Interpreting Our World

Pastel skylines. Otherworldly plant life. Portraits brimming with emotion. The World Photography Organisation reveals this year’s Professional finalists and shortlist for the Sony World Photography Awards. It’s a line-up which, as the Jury explains, reveals “the importance of photography in interpreting our world, bringing vital humanitarian, environmental and emotional issues to the fore.” Working across landscape, portraiture and architecture, many of the 2022 shortlist respond to tensions between humanity and nature – whilst occupying the complex spaces in-between. Discover a selection of images below.

Landscape | Jonas Daley

“Orogeny” is the primary mechanism by which mountains are formed on continents. A photographer from China, Jonas Daley captures red rock systems developed during the Jurassic and Tertiary geologic periods, formed in the Himalayan orogeny. “With the uplift of the Earth’s crust, the hillside retreated – mainly through the collapse process,” Daley explains. “The remaining red sandstone has formed strange, isolated rocks and stones after long-term weathering, exfoliation and water erosion.”

Creative | Raphaël Neal

UK-based Raphaël Neal pairs cinematic portraits of teenagers with landscape imagery. The diptychs are steeped in narratives of the climate crisis, evoking heatwaves, wildfires or floods. “‘Danger’ and ‘beauty’ were the two words I kept in mind,” the artist explains. Notably, several of the subjects are young activists. “I wanted to show the different attitudes of today’s youth: some look defiant and strong, but others are frightened. I didn’t want to show this ultra-combative vision of youth that exists.”

Architecture & Design | Serena Dzenis

“Do you think that the first space colony created by mankind will happen during your lifetime?” asks Australian photographer Serena Dzenis. “Technology has advanced so quickly over the past few years. In the overall scheme of things, we are just a flash in the pan and yet we have done so much to change our planet. Humankind is leaving a lasting impact on Earth.” Taken in Iceland during the pandemic, these dreamlike, pastel-toned compositions transform industrial towers into otherworldly constructions.

Wildlife & Nature | Oana Baković

Romanian artist Oana Baković presents hyperreal depictions of flowers and plants. In the above image, bright purple petals stand out against an endless sea of lurid green stems. Taken from intriguing, low-down perspectives, Baković offers a fresh take on floral photography. The results are almost alien, highlighting the natural world from the inside. Seemingly small plants become towering giants in front of Baković’s lens, rendered in rich and saturated colour palettes.

Landscape | Majid Hojjati

“Mountains, forests, plains and clear blue skies are all creations that come to mind when we hear the word ‘life’,” says Iranian photographer Majid Hojjati, who captures such scenes as found on billboards across the region. Positioned in front of snowy peaks, clusters of trees and blue skies, they’re a symbol of human intervention in the landscape. More widely, the series asks questions about post-truth and idealism: the picture-postcards remind us that what we’re looking at is, put simply, an image of an image.

Landscape | Gareth Iwan Jones

“This project was born of the Covid-19 lockdowns and their impact upon my work as a portrait photographer,” explains Gareth Iwan Jones, who was inspired by Wiltshire during the pandemic. “The distinctive landscape features many knolls with lone trees raised above the horizon line. Unable to photograph people, I turned to my love of trees. I chose to photograph against dusk skies and lit the trees with drones to create an otherworldly impression.”

Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition, 13 April – 2 May 2022, Somerset House, London

Words: Eleanor Sutherland

Image Credits:
1. © Majid Hojjati, Iran, Islamic Republic Of, Shortlist, Professional competition, Landscape, Sony World Photography Awards 2022
2. © Jonas Daley, China Mainland, Shortlist, Professional competition, Landscape, Sony World Photography Awards 2022
3. © Raphaël Neal, United Kingdom, Finalist, Professional competition, Creative, Sony World Photography Awards 2022
4. © Serena Dzenis, Australia, Shortlist, Professional competition, Architecture & Design, Sony World Photography Awards 2022
5. © Oana Baković, Romania, Finalist, Professional competition, Wildlife & Nature, Sony World Photography Awards 2022
6. © Majid Hojjati, Iran, Islamic Republic Of, Shortlist, Professional competition, Landscape, Sony World Photography Awards 2022
7. © Gareth Iwan Jones, United Kingdom, Finalist, Professional competition, Landscape, Sony World Photography Awards 2022