Sony World Photography Awards 2023 winners announced, including Marisol Mendez, Federico Kaplan and Edgar Martins

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All images © Marisol Mendez and Monty Kaplan

Mendez and Kaplan win in the Environment category with their project Miruku, while Martins is named Photographer of the Year

The winners of the annual Sony World Photography Awards were announced at a special ceremony in London last night. Marisol Mendez and Federico Kaplan, who entered as a duo, took first prize in the Environment category. Their project, Miruku, explores the intersection of climate vulnerability and gender inequality through a series of images of an indigenous community in La Guajira, Colombia, experiencing a devastating water shortage.

The series was commissioned by WaterAid and British Journal of Photography as part of the WaterAid Climate Commission, which explores how the climate crisis is making it harder for people to access their basic human rights of clean water, decent sanitation and personal hygiene – especially in some of the world’s poorest countries. Other projects created as part of the commission include Wata Na Life by Ngadi Smart in Sierra Leone, and Once Beating Heart by Calvin Chow in Cambodia.

“Photographically, we wanted to balance the harsh reality with the resilience of the people – they are beams of hope in this difficult situation”

“It was important to us from the beginning to talk about this problem without shying away from how harsh it is,” Mendez told BJP last year. “Sometimes our experience as Latin Americans is very sugar-coated. People portray it exotically.”

The duo’s approach veered away from traditional documentary, resulting in poetic and multifaceted imagery. The pair’s individual styles differ, a contrast which echoes the nuance and diversity of life among the Wayuu people and the complexity of the issues caused by access to clean water. 

“Although all the Wayuu are facing water shortages, it manifests differently in every community, for instance, because of variations in terrain – some places have easier access to well water than others,” Mendez explains. “Photographically, we wanted to balance the harsh reality with the resilience of the people – they are beams of hope in this difficult situation.”

Miruku was chosen from a record-breaking number of entries, with more than 180,000 images submitted to the professional competition alone. Now in its 16th year, the Sony World Photography Awards recognises exceptional work that demonstrates both technical skill and an original approach to storytelling. More than 415,000 images from over 200 countries and territories were submitted this year, with a selection of images by finalists and shortlisted photographers set to be exhibited at Somerset House, London, until 01 May. 

Each year, an overall winner, termed Photographer of the Year, is selected from the complete list of finalists. Portuguese artist Edgar Martins, who entered via the portraiture category with his project Our War, received this year’s accolade. Rinko Kawauchi will also be honoured with the Outstanding Contribution to Photography award. For the first time this year, there is also a Sustainability Prize, won by Alessandro Cinque.

To find out more about the awards and winners in other categories, head to the website

Izabela Radwanska Zhang

Starting out as an intern back in 2016, Izabela Radwanska Zhang is now the Editorial Director of British Journal of Photography in print and online. Her words have appeared in Disegno and Press Association. Prior to this, she completed a MA in Magazine Journalism at City University, London, and most recently, a Postgrad Certificate in Graphic Design at London College of Communication.