17 of the most captivating professional photos shortlisted in the 2020 Sony World Photography Awards

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  • The Sony World Photography Awards, one of the world's most prestigious photo competitions, has announced the shortlisted and finalist entries of its 2020 Professional competition.
  • Open to professional photographers over the age of 18, the competition ran from June 2019 to January 2020. More than 135,000 images were submitted.
  • The competition recognizes photo series consisting of 5 to 10 images that were taken or commissioned in 2019. Photographers could submit one photo series to each of the 10 categories, which included "Environment" (a new category for 2020) and "Creative" (for digitally altered images).
  • From a highway that zigzags like a child's doodle through mountains in China to a bushfire raging through southeast Australia, the shortlisted and finalist images capture some of 2019's most beautiful and dire moments.
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The Sony World Photography Awards is widely regarded as one of the world's most prestigious photography competitions - and today, it announced the finalist and shortlisted images of its 13th annual Professional competition, whittled down from a staggering 135,000 images.

Between its four 2020 competitions - Professional, for photo series; Open, for standalone images; Youth, for standalone images taken by photographers ages 12-19; and Student, for photography students - Sony received a record 345,000 submissions from 203 countries and territories.Advertisement

The 2020 Professional competition was open to professional photographers over the age of 18 from around the world, ran from June 2019 through January 2020, and accepted bodies of work consisting of 5 to 10 images across 10 categories: Creative, Discovery, Documentary, Environment, Landscape, Natural World & Wildlife, Portraiture, Sport, and Still Life. Only unpublished images taken in 2019 or images commissioned in 2019 were eligible.

Submissions were evaluated on their technical excellence and for providing a "fresh perspective on contemporary subjects." In total, 60 shortlisted series and 30 finalist series were selected across categories.

From a whimsical portrait of teenagers lounging in a messy bedroom to a bushfire raging through southeast Australia, the shortlisted and finalist images capture 2019 in its lightest and darkest moments.
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The Awards will announce ten category winners and a Photographer of Year from among the Professional category finalists on April 16 at the Sony World Photography Awards in London. The Photographer of the Year will receive $25,000, among other prizes.

Here are 17 standout images from the finalist and shortlisted photo series: *Photographer image descriptions have been lightly edited for clarity.Advertisement

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"Rumi and Scarlet, 2019" by Joseph Ford

"Rumi and Scarlet, 2019" by Joseph Ford

Category: Creative shortlist

Series name: Invisible Jumpers

About the series: Ford worked with a knitter to match his subjects with their surroundings and create an optical illusion.

Photographer image description: "I've photographed a range of ages for this project, and the idea of recreating a messy teenager's bedroom appealed to me."

See the full series here.

Source: Sony World Photography Awards

"Judges are looking at reborn dolls during the Valencia doll show" by Didier Bizet

"Judges are looking at reborn dolls during the Valencia doll show" by Didier Bizet

Category award: Documentary shortlist

Series name: Baby Boom

About the series: Bizet documents the creation and adoption of "reborn" dolls. These hyper-realistic dolls that resemble newborns first appeared in the US in the 90s, according to Bizet, and feature "birthmarks, veins, hair, visible skin pores, and even saliva."

Photographer image description: "Hundreds of visitors flock to the Doll Show in Valencia, Spain. This reborn dolls show is the largest in Europe. The jury of reborn artists from all over the world, adored by collectors, meets at the end of the first day of the show. On the left, Bianca Franke carefully notes the many details of the babies such as hair implantation and painting work. April 2019."

See the full series here.

Source: Sony World Photography Awards

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"Kosmaj" by Laurin Schmid

"Kosmaj" by Laurin Schmid

Category: Architecture shortlist

Series name: Relics of a Utopia

About the series: In 2019, Schmid visited 50 Spomeniks, or brutalist memorials made of concrete and steel that were erected in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugosalvia beginning in the 1960s. Following the Yugoslav Wars in the 90s, many of the monuments were forgotten, according to Schmid. She photographed the structures under full moonlight.

Photographer image description: "Monument to the Fallen Soldiers of the Kosmaj Detachment, Kosmaj Mountain, Serbia. Coordinates: N44°28'04.3", E20°34'18.3". Year Completed: 1971. Designer: Vojin Stojić and Gradimir Medaković."

See the full series here.

Source: Sony World Photography Awards

"0,531Bq" by Florian Ruiz

"0,531Bq" by Florian Ruiz

Category award: Landscape finalist

Series name: Project 596 (Chinese nuclear landscape)

About the series: Ruiz used digital techniques to depict the "invisible" radioactivity of Lop Nor, a dried-up salt lake in northwest China's Xinjiang province that was used as a nuclear weapons testing site from 1964-96. "The first Chinese nuclear bomb test, codenamed Project 596, was conducted here in October 1964. As a result of these activities, the region is still heavily contaminated," Ruiz wrote.

Photographer image description: "I wanted to show the invisible danger in this desolate area. Using a Geiger counter I measured the presence of radiation in becquerels (Bq). The title of each image is the level of soil contamination I recorded, expressed in Bq. Using digital techniques, I superimposed image fragments, suggesting atoms altering and a general feeling of impermanence. These broken perspectives show the landscape twisting and changing, leading to a sort of vertigo or malaise."

See the full series here.

Source: Sony World Photography Awards

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"Drug Cartel Cemetery 10" by Jeoffrey Guillemard

"Drug Cartel Cemetery 10" by Jeoffrey Guillemard

Category award: Architecture shortlist

Series name: Drug Cartel Cemetery

About the series: Guillemard photographed the Jardines del Humaya cemetery in Culiacan, Mexico. Built in 1969 by the city's wealthiest families, the cemetery was later taken over the Cartel de Sinalon, who transformed the site with "mansion-like" tombs. The cartel tombs include air conditioning, satellite TV and some are estimated to be worth millions of dollars, according to Guillemard.

Photographer image description: "Arturo Beltran Leiva's 'El Barbas' grave, from the Cartel de los Beltran Leiva. December 27, 2019. Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico."

See the full series here.

Source: Sony World Photography Awards

"Seeds of Resistance 3" by Pablo Albarenga

"Seeds of Resistance 3" by Pablo Albarenga

Category award: Creative finalist

Series name: Seeds of Resistance

About the series: Albarenga stitched together photographs of indigenous leaders in Brazil and the lands that they protect. Albarenga cited a 2018 report by Global Witness that states that 57 land and environmental defenders were killed in Brazil in 2017, 80% of whom were defending land in the Amazon.

Photographer image description: "Nantu is an indigenous young man from the Achuar Nation of Ecuador who leads a project of solar-powered river boats for collective transport. By installing solar panels on a specially designed boat's roof, he is working to end Achuar's dependence on petrol. Left: On his land, Nantu lies dressed with traditional Achuar clothing. Right: the pristine rainforest from the Achuar territory. Sharamentsa, Pastaza, Ecuador."

See the full series here.

Source: Sony World Photography Awards

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"盘龙古道 (Plateau Sky Road)" by Peixia Xie

"盘龙古道 (Plateau Sky Road)" by Peixia Xie

Category award: Landscape shortlist

Series name: 盘龙古道 (Plateau Sky Road)

About the series: Peixia Xie took these aerial photographs between October and November 2019 in the Pamir Plateau of China's Xinjiang province. She captured what locals refer to as the 'Plateau Sky Road,' which opened in July 2019, runs for 22 miles between Tashkurg Tajik Autonomous County and Wacha Township, and is full of hairpin turns.

See the full series here.

Source: Sony World Photography Awards

"Hanoi Fish Man" by Jon Enoch

"Hanoi Fish Man" by Jon Enoch

Category award: Portraiture finalist

Series name: Bikes of Hanoi

About the series: Enoch spent a week on the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam, photographing delivery drivers. These deliverymen have "amazing balance skills" and deliver goods ranging from car parts to eggs to pet fish and ice across the city, sometimes even selling directly from their bikes, Enoch said. Increasingly, vans are being used for commercial deliveries, he noted.

Photographer image description: "A man poses with his scooter in Hanoi with a delivery of pet fish, taken at the start of 2019. The riders have the ability to transport all manner of goods in amazing quantities."

See the full series here.

Source: Sony World Photography Awards

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"At the Pink Planet" by Yevhen Samuchenko

"At the Pink Planet" by Yevhen Samuchenko

Category award: Natural World & Wildlife shortlist

Series name: At the Pink Planet

About the series: Samuchenko used a drone to capture the brilliant colors of Lemurian Lake, a salt lake in Ukraine that turns pink and red in the summer months as a result of microscopic algae that live in the water. "The first time you see the pink salt lakes of the Kherson region in Ukraine it feels as though you are looking at another planet," Samuchenko said. "The view from above is literally out of this world," he added.

See the full series here.

Source: Sony World Photography Awards

"Laura and Katie meet at the prison fence" by Richard Ansett

"Laura and Katie meet at the prison fence" by Richard Ansett

Category award: Portraiture finalist

Series name: The Women of HMP Foston Hall

About the series: Ansett visit HMP Foston Hall, a closed prison for women over 18 in Derbyshire, England. "The aim of the project was to communicate to the outside world the effects of their incarceration, and how they try to make sense of their lives inside," Ansett said.

Photographer image description: "Relationships are not officially sanctioned, but are inevitable, and grabbed moments of intimacy are all the more precious for being denied."

See the full series here.

Source: Sony World Photography Awards

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Untitled by Sarah Sasani

Untitled by Sarah Sasani

Category: Sport shortlist

Series name: We Are Noticed Too Late

About the series: Sasani, a professional judoka, or practitioner of the martial art judo, captured portraits of her fellow professional female athletes in Iran.

Photographer image description: "I am a professional athlete. I was six when I took up sport. Now I am a national champion. From the very first day up until now — I am 27 — only my father knows that I am a professional judoka. My father has never witnessed my joy when I win or been by my side when I fail because he is not allowed to enter the hall."

See the full series here.

Source: Sony World Photography Awards

"Sologub Oksana Volodymirivna" by Sasha Maslov

"Sologub Oksana Volodymirivna" by Sasha Maslov

Category award: Portraiture finalist

Series name: Ukrainian Railroad Ladies

About the series: Maslov set out to document the "fairy-tale" railroad crossing houses of his native Ukraine as well as the workers who live in them. "During the course of this project, it occurred to me that the crossings are reassuringly permanent — they stand firm in the face of constant change. Unfazed by the passing of trains and time, they are here to stay," he said.

Photographer image description: "322 km crossing of Poltava Kyiv. The Southern Railways."

See the full series here.

Source: Sony World Photography Awards

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"Orange and Gray" by Mauro Battistelli

"Orange and Gray" by Mauro Battistelli

Category award: Landscape shortlist

Series Name: Swamps in Autumn

About the series: Battistelli captured the ethereal beauty of a Texas swamp during a kayaking trip in November 2019. "The Spanish moss looked incredible in the early morning light, and the water and trees formed endless fascinating shapes," he said.

Photographer image description: "Stunning trees, Spanish moss, and orange leaves combined are the essence of autumn in the swamps of Texas."

See the full series here.

Source: Sony World Photography Awards

"SN7" by Nicholas Moir

"SN7" by Nicholas Moir

Category award: Documentary shortlist

Series name: The Burning

About the series: Moir documented the Green Wattle Creek bushfire in southeast Australia, one of many that have caused widespread destruction throughout Australia.

Photographer image description: "A lone fire truck is framed by a wall of flame and a fire tornado during Green Wattle Creek fire, which erupted out of the bush and hit properties in Sydney southwest."

See the full series here.

Source: Sony World Photography Awards

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"1" by Chung Ko

"1" by Chung Ko

Category award: Documentary finalist

Series name: Wounds of Hong Kong

About the series: Chung Ko has documented the wounds of those involved in the ongoing student-led Hong Kong protests that erupted in June 2019 over a proposed extradition bill. "Scars and bruises may fade, but we must remember what caused them. Here are the wounds of the casualties," Chung Ko said.

Photographer image description: "Ah Yan (alias), a first-aid worker hit by a tear gas canister while he was on duty in Causeway Bay on November 2, 2019, suffered from third-degree burns. His fingers were also burnt when he tried to remove the canister between his back and backpack. After a four-hour skin grafting operation, he has to dress the wound everyday, which is quite painful."

See the full series here.

Source: Sony World Photography Awards

"Sand Elephant Memories" by Massimo Gurrieri

"Sand Elephant Memories" by Massimo Gurrieri

Category award: Discovery shortlist

Series name: Tutto Scorre: India's Flow

About the series: Gurrieri documented his travels through India in 2019. "Traveling the roads here is as much an inner as an outer journey," he said." Daily life unfolds, interspersed with religious rituals. Embarking on a walk allows thoughts from the depths to rise to the surface," he said.

Photographer image description: "Memories, dust, religion, and pollution. Kumbh Mela, 2019."

See the full series here.

Source: Sony World Photography Awards

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"This Is Normal" by Jenny Evans

"This Is Normal" by Jenny Evans

Category award: Environment shortlist

Series name: An Ecosystem in Crisis

About the series: Evans documented life in Australia's Murray-Darling Basin. The region is experiencing what Evan likens to "a water crisis usually experienced in Third World countries." The water, she notes, has "become undrinkable and unsuitable for swimming or bathing."

Photographer image description: "Talita Cohen, 4, washes in a bath filled with tap water from the Darling River in Louth, Australia. For Talita, the brown foul-smelling water is nothing out of the ordinary for her; it is her reality. It is the only water available for her and her family. Local communities in the Darling River area are facing drought and clean water shortages as debate grow over the alleged mismanagement of the Murray-Darling Basin."

See the full series here.

Source: Sony World Photography Awards