Striking Winners and Shortlist From the 2020 Sony World Photography Awards

Cheetahs Licking Each Other's Faces

“Tai Chi Diagram” © Guofei Li, China, Winner, Open, Natural World & Wildlife, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.
“These cheetahs had just eaten an antelope, and were licking the bloodstains off of each other’s faces. It’s a very rare posture, and one that reminded me of the traditional Chinese Tai Chi diagram. The picture was taken in Botswana in January 2019.”

More photographs than ever were entered into the 2020 Sony World Photography Awards, which has become one of the top photo contests in the world.  Over 345,000 images were entered across the four divisions of the competition and now, the best single images from the Open contest's 10 categories have been announced. From wildlife in Africa to protestors in South America, the winning photos are a beautiful glimpse of life around the world.

Each of the 10 winners gives their own unique perspective on the world in categories like Wildlife, Landscape, Travel, Street Photography, Motion, and Culture. The winning photographers come from six different countries, with Australia having a particularly strong showing. Australian photographers won top marks in the Landscape, Culture, and Travel categories. The winner will take home $5,000 and now have the chance to be named Open Photographer of the Year. The photographer who takes home that honor will be announced via social media on June 9, 2020.

Additionally, the organization released the shortlist for each category. Anywhere from nine to fourteen photos were culled from the entries in order to spotlight exceptional images from the Open competition. “The images were chosen for their power to communicate a visual narrative with excellent technical and creative skills,” writes the World Photography Organisation, which runs the contest with Sony. “International in scope and subject matter, and rich and varied in their brilliance, these photographs celebrate photography's diversity as it exists today.”

Scroll down to see all of the winning entries, as well as our favorites from the 2020 Sony World Photography Awards Open shortlist.

Here are the winning Open competition images from the 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.

Iceberg Set Against Fjords in Greenland

“Ice Reflections” © Craig McGowan, Australia, Winner, Open, Landscape, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.
“A solitary iceberg, set against the fjord walls in Northeast Greenland National Park.”

Iggy Pop Dancing On Stage with Australian Fans

“Mark 5:28” © Antoine Veling, Australia, Winner, Open, Culture, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.
“When audience members were invited on stage to dance at an Iggy Pop concert in Sydney Opera House, Australia, on 17 April 2019, it showed the warm welcome Aussies extend to overseas artists who travel long distances to reach them.
A woman’s outstretched arm lunges to touch Iggy. He seems unaware of her approach as the crowd presses around him. One of Iggy’s assistants, Jos (in the grey checked shirt) tries to make some space around Iggy. The scene is reminiscent of a passage from the Bible: ‘Because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”’ (Mark 5:25-34, line 28). The image has been likened to religious paintings by Caravaggio, and his chiaroscuro technique. It went crazy on social media, making 40,000 people, including Iggy Pop, very happy.”

Fish Trapped in Plastic

“A Plastic Ocean” © Jorge Reynal, Argentina, Winner, Open, Still Life, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.
“Each year, eight million tons of plastic end up in our oceans—equivalent to emptying a garbage truck into the water every minute. This is my protest against pollution.
In my language (Spanish), we use the words ‘Naturaleza Muerta’ to refer to still life, which ironically translates as ‘Dead Nature’.”

Protester in Colombia Being Confronted by the Police

“Colombia Resiste” © Santiago Mesa, Colombia, Winner, Open, Street photography, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.
“In recent years, a number of protests have broken out across Latin America. Reasons for this unrest range from a proposed end to fuel subsidies in Ecuador to a rise in metro fares in Chile, and feelings of inequality and a general lack of opportunity in Colombia. In Medellín, north-western Colombia, workers and street vendors were taking part in a march when the Medellin riot squad dispersed them.”

Demolition of Ironbridge Power Station in England

“Going Down!” © Alec Connah, United Kingdom, Winner, Open, Motion, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.
“Despite measuring 125 meters high, it took the four cooling towers of Ironbridge Power Station in Shropshire, England, just 10 seconds to be demolished on 6 December 2019. The towers had been a feature of the landscape for 50 years, but were brought down as part of a new development on the site. The demolition had been a long time coming – the towers were close to a river, railway line and protected woodland, so their destruction had to be precise. This picture was taken from my garden, which is on the hillside opposite the site.”

Portrait of Black Francis Covering His Eyes

“Black Francis” © Tom Oldham, United Kingdom, Category Winner, Open, Portraiture, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.
“Photographers for MOJO Magazine enjoy a rare degree of freedom and trust with what is usually an open brief. This allows us to capture our own experience with very high profile musicians. However, when photographing famous singers, we are often painfully aware of how many times the sitter has, well, sat. I like to acknowledge this and asked Charles (aka Black Francis) to show me the level of frustration photoshoots can generate. He offered up this perfect gesture of exasperation, and the image ran as the lead portrait for the feature.”

38° Parallelo by Mauro Staccioli

“Emotional Geometry” © Rosaria Sabrina Pantano, Italy, Winner, Open, Architecture, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.
“Having returned to Sicily for the holidays, myself and a group of friends visited Fiumara d'Arte, an open museum showcasing sculptures made by contemporary artists, located along the banks of the Tusa River. Among these works is 38° Parallelo by Mauro Staccioli—a pyramid that stands at the exact point where the geographical coordinates touch the 38th parallel.”

Train Tracks in the Sahara

“Riding a Saharan Freight Train” © Adrian Guerin, Australia, Winner, Open, Travel, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards
“At 2.5km long, the iron-ore train in Mauritania is one of the longest trains in the world. It covers over 700km on its journey from the coastal town of Nouadhibou to the Saharan wilderness of Zouérat. More than 200 carriages are loaded with rocks in Zouérat, before the train begins its long journey back to Nouadhibou. I rode the train in both directions in July 2019. On the first leg of the journey I learned that in order to photograph the full length of the train I needed to stand on the rocks for height, position myself in a rear carriage to get the full view, and keep the sun behind me. Alas, none of this was possible until the morning of day three, at which point I had almost given up. This shot was taken as I balanced on my toes atop a mountain of rocks, trying to remain steady as the train jolted from side to side.”

Black and White Creative Photography

“Knot” © Suxing Zhang, China, Winner, Open, Creative, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.
“This picture is from my series ‘Hua’, which means flower in Chinese. Flowers are often used as metaphors for life and eroticism in art. Hua explores the commonalities and connections between flowers and the feminine – in particular, emotional vulnerability and sensitivity. Qualities such as calmness, and emotions such as uncertainty, fear, anxiety and loneliness are translated into conceptual and artistic forms.
In Knot, I use a combination of light and texture to create strong visuals that heighten the senses. I like to use symbolic and metaphoric ingredients in my work, which I hope allows the audience to blend their own subjectivity with the objectivity of the photograph, leading to different interpretations and emotions.”

Check out some of the shortlisted photographs from the Sony World Photography Awards Open competition.

Mangrove Trees at Walakiri Beach, Sumba, Indonesia

“Dawn at Walakiri Beach” © Hsiang Hui, Sylvester Wong, Malaysia, Shortlist, Open, Landscape, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.
“This iconic dancing mangrove tree is found at Walakiri Beach, Sumba, Indonesia. The water was calm at dawn and offered some wonderful reflections.”

Person Swimming in a Roof Pool in Singapore

“The Pool” © Michael Paramonti, Germany, Shortlist, Open, Travel, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.
“Roof pool in Singapore, November 2019.”

Person with an Umbrella Crossing a Colorful Crosswalk

“Back Home” © Liu Jon, China, Shortlist, Open, Street Photography, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.
“After a downpour, there is often a moment of beauty. Here, a zebra crossing, an umbrella and a lone figure combine to make a colorful composition.”

“Colour Sense and Soul” © Sawamaru Pokiru, Japan, Shortlist, Open, Portraiture, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.
“The Hmong people are an ethnic group living mainly in China and Southeast Asia. They have a unique sense of color, and a powerful presence.”

Close Up Photo of Orange Fish in Lembeh Strait in North Sulawesi, Indonesia

“Nemo's Nightmare” © Rachel Brooks, United Kingdom, Shortlist, Open, Natural World & Wildlife, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.
“he Lembeh Strait in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, is renowned for its weird and wonderful marine life. It took a lot of patience, but I finally managed to capture this fish showing the tongue-eating parasite in its mouth. The image was made on an underwater compact, using a dive torch for lighting.”

Students Creating a Living Billboard at the Mass Games in North Korea

“Rainbow Billboard” © Ted Lau, United Kingdom, Shortlist, Open, Culture, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.
“I saw the biggest screen I have ever seen in my life at the Mass Games in North Korea. Except it was not a screen, it was 17,300 students. Each one holds a book with a different image on each page. During the show, the students hold the books above their heads to collectively form an image, with each book acting as a single ‘pixel’. Somehow everyone knows the exact moment to flip the page, and together they display images of their leader and scenes of North Korea. They are so tightly squished together – I can't say it looks comfortable.”

Wave Crashing into Harbor Wall at Newhaven

“Under Siege” © Lloyd Lane, United Kingdom, Shortlist, Open, Motion, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.
“A large wave scales the harbor wall at Newhaven in East Sussex, UK. A high tide, together with strong winds, led to some big waves at the port in March 2019. This was my first time out with my new telephoto lens and I was treated to some great conditions, with the sun helping to light up the scene.”

Mother and baby orangutan embracing

“Connection” © Julia Wimmerlin, Ukraine, Shortlist, Open, Natural World & Wildlife, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.
“When I saw this mother and baby orangutan interacting in Tanjung Puting National Park, Borneo, Indonesia, I couldn’t believe my luck—it was the most humanlike, heartwarming scene I have witnessed there. Much like humans, baby orangutans stay with their mothers until they are seven years old. For the first few years they don’t leave their mother's side—they grab on to her hair and are carried everywhere.”

Forest of the Anaga Mountains in Tenerife

“Come On In” © Kai Hornung, Germany, Shortlist, Open, Landscape, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.
“A small path in the ancient forests of the Anaga Mountains in Tenerife, Spain. The clouds hung inside the moss-covered trees, creating a spooky atmosphere. When I arrived at this spot I was smiling while setting up my tripod—I just knew I was about to take one of my best images of that tour, if not one of my best pictures of 2019.”

Kerlingarfjöll Mountains in Iceland

“Smoked Out II” © Jonathan Rogers, United Kingdom, Shortlist, Open, Travel, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.
“Myself and a few others embarked on a road trip around Iceland. This involved lots of driving, plenty of sights, camping and very little sleep. On our last day we decided to make the four-hour drive from the South Coast to the highland mountains of Kerlingarfjöll. We weren't sure what to expect, but we were blown away by the nature and beauty of it all. The smoke venting from the ground created a very eerie and alien atmosphere. We persuaded one of our group to walk up and down a ridge line until the smoke blew behind him, emphasizing his outline. This is easily one of my favorite pictures from the trip.”

Black and White Portrait of a Woman Looking Over Her Shoulder

“Pan Katy” © Dmitrii Tulmentev, Russian Federation, Shortlist, Open, Portraiture, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.
“It was a warm July evening. I sat in the studio and prepared myself and my Hasselblad for a few experiments – I wanted to see how an old film camera would behave when paired with modern lighting equipment. All well and good, but what should I photograph? Suddenly a girl walked into the studio, and everything fell into place.”

Dramatic Shadow Against Blue Wall

“At Midday” © Kunkun Liu, China, Shortlist, Open, Still Life, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.
“I was exploring an abandoned swimming pool in my hometown when I noticed this mottled wall and cabinet. At noon, a beautiful shadow appeared. The scene felt peaceful, warm and hopeful, so I took a picture with my mobile phone.”

Interior of Grundtvigs Kirke in Denmark

“Vanishing Line” © Peter Li, United Kingdom, Shortlist, Open, Architecture, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.
“Grundtvigs Kirke is a relatively new church in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was completed in 1940 and took the architect’s family three generations to complete. The design is a fusion between the modern geometric forms of Brick Expressionism and the classical vertical structure of Gothic architecture.”

Man Dressed to Perform Theyyam Ritual in the in the north of Kerala, India

“Demigods of Malabar” © Satheesh Chandran, India, Shortlist, Open, Culture, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.
“Theyyam rituals are performed in temples in the north of Kerala, India. The performer transforms from human to a demigod through music, dance, make-up and costume.”

Car at Night Glowing from Within

“Metamorphosis” © Stanislav Stankovskiy, Russian Federation, Shortlist, Open, Creative, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.
“Metamorphosis is a mystical reflection on the topic of transformation. This image was taken in the summer of 2019 in the Baltic states, Russia.”

Students Holding Signs at Climate Change Protest

“Just Saving the Planet” © Tim Johnston, United Kingdom, Shortlist, Open, Street Photography, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.
“I was wandering around Central London when I came across the UK Student Climate Network blocking Westminster Bridge during a school Climate Strike. It's an issue that affects us all, and one I care about, so I followed the protest to its end. I wanted to capture the defiance and resolve of the students.
It was a bright day, so I narrowed my aperture and set a fast shutter speed. I decided to convert the picture to black & white in order to draw attention to the students’ faces and the establishment buildings behind them. These kids are our future, and they are the ones fighting for it.
I hope my picture can make an impact, however small.”

Dog Diving in an Outdoor Pool

“The Floating Pool” © Lior Yaakobi, Israel, Shortlist, Open, Motion, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.
“I captured this diving dog in an outdoor pool in Colorado, USA.”

Infrared Photo of the Peaks of Chamonix

“Life on Mars” © Katie Farr, United Kingdom, Shortlist, Open, Creative, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.
“An inquisitive young explorer sets off on a voyage of discovery. With this image we delve into the realm of infrared, transporting the high peaks of Chamonix into another dimension. I used a camera converted to Full Spectrum with an Infrared Chrome filter to transform the wild mountain landscape into something spectacular. So much energy, life, and color goes unseen by the naked eye. I wanted my audience to see the landscape from another perspective, in a new wavelength of light!”

Still Life with a Crack Plate and Egg

“The Cracked Plate” © Ian Knaggs, United Kingdom, Shortlist, Open, Still Life, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.
“This image was created as part of an investigation into the textures and shapes that can be created using compressed flour. The plate indentation and cracks were made using, oddly enough, a plate! Egg was then applied to the top of the plate indentation and encouraged to run around the circumference. A single light was all that was required to highlight the textures and shapes of the cracked flour. The camera was placed above the subject and a stripbox was positioned in the top right corner of the frame, at a low height.”

World Photography Organisation: Website | Facebook | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by the World Photography Organisation.

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Striking Single Image Winners from the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards

Amazing Winners of the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards Announced

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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