In the few years since its inauguration, the Sony World Photography Awards have become one of the world’s premier photographic prizes. The exhibition of this year’s best entries at Somerset House demonstrates why, with a huge range of amazing photography from all over the world.
Split across the two wings of Somerset House, the exhibition includes both professional entries and youth, student and open entries. What strikes you after only a few minutes of walking through the galleries is the sheer number, diversity and stunning excellence of the photos on display.
The professionals are split into various genres, which, although liberally interpreted by the entrants, give some sort of useful context to the viewer. In the Current Affairs category, Salvatore Esposito shows the effects of drug addiction and the influence of the Camorra in Naples. His photos are unrelentingly grim but at the same time beautifully shot; the one of a drug addict about to shoot up in a derelict flat apparently supplied by the Camorra as a shooting gallery really brings home the bleak desperation of these people.
In Contemporary Issues, Alejandro Cegarra uses a documentary style to highlight the plight of squatters in an abandoned tower block in Venezuela. The Architecture category was comparatively disappointing with none of the shortlisted entrants seemingly able to find any beauty in what they shot. On the other hand, the Conceptual entrants provided a fascinating insight into their subects, with Frauke Thielking’s photos of Pollockesque artists’ floors being particularly arresting, and perhaps more interesting than the art itself! In Travel, Christian Vizl was certainly a stand-out entrant with his amazingly vibrant and colourful quadriptych of underwater photographs of Mexican sinkholes.
The amateur entries in the other wing most definitely stand in comparison to the professionals, in fact showcasing even more diversity. Ones to watch here were Tara Matte’s Mirrored, a frank and unflinching self-portrait; Wim Jan Jaak Hermans’ photo of a woman in a small courtyard desperately eking out the last rays of sunshine, and Wolfgang Weinhardt’s stunning Samsara, showing people crossing pontoon bridges seemingly going on to infinity.
It’s an exhibition that rewards lingering and taking your time, with almost too much to see. So much variety is on offer that everyone will find something that will lodge in their memory for a long time.
The Sony World Photography Awards is showing until Sunday 18 May at:
Photo: Alejandro Cegarra, Venezuela, 2014 Sony World Photography Awards.