These Stunning Photos Will Help You Look For New Perspectives in Our Troubled Times

These striking images summarise our year in intimate detail.

07 March 2022, 1:24pm

They say a picture paints  a thousand words, and after a couple of years of turmoil, trauma, tragedy and the eventual turn back to normalcy, perhaps we need photos that can express, inspire and uplift us when words fail to do so. 

It’s these very emotions that finalists from the Sony World Photography Awards 2022 – one of the world’s largest annual photography contests – have captured through their diverse range of photos. In its 15th year, the awards received over 340,000 images from 211 territories, with over 156,000 entries for the Professional competition. These include images in categories such as environment, still portraits, landscape, wildlife and nature. 

“At points, we all may have felt that the ongoing COVID crisis meant that the world had shut down, but when reviewing these projects, it is clear nothing could be further from the truth,” Mike Trow, the chair of the jury picking out finalists for the competition, said in a press statement. “The importance of photography in interpreting our world, bringing vital humanitarian, environmental and emotional issues to the fore whilst also covering categories as diverse as sport, creative and landscape make it such an exciting competition.”

From communities dealing with the aftermath of the climate crisis, to frontline workers overwhelmed by the COVID-19 situation, to the most iconic images of the Capitol Riots that took place in the United States last January, the handpicked curation of finalists and notable entries have captured the most important events between 2020 to 2021 through a powerful and impactful visual medium. 


In one of the most striking photographs from the wildlife category, finalist Milan Radisics managed to catch a fox as it jumped on his car’s windshield. “Over eight months, I spent almost every night sitting at the window of my cottage in the middle of the forest, where wild animals live almost as neighbours of the villagers,” he said in a press statement.

"I observed her movements and behaviour from the darkened room, and took the exposure remotely," Milan Radisics said. "I named her Roxy. I set the lights in advance, like in a studio, and waited for the protagonist to walk into the scenes. She always surprises me, showing a new side, and I have had to solve many technical, theoretical, and physical challenges in the process of photographing her. During lockdown, both sides were forced to adjust: man to the wilds of the forest, animals to the human environment." Photo courtesy of Milan Radisics / Sony World Photography Awards

“I parked in the yard for the first time – it was unusual behaviour for Roxy (the fox), she jumped up right away. I wasn't prepared to photograph this scene, but I knew she would be coming back in an hour-and-a-half, [so] I set the lights up and waited in a dark room. I was lucky she jumped up again and watched the camera click inside the car.”

A stunning image in the sports category by photographer Ricardo Teles captures the Kuarup, a ritual of the Xingu Indigenous Brazilian tribe to honour and bid goodbye to the dead, many of whom were lost to COVID-19.

"The Kuarup is a ritual of the Xingu Indigenous Brazilian to honour the illustrious dead – it is the farewell and closing of a mourning period," said Ricardo Teles. "The celebration takes place once a year in different villages and lasts for three days." Photo courtesy of Ricardo Teles / Sony World Photography Awards

The photo highlights this celebration through a martial art contest called Huka-huka, which symbolises a show of strength for young men in the tribe.

Meanwhile, in the creative category, photographer Raphaël Neal from the United Kingdom juxtaposed scenes of climate change with portraits of teenagers who have to exist alongside the devastating consequences. 

"This is a collection of teenagers’ portraits, paired with landscapes and inspired by global warming issues," said Raphaël Neal. "Heatwaves, wildfires or floods are evoked in a cinematic way. The presence of teens – including several young activists – implies the growing threats that the next generation will have to deal with because of climate change, and its inevitable consequences on their physical and mental health." Photo courtesy of Raphaël Neal / Sony World Photography Awards

In the category of documentary projects, a series titled “The Long Days of Hanau” by Fabian Ritter from Germany documents the community in Hanau, Germany, in the aftermath of racist attacks where a far-right shooter killed nine immigrants in February 2020.

"The racist attack of 19 February 2020 in Hanau, Hessen, shook German society," said Fabian Ritter. "This photo essay accompanies the friends and relatives of those tragically murdered. In the weeks and months following the attack, while an entire city was still reeling from the shock, solidarity groups and initiatives began forming to support the survivors of the attack. Mourning developed into anger and the desire for change. These photographs provide intimate access to the families and friends affected, who have all lost important people in their lives." Photo courtesy of Fabian Ritter / Sony World Photography Awards

The same category also highlights the tumultuous chaos of the January 2021 Capitol Riots that took place in the U.S., with photojournalist Win McNamee capturing the chaos that unfolded as a mob of Trump supporters descended on the U.S. Capitol, most notably capturing the infamous QAnon Shaman. 

"Following a ‘Save America’ rally held by President Donald Trump, a mob of thousands of his supporters descended on the US Capitol and fought their way into the building on 6 January 2021," explained Win McNamee. "Members of the mob were called to action by Trump and urged to “fight like hell” after months of disinformation disputing the results of the 2020 presidential election." Photo courtesy of Win McNamee / Sony World Photography Awards

Another notable entry is a series of ethereal images taken by portrait photographer Gareth Iwan Jones, who was forced to shift gears when he found himself unable to work during the coronavirus lockdowns of 2021. 

He then turned his lens to the figures of nearby trees, shot against dawn or dusk skies and lit using drones, leading to an otherworldly depiction of nature. “Unable to photograph people, I turned to my love of trees, inspired by my home county of Wiltshire, where the distinctive landscape features many knolls with lone trees raised above the horizon line,” he said. “I chose to photograph against dusk skies and lit the trees with drones to create an otherworldly impression.”

"While many people discovered the joys of walking in nature during the lockdowns, once the sun had set it was just me, the trees and the darkness, which was an experience that at first terrified me but with time I began to relish," said Gareth Iwan Jones on capturing his project. Photo courtesy of Gareth Iwan Jones / Sony World Photography Awards

The results of the winners of the Sony World Photography Awards will be announced on April 12, while photographs from the shortlisted photographers and finalists will be displayed in an exhibition at London's Somerset House from April 13 to May 2. The professional competition awards a prize of $25,000 to the Photographer of the Year winner. 

Here are some other photos from the awards:

Photographer Adrees Latif's series featured a set of images covering a variety of events between 2020 to 2021, including immigration along the US-Mexico border (including a drone image of a migrant camp in Del Rio), the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, fires on the West Coast, a devastating tornado that ripped through Kentucky, a Black Lives Matter protest after the death of George Floyd, and a prison in Honduras. Photo courtesy of Adrees Latif / Sony World Photography Awards

"This series takes a look at the Olympic and Paralympic sports that I was assigned to cover in Tokyo," said Sports category finalist Adam Pretty. "I tried to find unique and challenging angles to minimise the visual impact of not having a crowd or any fans (and atmosphere) and also to illustrate the beauty and strength of the athletes and sports as well as their emotions from slightly different angles." Photo courtesy of Adam Pretty / Sony World Photography Awards

"In 2021 I travelled to Greece, Canada and the USA to document the aftermath of fires that had destroyed homes, killed numerous people and burnt millions of acres of land," said Environment category finalist Gideon Mendel. "I choose not to document the burning flames, but rather to seek out their aftermath. These portraits are made across different communities and cultures around the world. My subjects pause and engage the camera, looking out from their devastated lives. While their poses may seem conventional, the context is catastrophe, and their gazes are unsettling." Photo courtesy of Gideon Mendel / Sony World Photography Awards

Nemo's Garden by Environment category finalist Giacomo d'Orlanda explores the hope for alternate models of food cultivation. "Agriculture represents 70% of freshwater use around the globe and with the world’s population projected to increase to 10 billion by the end of the century, it has become imperative to find alternative and ecologically sustainable methods of cultivation," he said."Nemo’s Garden – the world’s first underwater greenhouse – offers a possible solution. This completely self-sustainable project explores an alternative farming system that could be implemented in areas where environmental or geo-morphological conditions make the growth of plants almost impossible." Photo courtesy of Giacomo d'Orlando / Sony World Photography Awards

"He is a volunteer in a Covid-19 rescue unit," Documentary Projects finalist Kyaw Zay Yar Lin from Myanmar said. "He wears a PPE suite throughout the day while undertaking his duties. His philanthropy includes spraying biocide in public places, taking contact patients to hospitals and wrapping dead bodies in winding sheets. He transfers cadavers from hospitals, or homes, to the cemetery with other volunteers.This work is stressful and demanding. He prays to see the end of this pandemic as soon as possible. But for now, his work isn’t finished." Photo courtesy of Kyaw Zay Yar Lin / Sony World Photography Awards

"Gabura Union is located on the southwestern coast of Bangladesh," said photographer Shunta Kimura on his project that explores the impact of the climate crisis in Bangladesh. "It is one of the most vulnerable areas to the impacts of climate change, and many residents often suffer from its effects. These include river erosion, landslides, rising salinity levels in fresh water sources and collapsing infrastructure, caused by the tropical cyclones that occur frequently." Photo courtesy of Shunta Kimura / Sony World Photography Awards

"Through its policy of denying asylum using the Migrant Protection Protocol and Title 4, the United States has left thousands of people waiting for asylum hearings in dangerous Mexican border cities," said photographer Alejandro Cegarra on his project exploring the plight of migrants. "Mexico acts as a co-enforcer, militarising its border to detain migrants – building a physical, administrative and psychological barrier shutting out migrants and asylum seekers from all parts of the world. Today, more than ever, the politics of the borders negate the desperate plight of these migrants. They find themselves trapped in a bureaucratic limbo increasingly neglectful of their human rights." Photo courtesy of Alejandro Cegarra / Sony World Photography Awards

"There is a slim triangle of land along the perfectly horizontal line that separates Egypt from Sudan, which has always been claimed by both countries," said photographer Andrea Bettancini on his project titled 'Without a homeland - the contended land'. "It is the Halayeb-Shalateen triangle, currently under Egyptian rule. Starting from Sudan's independence in 1956, border relations with Egypt have been characterised more by reciprocal suspicion than by peaceful exchanges." Photo courtesy of Andrea Bettancini / Sony World Photography Awards

"In recent years, we have witnessed the death of thousands of migratory birds in Iran’s Miankaleh Wetland – the cause is still unknown," said photographer Mehdi Mohebi. "This is a set of efforts by environmental forces to collect and bury birds." Photo courtesy of Mehdi Mohebi Puor /Sony World Photography Awards

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Environment, Documentary, WILDLIFE, Photography, nature, Sony, photojournalism

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