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Sony World Photography Awards 2009 at The Hempel, London

Sony World Photography Awards 2009 at The Hempel, London - Jane Hobson went along to see the winning photographs and chatted with Nadav Kander, one of this year’s judges.

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The Sony World Photography Awards 2009 kicked off last night (January 19th) at The Hempel, London with a press and private view. The former restaurant, in the basement of the hotel, has been converted into a very appealing gallery called the Art Work Space and was thronged with press, guests and winners, all eager to see the work and celebrate their successes.
Guest reading the winners’ list at the Sony World Photography Awards 09
Guest reading the winners’ list at the Sony World Photography Awards 09.

The volume of entries for this global competition is phenomenal and the judges certainly have a mammoth task in evaluating and selecting images as Nadav Kander, photographer and one of this year’s judges explained when I asked how they managed to judge the entries in such a short space of time.

"We had a really great chairman who kept us online. I think we’d have gone as late as we really had to. We went to 8 o’clock last night and then today until lunch time to choose the favourites in each category. It was quite mixed, we did fine art portraiture as well as commercial, which was advertising as well as music. It was quite daunting at first- when you see it all at the end it looks really, really good."

Nadav’s approach to judging is a very considered one and he explained what he was looking for in the entries and the difficulty of observing emerging trends or themes in the work.

"When it comes to fine art work you are looking for not so much a new technique but something that is fresh, something that moves on the work from the past. In commercial work you always see a sort of rebound or mirroring of what artists were doing a year before. So there was plenty of that- there were plenty of Germanic lookalikes, and Chinese lookalikes, but on the whole I’m not a big fan of people just moving forward for the sake of it. So I don’t like seeing wacky stuff for the sake of it at all either. I’ve always preferred work that seems considered and shows me the photographer’s mind, or the photographer’s heart rather than a snapping approach or a reportage approach. I don’t think there was a particular style that emerged more this year – I don’t think it works like that. There are so many countries, so many people, that I only think you could only see that if you dealt with one country at a time. There are so many people you can’t really find one narrative that comes through."
 Nadav Kander (right) deep in conversation at the Sony WPA 09.
Dave Watts, Sony World Photography Awards 2009, Amateur Winner, Architecture category (left) and Nadav Kander (right) deep in conversation at the Sony WPA 09.

One photographer’s work that amply demonstrated this considered approach Nadav was looking for was Piotr Fajfer, from Poland, with his elegant fashion photograph, ‘Princess of Crows’.
Piotr Fajfer, in front of his winning photograph in the fashion category, entitled ‘Princess of Crows’.
Piotr Fajfer, in front of his winning photograph in the fashion category, entitled ‘Princess of Crows’.

I asked him about the thought and planning that went into the making of the beautiful and striking image: "With the designer of the dress, we decided to make something to show the woman in a special way as a woman who is very delicate, very sexy and at the same time is a little dangerous – a vamp or something like that. We decided to go with the crow as it’s the most intelligent bird and a very dangerous bird. The thought was to make the photo simple without any interesting background. Just a grey background, the woman and the crow.

It is a live bird but of course it’s a montage – if I did it for real I think it should be a Pulitzer! First we did the photograph of the model then I spent about two weeks looking for a bird. I was an animal photographer – I had to find some somewhere!

The work exhibited is as varied as you might expect from a worldwide competition, with images from all over the globe giving an insight into local culture and interests in the areas of photojournalism, commercial and fine art. As such, it is a fascinating and inspiring body of work. I can highly recommend a visit.
Guests enjoying the exhibition at The Hempel.
Guests enjoying the exhibition at The Hempel.

The exhibition at The Hempel Hotel, 31 – 35 Craven Hill Gardens, London, is free and is open to the public from January 20th to 29th.

Words and pictures by Jane Hobson.
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