Sony World Photography Awards announce their Youth winners, in a competition open to 19 and under. Three very different categories – Culture, Environment and Portrait – display very different work, with one vital element in common – striking visual drama
The clock is ticking to the World Photography Awards final ceremony on 25 April, where overall winners will be chosen form each category. The Youth category is always fascinating, and increasingly so in a generation of photographers who have been brought up in an age of smartphone cameras, sharing photos and social networking. While the wider impact of smartphone apps and filters is apparent in advertising imagery, is their any evidence of the smartphone aesthetic on this years Youth category winners?
Given the “i am here” image is a default of social sharing, you might expect to see some influence in the Portrait category. But Berta Vicente’s portrait of her two friends Carla and Xenia (see above), is heavily graphic in the colour contrasts, painterly in the framing, even echoing classic religious imagery in the subjects’ pose, and the unexpected canvas of the water. A photo brimming with mystery and vulnerability.
The winner of the Environment category was Xu Wei Shou, with “Nature’s Fightback”, a ghoulish grey image that plays on our attachment to home.
The textures, shadings and shapes of this black and white image bring an intensity of detail that adds to the ominous feel of the image – like the classic haunted house, or Hitchcock’s Bates Motel, a Gothic ecological nightmare as the silvery material creeps up the ‘cliff’.
And finally in the Culture category, Alecsandra Dragoi’s photo of a New Year’s Eve tradition in Romania (see below) is a stop-you-in-your-tracks reminder that while we live in a globalized culture, we shouldn’t assume that the world is the same everywhere. What is universal, across all cultures in folk tales and literature, is the idea of becoming animal, or inhabited by animal spirit. The sight of the man ’emerging’ from the bear’s fur (and the questions provoked by this), looking stunned, with the bear’s face on his shoulder is strikingly odd, even supernatural.
The talent of the category winners has ensured that the Jury’s final decision will be tremendously difficult.