Frederik Buyckx has scooped Photographer of the Year at this year’s Sony World Photography Awards, with a series called Whiteout that explores how nature is transformed by winter. “I have chosen a series of landscapes so that we may return to the essence of looking at photography,” comments Zelda Cheatle, chair of judges at Sony’s World Photography Organisation.
“Landscape is often overlooked but it is central to our existence. I hope this award will inspire many more photographers to take pictures that do not simply encompass the terrible aspects of life in these troubled times but also capture some of the joys and loveliness in each and every environment,” she continues.
Buyckx’s work, which was picked out from 227,00 entries by photographers from 183 countries, was shot in remote areas of the Balkans, Scandinavia and Central Asia, where people often live in isolation and in close contact with nature. “There is a peculiar transformation of nature when winter comes, when snow and ice start to dominate the landscape and when humans and animals have to deal with the extreme weather,” explains the Belgian photographer, who freelances for De Standaard. “The series investigates this struggle against disappearance.”
“I am especially proud of this year’s selection of Photographer of the Year,” comments Scott Gray, CEO of the World Photography Organisation. “In many cases, it is easy to shock but that it can be so tremendously difficult to capture a sophisticated elegance, that really is so beautiful it shows the medium of photography at its best.”
Elsewhere Will Burrard-Lucas won first prize in the Professional Natural World category with a series called African Wildlife at Night. The British photographer is known for creating rigs which allowing him to photograph previously unshootable scenes, and for these images he teamed a camera with a remote-control buggy to take close-up, ground-level photographs in remote West Zambia.
“My aim was to capture never-before-seen images of African wildlife at night,” he says. “The techniques I employed were only made possible by the low-light ability of modern-day digital cameras, and by using remote-control devices such as my BeetleCam.”
“The series is based on wildlife in Africa at night and shows that the world and the act of survival continues after the sun goes down,” says Russ O’Connell, picture editor of The Sunday Times Magazine and one of the judges. “Technically the way the photographer has used the moonlight to silhouette some of the animals is very clever. Some of the images are virtually completely black; then you get a singular outline of light illuminating one side of the animals giving an almost ghostly appearance.”
Sony’s World Photography Awards is divided into amateur and professional categories, and this year the ten finalists for the latter were – Dongni (Architecture); Sabine Cattaneo (Conceptual); Tasneem Alsultan (Contemporary issues); Alessio Romenzi (Current Affairs & News); Sandra Hoyn (Daily Life); Frederik Buyckx (Landscape); Will Burrard-Lucas (Natural World); George Mayer (Portraiture); Henry Agudelo (Still Life); and Yuan Peng (Sport).
Mathilda by Russian photographer Alexander Vinogradov was selected as the best photograph and won the photographer USD$5000 plus the Open Photographer of the Year title. Michelle Daiana Gentile of Escuela de Fotografía Motivarte won the Student Photographer of the Year title, with a stunning series called Only Hope, shot over ten days with workers in an old paper factory in Argentina.
The WPO, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, also recognised Martin Parr at the awards ceremony with an Outstanding Contribution to Photography prize. Parr was recognised for his unique visual language and for pushing the boundaries of the medium, and joins a roster of previous winners that includes Mary Ellen Mark, William Eggleston, Eve Arnold, Bruce Davidson, Marc Riboud, William Klein, and Elliott Erwitt.
A specially-curated exhibition including Parr’s early black-and-white images plus his most iconic shots, books and films will now go on show at London’s Somerset House, along with all the winning and shortlisted images from the Sony World Photography Awards.
The Sony World Photography Awards & Martin Parr – 2017 Exhibition is on show at Somerset House from 21 April – 07 May. Ticket prices start from £7. For more information, visit www.worldphoto.org