somerset house

Thoughts on the Sony World Photography exhibition

After my slightly disappointing press view of the Sony World Photography Awards exhibition, when I didn't have the opportunity to take in the photos, I made a return trip to Somerset House yesterday to rectify this situation. I had much more time to wander through both the East and West Wings, admiring the images and pontificating on the judges' choices. Visiting an exhibition that has cherry-picked from vast numbers of photos submitted from across the globe by both amateur and professional photographers gives you the chance to look for trends and fashions, garner some inspiration, and importantly, look through a window into other people's worlds. I enjoyed my saunter through the rooms and Sara Naomi Lewkowicz's l'Irs d'Or winning series Shane and Maggie stands out a mile. I loved Sophie Gamand's wet dogs, which won the portrait prize, Guy Martin's photos from the Gezi Square protests told a defiant story, and I was drawn to the deep and dark photos in Salvatore Di Gregorio's series An Old Fight, which won the sport prize.

Winner of l'Iris d'Or: Sara Naomi Lewkowicz for her series 'Shane and Maggie'. 'Shane and Maggie' attempts to show domestic vilence as a process, as opposed to a single incident.  (Sara Naomi Lewkowicz (USA) Finalist, Contemporary Issues Professional Competition 2014 Sony World Photography Awards)

What, though, were my overwhelming thoughts and questions as I left the exhibition?

The professional category was dominated by black and white images. That is a comment made as neither praise nor criticism, merely as an observation. It is worth noting, however, that l'Iris d'Or winning series comprised colour images and that the photos that have stuck with me are those shot in colour. Maybe it is because they were my preferred shots, or perhaps it is because their colour makes them stand out amongst the monochrome, but it does pay to be different.

Protesters against the government of Tayip Erdogan and his plans for a shopping mall and pedestrianised area in the centre of Instanbul - Guy Martin (UK) Current Affairs Professional Competition, 2014 Sony World Photography Awards

Writing of daring to be different, I think I might've reached Indonesian cow-racing photo saturation point. It's a stunning spectacle that produces stunning images, but there have been examples in the professional or open categories for at least the last three years. It's almost as if their inclusion has become obligatory. I'd appreciate being able to gaze upon something new in future years.

Salvatore Di Gregorio, Italy, Winner, Sport, Professional Competition, 2014 Sony World Photography Awards

Finally, I was surprised by the profusion of manipulated images in the open category. From HDR, to composites, to painterly-type blending, it had it all, and this extended beyond the 'Enhanced' division, which is devoted to manipulated images. As the author of a book on surreal photography, this might be regarded as an unusual comment, but it does present some important questions. First, how much manipulation is too much manipulation? Second, to what degree is photo-manipulation now regarded as an acceptable element of photography? And consequently, at which point does a comeptition become one of photo-manipulation rather than photography? All of these are questions for another day, but ones to ponder.

Wet Dog 2, Sophie Gamand (France) Portraiture Competition, 2014 Sony World Photography Awards

The exhibition runs until Sunday (18 May), and if you have to be in London or its environs, it's worth an hour or so to take it in. I'd love to know what you think.

Sony World Photography Awards exhibition, Somerset House, London, until 18 May 2014.

William Eggleston: Outstanding Contribution to Photography

Untitled. 1971-1974 from Los Alamos - minnows sign

Regarded as one of the pioneers leading to the acceptance of colour photography as an artistic medium, William Eggleston is this year being recognised for his outstanding contribution to photography at the Sony World Photography Awards.

Born in 1939 in Memphis, Eggleston picked up his first camera, a Canon rangefinder, in 1957. His experiments with colour started in 1965 and his great breakthrough, and that of colour photography, came in 1976 when the Museum of Modern Art, New York, exhibited his first solo collection of colour photographs. Colour photography had moved from the realm of advertising to the world of art.

Astrid Merget, Creative Director of the World Photography Organisation says of Eggleston: 'William Eggleston is a without a doubt, one of the great pioneers of our time. His influence on colour photography and subsequently on many of today's most revered working photographers, is one to be admired, respected and awarded.'

The Wilson Centre for Photography has loaned a selection of Eggleston's prints for display at Somerset House as part of the 2013 Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition from 26 April to 12 May 2013. The majority of these prints are from his Los Alamos and Dust Bells series and the 10.D.70.V1 portfolio and were taken between 1965 and 1980.

Mr Eggleston's award will be presented to him on Thursday 25 April at the 2013 Sony World Photography Awards Gala Ceremony.

Images are copyright Eggleston Artistic Trust and courtesy of Gagosian Gallery.

Photos from the finalists - The Sony World Photography Awards

Bolted. Adam Pretty, Australia, Finalist, Sport (Getty Images)

The Sony World Photography Awards' list of finalists for 2013 was announced this morning. The juries have narrowed down their selections from 122,000 entries from 170 countries. The Youth and Open category winners will be revealed on 19 March; the professional winners, together with the winner of L'Iris d'Or will be unveiled at a ceremony in London 25 April.

I've chosen a selection of my favourite images from the professional category here, but you can browse many more over on the WPO site, and if you're around London between 26 April and 12 May, you can see the winners' exhibition at Somerset House.

All images are copyright their respective photographers and are used by kind permission of the 2013 Sony World Photography Awards.