London has long been viewed as a cultural hub, a diverse community representing a plethora of people from all different corners of the world. I am not even being biased when I write this statement and the 2018 Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition is proof of this. Setting up home in the East and West wings of Somerset House, which in itself is a new kind of arts centre located in the heart of the city, this exhibition consists of more than 600 contemporary images from talented photographers across the globe. Curated by Mike Trow, the winning, shortlisted images on display have been carefully selected from a record-breaking 320,000 submissions. What makes the exhibition even more exciting is the fact that many of the works are being seen for the FIRST TIME. This means that visitors can be given an insight into the present trends and revolutions in the art world and observe the images that could potentially help shape the future.
The aim of the World Photography Organisation, a global platform working across more than 180 countries, is to generate hype around photography by celebrating the best imagery and photographers the world has to offer. And that is certainly what the exhibition does. Visitors are treated to a visual feast as each room of the wings is designed to accommodate photographs spanning across all different genres. These include genres such as Architecture, the Natural World and Wildlife, Creative, Sport, Portraiture and Travel to name a few! Three rooms are dedicated to German artist Candida Hofer, one of the world’s foremost contemporary photographers, who is famous for her portraits of vast and empty interiors. These rooms feature ten of her trademark large format photographs which she has personally selected for public consumption. As this suggests, the curators and organisation behind the exhibition strive to forge personal connections between themselves and the photographers, and between the photographers and the public.
This certainly happened to me as I attended the unveiling of the exhibition to the general public. I opted to allow the guided tour to overtake me as I hung back and observed each room of photographs alone. As I walked round the rooms, each photography reached out to me and told its own story. I was particularly drawn to a collection by South African photographer Lebohang Kganye whose photographs were influenced by her relationship with her mother. The photographs were touching and helped to unite past and present generations through time. The words of Kganye sum up the method and meaning behind her photographs better than I would be able to tell myself. The plaque beside her work reads: ‘Seven years ago I lost my mother. When I began looking for pieces of my mother in the house I found the photos and clothes that had been there for years, but that I had ignored. I began inserting myself into her pictorial narrative by emulating snaps of her that I found in my family album. I would dress in the exact clothes that she was wearing in these twenty-year-old photographs, and mimic her poses.’ However, not all of the photographs on display are as nostalgic or generate the same feelings of warmth and love. In the ‘Still Life’ room, the display of Portuguese photographer Edgar Martins is both amazing and terrifying; when you look at his work, you generally feel quite uncomfortable and disconcerted. His arresting and confronting display depicts forensic evidence such as suicide notes, crimes and pathology tools. The photographs reveal individual suicide notes and explore the tension between revelation and concealment. Martins’ photographs generate debate over issues such as the ethical implications of representing sensitive and intensely personal material of this nature. Nonetheless the photographs themselves are eerily beautiful and give new life to those who took theirs.
Tickets for the exhibition (priced between £6-£18) are on sale now: https://www.worldphoto.org/sony-world-photography-awards-exhibition
Visitors can also purchase their favourite artworks from the exhibition as fine prints, both at Somerset House but also online here: https://shop.worldphoto.org
Lastly… Fancy your chances at being a photographer? Does the opportunity to have your photographs showcased for the public to see appealing to you? Then get snapping as entries for the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards open the 1stof June 2018. Entry for the competition is free, so what have you got to lose? Enter here: https://www.worldphoto.org/sony-world-photography-awards
Nearest Station: Charing Cross – turn right as you exit and Somerset House is a ten minute walk up Strand.