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Sony World Photography Awards 2012 Round-Up - Martin Jordan gets suited and booted for this year's Sony World Photography Awards.
Having covered this event for the last three years I no longer scurry along, head down, hoping no one will see me,-oh no. Now I take my time, pause, look to the left, look to the right, are the Papps getting my best side? I put my hand out to some of the crowd, but don’t quite touch them. It's great being a celeb, if only for 15 seconds. In reality I know those millions of pixels of yours truly, will soon be heading for the nearest recycle/trash bin.
We had already had a champagne reception at Somerset House, to view the short listed photos. Now was the Gala dinner and giving of awards at the Hilton Hotel in London’s Park Lane. I know what you’re thinking, it’s a tough assignment, no wonder the ePz staffers run scared of it.
The MC for the evening was an American specially flown in from New York, a Mr W. M. Hunt (no I’d never heard of him either). He sauntered on to the stage with an air of self importance and proceeded to tell us how wonderful he was; his many roles and talents. He followed up with a quip, ‘I’ve got many hats for many heads’, he then paused for the laughs he was obviously expecting, when none came, he repeated it again, just in case we were a bit slow, only this time gesturing upwards with his hands for applause. Now he was really going to have to charm the audience to get them back on-side. The way most of his attempts at humour ended with ‘Anyway...’ suggests he didn’t.
Anyway, have you noticed how texts are changing? You used to get them for fun things, like arranging a date, or telling a joke, or if you’re a Premiership footballer arranging a spit-roast. Now I’m getting them to remind me of a doctors or dentist appointment, that I’ve been mis-sold insurance, that my tax return is late. On this evening I got one saying ‘Did I get to the exhibition? And that the coaches were leaving now. David.’
God my life is being run by text! David it turns out is not some avuncular big brother if that’s not a contradiction, but the Sony PR manager. Eventually I met him, he’d warned me he was very tall, he didn’t disappoint.
Another person having a full text life, was a fellow guest sitting next to me, Lynn Cullen (50). In between the constant checking of her Blackberry (other smarter phones are available) and nipping out for a nicotine fix, I managed to find out she was formally the Picture Editor of the NOTW and was now Picture Editor for the Independent.
In photographic terms, a big beast, how interesting. I probed her about how she got such a great job, was it because she could spot an award winning photo at 100 yards? Rather disappointingly she replied that it was her ability to run a department within budget, that was more highly valued. She had honed her bargaining skills at the NOTW haggling with Papps, like the Aussie guy with the loud haircuts.
Just before she popped out for yet another fag, I asked her what her favourite picture was, she said it was a very moving photo of a dead baby, killed in a conflict. She went on to tell me that there is a convention that says the press don’t print very graphic images. Her view was that they should, so people know the full horror of war. I would have liked to continue the conversation, but she never came back. Oh dear. I have this vision of her lying on a slab that night, 10 cigarettes stuffed in her mouth, pathologist telling his assistant, ‘worse case of nicotine poisoning I’ve ever seen’.
Turning my attention back to the awards, thankfully the acceptance speeches were short, really short, ‘thank you’ being the most popular. This being a Sony sponsored event the audio visuals were amazing. The shortlisted images were presented on an enormous screen using multiple projectors and video cameras, very slick.
At the end of the evening it was suggested that people could go on to nightclub Chinawhite. My first thought was, but I’ll miss my train. I’m so rock and roll.
Early next day back at Somerset House we got the chance to hear the winners talking about their work. A few seemed to be missing though; maybe Chinawhites had taken its toll. As last year, although Somerset House is a wonderful space, the acoustics are terrible. I could see lips moving and earnest expressions but I couldn’t catch a word.
Any questions? Was generally met with silence, firstly because no one had heard what the photographer had just said, and secondly because people thought they wouldn’t hear the reply anyway. However Sebastian Palmer, of London based partnership Palmer and Pawel who won the Sport category, didn’t get off so lightly.
Photo by Palmer + Pawel, United Kingdom, Professional Winner, Sport, Sony World Photography Awards 2012.
I’ve never seen anyone look so uncomfortable talking about their own work, most photographers, well, you can’t shut them up. Sebastian’s body language and demeanour all suggested he rather be somewhere, anywhere else. The introduction to his work, went along the lines, ‘These are my pictures... what can I say?... Any questions?’ Now for every other photographer that’s where it would have ended and Sebastian could have slipped away. But this audience sensed his fear, and launched question after question. A mob can be cruel…
I spoke to him after his ordeal, and suggested that if he’s going to keep on winning awards (he and his partner have won a few) he’d better learn to bask in the glory, why not take a leaf out of WM Hunt’s book. Sebastian went on to tell me that the Cage fighters he had photographed were really nice blokes... just don’t get in a cage with them.
Talking of cages, Peter Franck (above) from Germany won the Campaign category, with a series of pictures taken at an S&M dungeon complete with whips and gimp masks. I asked peter how he got the inspiration, was he ‘ahem’ of that persuasion? He told me he had a friend (don’t they always) who worked as a Dominatrix for a few months to earn some extra cash, and she had made the introduction to this strange world.
I asked him if the dungeon was in some gothic castle, he said no, on the second floor of a suburban office block, even more bizarrely he told me on the first floor was an Islamic Centre. That’s two storeys (pun intended) of men on their hands and knees, then.
Photo by Peter Franck, Germany, Professional Winner, Campaign, Sony World Photography Awards 2012.
Peter also won the Fashion category with his pictures of models just showing body parts, no faces and no clothes to speak of, not sure how this could be considered fashion. However I loved the idea and the pictures were very striking.
The theme of an original idea featured in most of the shortlisted work. It’s all about the idea not about great technical ability or the most expensive equipment, one series was taken on a phone.
Helen Thompson from the UK who won the Still Life category, had taken pictures of plates of food, but these weren’t ordinary plates of food, they were the last meals of inmates on death row. What would you choose for your final meal?
Simon Norfolk, also from the UK, had juxtaposed pictures from the 19th century of solders in Afghanistan with pictures of soldiers today, striking similar poses. Mexican Alejandro Cartagena had taken a series of pictures of Mexicans travelling/sleeping in the back of pick up trucks.
Another great idea was from Irina Wering from Argentina; she had a series of diptychs; one side showing a child, the other the same child, now an adult adopting the same pose, in the same location wearing the same style of clothes, with hilarious results. Irina told me she got the idea when scanning some old family wedding photos, and seeing people she knows as adults as children. She makes all of the clothes for the ‘adult’ shots herself, and her terrific attention to detail really pays off.
Photo by Irina Werning, Argentina, Professional Winner, Portraiture, Sony World Photography Awards 2012.
The picture of a pair of ginger twins I’d seen before (you know how they love gingers at The Taylor Wessing). Swedish photographer Maja Daniels who is based in London met the Twins in Paris, and after a lot of persuasion managed to spend a week with this rather eccentric couple. The most striking picture is of them dancing together which apparently they do regularly. I asked Maja why she entered these competitions, ‘For the money’ was her frank reply. I guess a working photographer needs income where ever they can find it.
Photo by Maja Daniels, United Kingdom, Professional Shortlist, People, Sony World Photography Awards 2012.
We’ve all seen shots of drips, however Tobias Brauning from Germany has taken it one step further. He told me that he works in electronics and had made a machine that could deliver the drops in a split second. A great combination of his photographic and technical skill, resulting in an incredible image, you won’t see a better ‘drip’ shot, winning him the Open competition.
Photo by Tobias Bräuning, Germany, Split Second, Open Winner, Sony World Photography Awards 2012.
Bearing in mind what I had said about ideas being paramount, I was rather surprised and a little disappointed at the decision of the judges for the photographer of the year; the L’iris D’or. American Mitch Dobrowner won the award and the $25,000 for his series of shots of storms and tornados. They are black and white images superbly executed, but hardly an original idea, Google: storm photos, and you will find many.
Photo by Mitch Dobrowner, USA, Professional Winner, Landscape, Sony World Photography Awards 2012.
As I have learnt covering this type of competition, part of the fun is agreeing/disagreeing with the judge’s totally subjective opinions. There is however always something to admire or hate or stimulate your imagination. I would urge you to go to Somerset House and judge for yourself.
Article by Martin Jordan visit his website: Jordan Photography.