Climate change, Covid and migrants in focus for Sony World Photography Awards finalists

The photographers going through to the finals within the Professional competition have been announced

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Eccentric architecture in Kazakhstan's capital, dramatic scenes of Trump supporters descending on the US Capitol in January 2021 and the impact of climate change in Bangladesh are all subjects of finalists' work in the Professional category for Sony World Photography Awards 2022.

Finalists and shortlisted photographers have been announced for the Professional competition for the 15th year. These have been chosen based on technical skill and their original approach to contemporary subjects.

The Photographer of the Year 2022 will be chosen from among this pool of finalists and announced on April 12, with a selection of works by winners and shortlisted photographers to be shown at an exhibition in London's Somerset House from April 13 to May 2.

Winners and their subjects

Three finalists were chosen for each of the 10 categories within the Professional competition, and between four and six shortlisted names per subject.

The categories include Architecture and Design, which has Spanish photographer Javier Arcenillas's images of buildings in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, plus Yun Chi Chen from Taiwan, who creates multilayered images to imitate the process of a traditional blueprint or cyanotype, using digital post-production techniques. The third finalist in this category is Domagoj Burilovic from Croatia, who uses photo montage to show how nature has reclaimed the houses of Slavonia.

In the Documentary Projects category, Germany's Fabian Ritter submitted The Long Days of Hanau, which documents the aftermath of racist attacks in the city of Hanau on February 19, 2020. Danish photojournalist Jan Grarup was also put through to the finals for his documentation of the poverty of Venezuelans living in Colombia, alongside US news photographer Win McNamee who captured scenes from the US Capitol early last year.

Giacomo d'Orlando, from Italy, meanwhile, documents the world's first underwater greenhouse for the Environment category, while South Africa's Gideon Mendel portrayed people in gutted buildings after wildfires in Greece, Canada and the US. Japan's Shunta Kimura rounds out this category's finalist list with an exploration of the impact of climate change in Bangladesh, where the population contends with the effects of river erosion, landslides and rising salinity levels.

Climate change was a major focus in this group, as evidenced in British photographer Raphael Neal, D'Orlando and Kimura's work, but also that of Andrius Repsys, from Lithuania, who in Solar Graphic captured sustainable energy sources during a winter of unseasonably heavy snowfall, reducing them to graphic abstractions. Neal also created New Waves for the Creative category. The series juxtaposes scenes of climate change with teenagers' portraits, highlighting the consequences to be experienced by those most affected by them.

Covid-19 was the subject of UK photographer Hugh Fox, who, for his Portfolio series captured quiet moments in daily life with family and friends during the pandemic.

Human issues were also at the fore, such as in Australian photojournalist Adam Ferguson's work for the Portraiture category, Migrantes, a series of self-portraits of migrants in Mexico waiting to cross the US border. Documentarian Brent Stirton, from South Africa, captured bushmeat hunters in the same category.

Within the region, Khalid Najib from Palestine was shortlisted in the Architecture and Design category while three Iranian photographers — Mehdi Mohebi Puor, Majid Hojjati and Sara Goli — were shortlisted in the Environment, Landscape and Portfolio categories respectively.

'Humbling and energising'

More than 340,000 images from 211 territories were submitted to the Sony World Photography Awards this year, with more than 156,000 entered for the Professional competition specifically, the highest number of entries in the history of the awards.

The standard of work in the Professional competition surprised me in its depth and variety
Mike Trow, chair of the Sony World Photography Awards 2022 jury

The works were judged by a panel that included Rahaab Allana, a curator and publisher from New Delhi, Richmond Orlando Mensah, founder and creative director of art and culture platform Manju Journal from Ghana, Brazilian artist, curator and postdoc researcher Angela Ferreira, and Deborah Klochko, executive director and chief curator of the Museum of Photographic Arts, from San Diego, US.

Independent curator and photo editor Mike Trow was chairman of the jury. "The Sony World Photography Awards 2022 finalists and shortlist are as diverse, challenging and, I believe, as powerful as ever," he said.

"The standard of work in the Professional competition surprised me in its depth and variety. At points, we all may have felt that the ongoing Covid crisis meant that the world had shut down but when reviewing these projects it is clear nothing could be further from the truth. To have the chance to see so much work from across the world is both humbling and energising."

What are the Sony World Photography Awards?

Established by the World Photography Organisation, the prestigious free-to-enter awards aim to be a global voice for photography and recognise the world’s most influential artists working in the medium through the Outstanding Contribution to Photography Award. This year, the title goes to Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky, joining past recipients such as Martin Parr, William Eggleston, Candida Hofer, Nadav Kander, Gerhard Steidl and Graciela Iturbide.

Updated: February 22, 2022, 1:43 PM