Home » Who won the Sony World Photography Awards, and why

Who won the Sony World Photography Awards, and why

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Who won the Sony World Photography Awards, and why

The forced sterilization of Greenlandic women in the 1960s and 1970s, the radioactive steppes of Kazakhstan, the stories of violence and redemption of the women of the British South Asian community. These are some of the difficult, touching and profound themes that the finalist photographers of the Sony World Photography Awards 2024 they addressed with their visual stories and images.

The spiral campaign

The coveted photographer of the year award, which turns seventeen this year, went to Juliette Pavy, young French photographer still little known, who won over the jury of the World Photography Organization with an intense and current story. The project is called “Spiralkampagnen: Forced Contraception and Unintended Sterilization of Greenlandic Women” and is a documentary photographic investigation exploring the serious and lasting consequences of the involuntary birth control campaign conducted by Danish authorities in Greenland in the 1960s and 1970s to the detriment of thousands of Inuit women.

©Juliette Pavy

The series uses different photographic formats, from urban shots of the city of Nuuk, Greenland, and local healthcare locations to old x-ray images, through archive photos of the young women involved, recent images of the victims and portraits of the doctors who operated in Greenland during and after the program.

Despite not being the one with the highest visual impact and despite images that require a strong narrative and textual accompaniment, Pavy’s project won over the jury for the power of the story that the photographer was able to find, investigate and tell, albeit in a treats a little harsh.

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The Italian winner

Much more “graphic” instead the “Flora” project by Federico Scarchilli. The only Italian winner of the category prize (Still Life section), Scarchilli has created diptychs between rare medicinal plants and the drugs derived from them and which are used in oncological treatments or pain therapy. By placing side by side the still lifes of plants that he has grown at home and the digitally processed images of the derived pharmaceutical product, Scarchilli succeeds in a convincing visual dialogue that makes us reflect on the way in which we relate to nature.

©Federico Scarchilli, 2024

Portraits and Landscapes

Also very worthy of mention, in our opinion, are two other winning projects in the Portraits and Landscape professional categories. The first is by Valery Poshtarov, a Bulgarian photographer who systematically collected anthropological images portraits of dozens of couples of fathers and children in Bulgaria, Georgia, Turkey, Armenia, Serbia, and Greece. In the photos the subjects hold hands, underlining the bond between generations with a strong component of visual poetics.

© Valery Poshtarov, 2024

In the Landscape section The project The Sacrifice Zone by Eddo Hartmann won instead. The Dutch photographer visited remote areas of Kazakhstan where the Soviet Union conducted hundreds of nuclear tests, of which radioactive traces still remain today. Thanks to the intelligent use of infrared photography, Hartmann transformed the green of the steppe grass into an unnatural pink that symbolizes and evokes the radioactive contamination of the “sacrificial zone”, which remains invisible to the naked eye.

©Eddo Hartmann, 2024

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The lifetime achievement award to Salgado

In addition to the category awards for professionals and amateurs in the Open category, each year the Sony World Photography Award also awards a major prize “for outstanding contribution to photography”. This year the photographer chosen for the equivalent of the Oscar for photographic career is Sebastião Salgado.

©Andrea Nepori 2024

Known for his evocative reportage photographs and black and white nature images, Salgado is now also famous for his environmental activism. During a meeting with the press before the awards gala, Salgado talked about his evolution, from when in 1973 he decided to abandon his job as an economist to embrace photography, up until his choice to found the ecologist organization Instituto with his wife Lelia Earth.

“To anyone who wants to become a good photographer”, said Salgado, “I recommend going back to studying economics, anthropology, sociology. You need to know the world and the way in which it is transformed by the intervention of man, and then go where the changes happen. It is only by being there, present, that one can take photography.”

Forty selected shots by the great photographer are visible in a personal section of the exhibition of the finalists of the Sony World Photography Awards 2024. It can be visited at Somerset House in London until 9 May.

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