Around the world, people from many different cultures are struggling to find their place in the modern world. These winning images perfectly capture their intensity and vulnerability, whether it be someone trying to provide for their family or a refugee simply seeking stability.
The Sony World Photography Awards recently honored these overall and first-place winning images in several professional categories, not to be confused with the first-place winners in the open categories announced in March.
British photographer Alys Tomlinson is the overall winner for her series entitled "Ex-Voto." Her photos illustrate offerings of religious devotion at pilgrimage sites in Lourdes (France), Ballyvourney (Ireland) and Grabarka (Poland). The photos take a variety of angles on the subject, from formal portraits to still-lifes of objects left behind or even the places marked by the pilgrims' presence, like the house pictured above.
"Often placed anonymously and hidden from view, pilgrims leave ex-votos as expressions of hope and gratitude, creating a tangible narrative between faith, person and the landscape," Tomlinson said in her submission. "People and landscape merge as place, memory and history entwine."
The other first-place category winners are listed below.
First place: Current Affairs & News
Malaysian photographer Mohd Samsul Mohd Said visited a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh.
"Ethnic Rohingya in Rakhine state has taken a turn for the worse," Said wrote. "More than 400 houses were burnt, and within this two weeks, nearly 125,000 Rohingya refugees left Myanmar for Bangladesh. International organizations have reported claims of human rights violations."
First place: Natural World & Wildlife
Italian photographer Roselena Ramistella's series entitled "Deepland" chronicles her journey through Sicily, highlighting "the economic crisis, high unemployment rate that forces young Sicilians from small rural communities back to their lands and working in agriculture."
This photo shows a young man named Luigi who tirelessly works his family's farm while trying to save money so his fiancé may move to Sicily to be with him.
"Due to the economic crisis, many people are moving back to the countryside," Ramistella said. "especially the young, who have chosen to react to this difficult historical moment by working the land, planting local crops and breeding livestock, creating a new rural economy."
First place: Contemporary Issues
Swedish photographer Fredrik Lerneryd captures the fragile beauty of a group of young dancers in a dance studio in the slums of Kibera, Kenya.
"Every Wednesday at Spurgeons Academy, a school in the middle of the indecipherable maze of Kibera's narrow streets and alleys, students take the chairs and benches out of a classroom and sweep the floor. The school uniforms are switched to bright-colored clothes. When teacher Mike Wamaya enters the classroom, the students get into position and place one hand on the concrete wall as though it were a ballet bar. Classical music plays out of a small portable speaker, and the class begins," said Lerneryd.
"The dance is a way for the children to express themselves and it strengthens their confidence in life, and a belief that they can become something great."
First place: Creative
French photographer Florian Ruiz traveled to Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, the site of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster that followed a tsunami and earthquake in 2011. His series entitled "The white contamination" highlights "the invisible pain of radiation."
"Inspired by the drawings of Japanese engravings, I hoped to capture the fleeting moments, the ever-shifting perceptions of nature, where radiation accumulates the most," said Ruiz.
First place: Portraiture
British photographer Tom Oldham's series intimately follows the dying trend of a British crooners, those once-ubiquitous pub singers who sang jazz standards in many local pubs.
Oldham said one of the last pubs in England to have "crooners" perform is the family owned Palm Tree in Bow — "with the rigid commitment of consistently hosting guest singers, three times every single weekend for over forty years."
First place: Landscape
Italian photographer Luca Locatelli visited Torano's "marble valley" in the Italian Alps, an area he said is "one of Italy’s most marble-rich area, where the abundance is surreal."
In his submission, Locatelli went into vivid detail about the natural process of creating marble. "What we admire as pristine white stone was born hundreds of millions of years ago in overwhelming darkness. Countless generations of tiny creatures lived, died and drifted slowly to the bottom of a primordial sea, where their bodies were slowly compressed by gravity, layer upon layer, until eventually they all congealed and petrified into the interlocking white crystals we know as marble. Some eons later, tectonic jostling raised a great spine of mountains in southern Europe.
First place: Still Life
Portuguese photographer Edgar Martins' still-life photo may seem simplistic in nature, but his series holds a great deal of meaning to him.
Entitled "Siloquies and Soliloquies on Death, Life and Other Interludes," his photos were taken at the National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences in Portugal, which houses "forensic evidence, such as suicide notes, letters and other objects used in suicides and crimes as well as inherent in the work of the pathologist."
"The images here included represent a variety of suicide letters written by individuals who took their own lives," said Martins. "The work explores the tension between revelation and concealment questioning, amongst other things, the ethical implications of representing and divulging sensitive material of this nature."
First place: Architecture
Italian photographer Gianmaria Gava series "Buildings" was taken in Vienna, Austria.
"When functional elements have been removed, the constructions appear as pure geometrical solid shapes," said Gava. "As such, they seem uninhabitable. Nevertheless, these buildings arise questions about the function and accessibility of architecture in both the public and private space."
The Sony World Photography Awards will begin accepting submissions for the 2019 awards on June 1, 2018.