The Sony World Photography Awards, organized by the World Photography Organisation, has announced its 2017 shortlist. This year’s competition received 227 000 submissions from 183 countries. Four Canadian photographers were shortlisted: Amber Bracken (Professional Contemporary Issues category), Elzbieta Kurowska (Open Nature category), Stéphane Couture (Open Travel category), and Rob Wilson (Open Travel category). Three additional Canadians ranked among the top 50 in the world in their categories in the Open competition: Sylvie Pinsonneault (Open Nature category), Philippe Doucet (Open Still Life category), and Kirsten Quist (Open Travel category).
On March 28, the Open and National Award winners will be announced. The Photographer of the Year, Professional category winners, and Open, Youth and Student Focus Photographers of the Year will be revealed on April 20 at a ceremony in London, U.K. From April 21 through May 7, the SWPA winning images will be exhibited at Somerset House along with Martin Parr’s work.
Amber Bracken, Professional Contemporary Issues category
Since beginning as a staffer in daily newspapers in 2014, Amber Bracken has forged a successful freelance career and worked with clients including The Globe and Mail, Reuters, and Canadian Geographic. A member of Rogue Collector and lifelong Albertan, Brakcen has built strong relationships with the indigenous communities of Canada and North America and documents important issues around culture, environment and the effect of inter-generational trauma from colonialism.
Her shortlisted work, Standing Rock, was taken across six weeks and three trips, and documents the protests of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their allies who have been camped for ten months in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline crossing their land and water. Bracken notes, “Although on its face the issue is the pipeline, the conflict runs much deeper and is steeped in generations of violent history. These are the people of the Battle of Little Big Horn and of Wounded Knee, who were driven to starvation by the loss of the buffalo and away from their sacred Black Hills. Police treatment of water protectors hasn’t been out of step with this history. In military vehicles and body armour, police have indiscriminately used tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, percussion grenades and water canons in sub-zero temperature. Despite all of this, the pipeline is still unresolved and water protectors are still on the land. But whether the pipeline is completed or not, the groundswell created for this resistance will certainly have reverberations for industry and indigenous people alike.”
Elzbieta Kurowska, Open Nature category
Elzbieta Kurowska is a Canadian photographer and a biochemist based in London, Ontario. Kurowska utilizes her science background to explore and visualize overpowering forces that compel the natural world to develop life from the amorphous organic matter. To produce otherworldly images of emerging life she employs an original technique that combines creative use of translucent organic gels and polarized light.
The composition in her shortlisted image, Segamenis, was created in the photographer’s workshop and measures about 3-4 cm in diameter. The glow effect has been achieved because the organic gel of the “petals” has photoelastic properties; it shows material stress in cross-polarized light.
Stéphane Couture, Open Travel category
Originally from Ancienne-Lorette, Quebec, Stéphane has spent the last 20 years working in animation and visual effects in Hollywood on major motion pictures such as Titanic, Independence Day and Spider-man. Farm House in Tuscany, shortlisted in the Travel category, was shot outside of Pienza, Italy, in May 2016 and captures a beautiful farmhouse against the mesmerizing Tuscan sunset.
Rob Wilson, Open Travel category
From Vancouver Island, British Colombia, Rob Wilson is a 22 year-old freelance photographer who has been driving throughout North and Central America with his girlfriend since September 2016. His shortlisted image was taken on October 2, 2016, at Taft Point within Yosemite National Park, California. Wilson notes, “Taken as the last light began to leave the valley below, I could barely hit the shutter release as my fingers were so cold. I visited Yosemite during a road trip with my girlfriend, who is pictured at the cliff’s edge.”