With the most entries in the contest’s 11-year history, the 2018 Sony World Photography Awards entries still managed to deliver an impressive amount of diversity, judges say. The World Photography Organization recently announced the 2018 winners, naming Alys Tomlinson as the Photographer of the Year for the series Ex-Voto.
Tomlinson, a 42-year-old photographer from London, earned the top honors for a personal project depicting the ex-votos, a type of religious offering made after a fulfilled vow, at the Lourdes in France, Bellyvourney in Ireland, and Grabarka in Poland. Judges recognized the large format film portraiture, landscapes and still life for the work’s illustration of the journey as well as its technical excellence.
“I am very surprised to have won, there is so much amazing photography in this competition,” she said. “This is a huge boost both personally and professionally. It’s a project I invested so much in, so this recognition makes it all worth it.”
The Open Photographer of the Year title went to Veselin Atanasov of Bulgaria for a piece called Early Autumn shot in the Central Balkan National Park. The Open category is for non-professional photographers — Atanasov works as an IT specialist and is a self-taught photographer.
Judges also awarded the top photographers in each category, including Gianmaria Gava from Italy for architecture; Fredrik Lerneryd, Sweden, contemporary issues; Florian Ruiz, France, creative; Mohd Samsul Mohd Said, Malaysia, current affairs and news; Luca Locatelli, Italy, landscape; Roselena Ramistella, Italy, natural world and wildlife; Tom Oldham, U.K., portraiture; Balazs Gardi, Hungary, sport; and Edgar Martins, Portugal, still life.
The Youth Photographer of the year went to Megan Johnson, a 16-year-old from the U.S. for a black-and-white image of cliffs in Connecticut called Still that she shot with an iPhone 7. Judges selected Samuel Bolduc of Canda as the Student Photographer of the Year for a series called the Burden showing plastic waste. Candida Hofer, a contemporary photographer from Germany, received the Outstanding Contribution to Photography Award.
With almost 320,000 entries, this year brought the most submissions the contest has seen yet, with a 40-percent jump over the previous year. Photographers from more than 200 countries entered the contest, while the different categories cover a range of skill levels and ages, including professional, open, youth, and student focuses.
“The range of work considered was breathtaking, and diversity among the judges ensured robust discussions, leading to outstanding winners,” said judge Naomi Cass, the director for the Centre for Contemporary Photography in Melbourne, Australia. “I was impressed by the diversity of approaches within each category and the breadth of photographers from across the globe.”
The contest judges said that both the professional contest, which is a series of images, and the open contest, which is for a single image, saw a wide variety of strong images. In the professional category, the contest added two new categories; creative and discovery, while for the open, the street photography, landscape, and nature categories saw the most entries.
The Photographer of the Year comes with a $25,000 award in the professional category and a $5,000 award in the open. Category winners received gear from the contest sponsor, Sony, while in the student focus contest, the winner will garner imaging equipment for their school.
“From new approaches to portraiture to creative responses to the landscape in which we live, the images illustrated what a broad and innovative field photography has become,” said judge Clare Grafik, the head of exhibitions at the Photographer’s Gallery in London. “As our way of experiencing photographic images becomes all the more multifarious, the Awards offer us the opportunity to focus on new talents and important projects that may otherwise have passed us by.”
All the contest winners, including the previously announced shortlisted images, are on display at the Somerset House gallery until May 6. To view the entire gallery of images, visit the contest’s website. Submissions will open for the next contest on June 1.
Updated on April 23 to include the full contest winners.