I arrive at Somerset House in the blistering sunshine, passing the Courtauld Gallery currently exhibiting Picasso’s early paintings and arrive at the West Wing Galleries to the right of the courtyard where I have been invited to the preview of the Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition.
I am greeted by the event organisers and a lot of other people with swanky, high-tech cameras. Photos are being taken before we have even got into the exhibition. I feel on display.
As one tour finishes, another one starts. Michael Benson, from Candlestar Ltd and curator of the Exhibition gives a short introduction and points out three shortlisted photographers who will be joining us on the tour, and so we embark.
In the intimate exhibition space of the West Wing Galleries – formerly a tax office – the white light rooms couldn’t have a more diverse display of international photography. The rooms are divided into categories including professional and open competition entries. Photographs everywhere ‘familiar yet strange.’
The photographs that stood out were Jens Juul’s ‘Six Degrees of Copenhagen’, a series of black and white photos worked on the basis that the individual he snaps on camera will then suggest someone in their circle of family or friends who can then be photographed by him and so on. The result is a striking connection between figures that you wouldn’t necessary expect to be associated with each other.
The concept behind Alice Pavesi Fiori’s photographs intrigued me; the way that we all have expectations for our lives, whether that be to have a baby, get married, be promoted or even for something less life-changing, and the misty haze in these melancholic shots capture the waiting that we do everyday all the time for those expectations to be met. Ernest Goh’s photographs of chickens also provided for amusing viewing!
The walls in one room are entirely dedicated to William Eggleston, winner of the Outstanding contribution to photography. The all-American photos look eerily still. Through a rather speedy tour, I knew I would need to revisit each of the rooms.
The tour had ended and we were left to disperse ourselves, where I stumbled across Lin Chun Chung’s photo and literally gasped. My brain was going: How is this image made possible?! The image shows a bull-runner who is practically doing the splits as they try to reign in two running bulls – which are going in opposite directions –grasping the bull’s by their tails. It turns out the Taiwan photographer won first place for it in the National Award category. A woman had noticed my astounded reaction for she came up to me and asked me if I like the picture? I said ‘yes, it was really the only photograph that has forced me to draw breath.’ She then replied ‘Well, this is his image’ whilst pointing at a man I had not noticed behind me. I was so excited by this coincidence that I continued to voice my feelings to him of how impressed I was. It was then that I realised he didn’t speak English and the woman then translated my words of praise. When I asked how he managed to capture the image, the woman replied that Lin Chun Chung travelled in the sweltering heat to witness this annual, cultural festival held in a village in Indonesia and waited most part of the day to capture it. From my perspective, and no doubt from his and many others, it was well worth the, in hindsight, rather short wait.
As the clock fast-forwards to 7pm, I am now changed into a peplum dress ready for the official awards ceremony announcing all the winners of the Sony World Photography Exhibition Awards. Strolling down a red carpet outside the Hilton hotel in Park Lane, this is a glitzy and glam event.
All of the photographers are here to receive their trophy and have been shipped in from all over the world. A staggering 10,000 (approx) entries this year has made the Sony awards one of the largest and most well-recognised photography awards in the world and competition is fierce.
It was Andrea Gjestvang from Norway who won the prestigious L’Iris d’Or Award for her series of photographs depicting the young survivors of the Utoeya massacre in July 2011.
There are too many to mention, but one thing is for sure; photographs, like art have the capacity to give us a new perspective from a world that is our own, so that it appears ‘familiar but strange.’