The wait is finally over: The World Photography Organisation has announced the overall winners in the Sony World Photography Awards 2023. Like every year, the jury selected the winners in different categories and the overall winner of the contest.
The Photographer of the Year title has been awarded to Portuguese photographer Edgar Martins this year. His winning series Our War is an emotional homage to his friend, photojournalist Anton Hammerl, who was killed during the Libyan Civil War in 2011.
[Related Reading: Take a trip around the world with 2023 Sony World Photography Awards’ National Award winners]
Photographer of the Year
Edgar Martins was selected from the ten category winners of the Professional competition. His series Our War is a powerful set of portraits, but the story behind them is devastating and mind-blowing at the same time. Edgar’s friend, photojournalist Anton Hammerl, was abducted and killed on April 5, 2011 by government militia during the Libyan Civil War.
Frustrated by unsuccessful attempts to ascertain the whereabouts of his friend’s last mortal remains, Martins took matters into his own hands and traveled to Libya. He was brought in covertly by a petrol smuggler and was immediately faced with enormous challenges working in such a volatile environment. Realizing that he would not be able to carry out a thorough and independent investigation, Martins instead chose to reflect on the question: “How does one tell a story when there is no witness, no testimony, no evidence, no subject?”
In Our War, the photographer conjures and alludes to the absent central figure through a series of portraits of the people Hammerl had connected with and those involved in the fighting. They include freedom fighters or their descendants, ex-militia, local residents, Gaddafi loyalists or lookalikes, and so on. They were chosen because they either resembled him, had similar ideas and beliefs, or reminded Martins of him at different stages of their friendship.
The project explores the idea of absence, of documenting, grieving, and honoring a subject, as well as reflecting on the role of photography within a conflict zone. Edgar wanted to confront these questions head-on: embrace the idea of the fragmentary and the many contradictions and ambiguities intrinsic to war.
Commenting on his win, Edgar said:
“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. 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. There’s no award that has the reach of the Sony World Photography Awards.”
Other than winning the overall prize, Edgar’s series also won the first place in the Portraiture category.
New at Sony World Photography Awards: Sustainability Prize
Sony World Photography Awards has a new category this year. It’s called Sustainability Prize, and it recognizes the stories, people, and organizations whose actions highlight one of the United Nations’ environmental Sustainable Development Goals.
The first-time winner of the Sustainability Prize is Alessandro Cinque from Italy for his series Atrapanieblas (Fog Nets). He documented an innovative solution helping to tackle chronic water shortages in Lima, Peru. Alessandro’s photos show how fog nets are used to catch droplets of airborne moisture and can collect about 200 liters (53 gallons) of water per day for local residents.
Other category winners
The remaining prizes at the Sony World Photography Awards 2023 are what we’re used to, so to say. The contest recognizes Open Photographer of the Year, Professional Category Winners, Student Photographer of the Year, and Youth Photographer of the Year.
The Sony World Photography Awards 2023 exhibition opens at Somerset House, London, on April 14 and it will be up until May 1, 2023. But if you can’t make it, enjoy the remaining category winners below and on the contest’s website.
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