The winners of the 2023 Sony World Photography Awards have been announced, with Edgar Martins named as Photographer of the Year for his series, Our War.
The project is an homage to Martins’ friend, photojournalist Anton Hammerl, who was shot and killed during the Libyan Civil War in 2011.
Martins chose to reflect on the question: how does one tell a story when there is no witness, no testimony, no evidence, no subject?
“It is a huge honour to be recognised – and although I am philosophical about awards and the subjective nature of someone’s choice, knowing that there were over 180,000 entries to this year’s Professional competition is very humbling,” says Martins.
“In this case, it is also quite an emotional experience because I get to honour my friend on a world stage and bring attention to the family’s plight to find his remains.”
Martins’ work triumphed in the Portraiture category of the Professional competition.
Here are the other category winners, alongside comments from the photographers.
Architecture & Design
“Tieshan cement factory is located in Guilin City in Guangxi, south China.
“The factory was built in 1996 and played an important role in Guilin’s economic development and urban construction.
“However, because it was originally located in the Li River scenic area, the cement factory has now been relocated, leaving behind the old buildings, water towers, pools and railway tracks.”
The Right to Play by Lee-Ann Olwage
“The Right to Play creates a playful world where girls are shown in an empowered and affirming way.
“For this project, I worked with girls from Kakenya’s Dream in Enoosaen, Kenya, who have avoided FGM [Female genital mutilation] and child marriage – showing what the world can look like when girls are given the opportunity to continue learning in an environment that supports them and their dreams.”
The Women’s Peace Movement in Congo by Hugh Kinsella Cunningham
“Nearly 20 years on from a conflict that killed five million people and upended tenfold more lives, the Democratic Republic of Congo is once again sliding into chaos.
“Pairing rare visuals of the front lines with portraits and in-depth stories from women, this long-term project follows activists as they mobilise.
“While media crews come in briefly to shoot scenes of war and displacement, I have spent many months in hard-to-access areas, covering conflict and documenting the slow work of peace from a unique perspective.”
Miruku by Marisol Mendez & Federico Kaplan
“Miruku focuses on the Wayuus, an indigenous community from La Guajira, Colombia’s coastal desert.
“Commissioned by 1854/British Journal of Photography and WaterAid, the project examines how a combination of climate change issues and human negligence have led its various members to experience a stifling water shortage.
“We framed the story from a female perspective to get a better understanding of how gender inequality and climate vulnerability interrelate.”
Event Horizon by Kacper Kowalski
“At the start of winter, I set out on a journey in search of harmony.
“When I could, I flew over frozen bodies of water, fascinated by their icy forms.
“Between January and March I made 76 solo flights in a gyrocopter or a motorised paraglider, covering approximately 10,000 kilometres (6,200 miles), spending 200 hours in the air.
“My photographs were taken above bodies of water near Tricity in northern Poland.”
“This portfolio was shot in the first half of 2022 in Saudi Arabia, where I was based at the time.
“Given more time, I think these pictures would have fallen into more defined projects or narratives, perhaps relating to the large migrant worker and expat population (of which I was part), or Saudi car culture.
“As it is, I believe this collection shows my style and technique as a photographer – there is no deliberate connection between the images, other than I was searching for special photographs that could eventually develop into projects.”
The Sky Garden by Kechun Zhang
“Three years ago I settled down in Wenjiang and there is a tree nursery within walking distance of my home.
“Exotic trees and rocks from all over the world can be seen there, including Japanese black pines and maple trees.
“There are workers lifting these trees and rocks with mobile cranes every day, transporting them and planting them in newly-built parks, neighbourhoods or streets in the city.
“I walk through the woods and take photographs when the trees and rocks are being lifted into the air. Together, these images create the Sky Garden series.”
Female Pro Baseball Player Succeeds in All Male Pro League by Al Bello
“Kelsie Whitmore is the first female professional baseball player to play in an all-male pro league.
“She plays outfield and pitches for the Staten Island Ferryhawks in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.
“Her debut in the Atlantic League was as a pinch runner and she became the first woman to start an Atlantic League game, when she played as a left fielder.
“Later, she was the first woman to pitch in an Atlantic League game – and on 3 September 2022, Kelsie became the first woman to record a hit in association with major league baseball.”
Wildlife & Nature
Cities Gone Wild by Corey Arnold
“Cities Gone Wild is an exploration of three savvy animals – black bears, coyotes and raccoons – that survive, and even thrive, in the human-built landscape while other animals are disappearing.
“I tracked these animals in cities across America to reveal a more intimate view of how wildlife is adapting to increased urbanisation.”
The Open competition celebrates the power of single images.
Dinorah Graue Obscura has been named Open Photographer of the Year 2023 for her photograph titled Mighty Pair, entered in the Natural World & Wildlife category.
The image shows two crested caracara birds, on a tree branch in southern Texas, USA.
Long Jing, of Yunnan Arts University, has been awarded Student Photographer of the Year 2023 for his series titled Keep the Yunnan Opera.
Jing went behind the scenes to show the dwindling groups of performers and spectators at performances in southwest China.
Hai Wang, also from China, won Youth Photographer of the Year 2023 for an image on the theme, Your Everyday.
The photograph depicts rows of brightly-coloured, empty chairs set up for a school ceremony which was cancelled because of the Covid pandemic.
Alessandro Cinque is announced as the first-time winner of the Sustainability Prize.
This brand new prize, developed in collaboration with the United Nations Foundation and Sony Pictures’ Picture This initiative, recognises the stories, people and organisations whose actions highlight one of the United Nations’ environmental Sustainable Development Goals.
Cinque won for his series Atrapanieblas (Fog Nets), which documents an innovative solution helping to tackle chronic water shortages in Lima, Peru.
An exhibition of the winners and shortlisted images takes place at Somerset House, London from 14 April to 1 May 2023.