The World Photography Organisation has announced the winners of its 2021 Sony World Photography Awards. This year’s winner — Craig Easton from the United Kingdom — was awarded with a $25,000 cash prize and a range of Sony imaging products. He submitted the series “Bank Top,” which was a collaboration with write and academic Abdul Aziz Hafiz. Together, they examined the representation and misrepresentation of communities in northern England, focusing on the tightknit neighbourhood of Bank Top in Blackburn.
The project forms part of Easton’s wider work in the region including Thatcher’s Children (2nd place, Documentary Projects, 2021 Professional competition,), an investigation into the chronic nature of poverty as experienced by three generations of one family; and Sixteen (shortlisted in the Portraiture category of the 2017 Awards), a look into the dreams, aspirations and fears of 16 year-olds from all walks of life.
Bank Top is a result of the Blackburn Museum & Art Gallery initiative Kick Down the Barriers, a project instigated in response to media reports portraying the town as the “the most segregated in Britain.”
Seeking to challenge this narrative, the museum invited artists and writers to collaborate with residents of various neighbourhoods and create a robust and authentic representation of their communities.
Over the course of a year Easton and Hafiz worked closely with local inhabitants to explore their stories and experiences through a series of black & white portraits and accompanying texts. These highlight issues around social deprivation, housing, unemployment, immigration and representation, as well as the impact of past and present foreign policy. Their work counters simplistic generalisations and aims to provide context as to how these communities came together and a better understanding of how they thrive together now.
“What is so impressive about this project is the intent, dedication and understanding Craig brings to it. He has worked closely with the writer Abdul Aziz Hafiz to create a complete piece, tacitly acknowledging that for a project as sensitive as this words matter,” said Mike Trow, chair of the 2021 competition. “These are not people who necessarily asked to be photographed but Craig gained their trust. They look frankly to camera and we see a mutual understanding between documenter and subject. It is the moral weight behind this work that makes it so important and deserving of this prize.”
Professional category winners were also announced, selected by a panel of expert judges for submitting an outstanding body of work of 5–10 images. This year’s winners are:
- Architecture & Design: Tomáš Vocelka (Czech Republic) for his series “Eternal Hunting Grounds”
- Creative: Mark Hamilton Gruchy (United Kingdom) for his series “The Moon Revisited”
- Documentary Projects: Vito Fusco (Italy) for his series “The Killing Daisy”
- Environment: Simone Tramonte (Italy) for his series “Net-zero Transition”
- Landscape: Majid Hojjati (Islamic Republic of Iran) for his series “Silent Neighborhoods”
- Portfolio: Laura Pannack (United Kingdom) for her submission “Portfolio Overview”
- Portraiture: Craig Easton (United Kingdom) for his series “Bank Top”
- Sport: Anas Alkharboutli (Syrian Arab Republic) for his series “Sport and Fun Instead of War and Fear”
- Still Life: Peter Eleveld (Netherlands) for his series “Still Life Composition, Shot on Wet Plate”
- Wildlife & Nature: Luis Tato (Spain) for his series “Locust Invasion in East Africa”