism of the World Press Photo Organisation, the SWPAs are a chance for both budding and established photographers to showcase their work on an international stage.
The winning shots will be exhibited at Somerset House from Friday April 27th until Sunday May 20th (so there'll be the chance for us to pop round and see if any of our predictions make the final cut), as several aren't available currently to view online. In any case, here are our choices from a selection of categories within the Professional Competition spanning portaiture, current affairs and more.
main image: Image 09 by Amit Madhesyiha, 1st place winner of Arts & Culture competition in 2011.
Mady & Monette 01
Let's start things off with the category that beginner photographers could most easily get into: the art of photographing people. This isn't quite the same as portraiture, though this particular entry walks that line narrowly in a way that we enjoy.
Pictured, and shot in Paris by Swedish lens-carrier Maja Daniels, are twins Mady and Monette. Maja used to see them perusing the local fruit and vegetable market in her neighbourhood, and when she approached them at last discovered the twins not only dress identically but often refer to themselves in the singular first person, acting, modelling and dancing as a couple for a living. Their delicate frames and almost otherworldly physical bond are effortlessly captured here, in the simple and well-framed shot.
Nature & Wildlife
There's something so charming about this photo that makes us return to it, time and time again. Given that it's in the Nature and Wildlife category, it also makes us smile a little because the only live animal shown is a human.
Photographer David Chancellor (winner of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize in 2010) shot a series of Texan hunters from the Dallas Safari Club, documenting them going about their daily activities surrounded by the fruits of their hunting labour. It's an unexpected twist on a nature shot, and one that demonstrates excellent balance within the frame and well-delivered lighting.
This photo, simply entitled 008, comes from photographer Alessandro Grassani. It was taken in March 2011 in Mongolia's Arkhangai province, where he observed the daily struggles felt by one family (the Tsambas) when confronted with some of the harshest winters in the area's history. Known as a 'dzud', an exceptionally snowy winter has the power to decimate the livestock populations that most rural families rely on for day-to-day survival.
Here Grassani has captured the sombre sight of one of the area's inhabitants tugging a sheep's dead body across the snow-blanketed fields that were its demise. The photo captures not only the sadness of the task, but the inherent banality and practicality with which it's being carried out: this sort of scene has become the norm for the people of Arkhangai.
Mitch Dobrowner's Storm Over Field is our pick in the Landscape category for Professional entrants. A photographer currently based in California, Dobrowner has made somewhat of a name for himself as a lover of American Southwest landscapes and nature obsessive.
In this particular frame, he's managed to snap the brewing of a storm in South Dakota that somehow conveys a sense of silence in such a tumultuous scene. Since leaving his Long Island roots in his early twenties Dobrowner's desire to reinject an appreciation of nature in all of its forms has largely informed his work, and shines through in this well-composed and tricky shot.
Battle for Libya
Finally, our pick for this category came from a hugely talented photographer who tragically lost his life covering violent civil unrest in Homs, Syria. Rémi Ochlik was killed alongside Sunday Times correspondent Marie Colvin in February in a shelling incident in their safe house, but in his short lifetime shot some of the most arresting and brutal images depicting wartime and conflict in Haiti, Tunisia and the Democratic Repulbic of Congo.
This stark shot of Colonel Gaddafi's body, refridgerated for public viewings in the days after his death, illustrates two sides to the dynamic of regime change. The violence, of course, is depicted but placed alongside a rare glimpse at Gaddafi in his most vulnerable and basic state: a bare torso, which could be the body of any other citizen of his country. It strips back a layer of the dictator's facade never seen before, and resonates as one of the strongest images fromthe Arab Spring.
Have a dig through the galleries yourself and let us know which photos catch your eye.