Sony has announced the winners of its Sony World Photography Awards 2023 at a special gala ceremony in London. Edgar Martins has been named Photographer of the Year for series ‘Our War’, a homage to his friend photojournalist Anton Hammerl, who was killed during the Libyan Civil War in 2011.
The overall winners of the Awards’ Open, Youth and Student competitions were also revealed as well as the first-time winner of the Sustainability Prize, an award developed in collaboration with the United Nations (UN) Foundation and Sony Pictures’ Picture This initiative that recognises the stories, people and organisations whose actions highlight one of the UN’s environmental Sustainable Development Goals.
The SWPA 2023 exhibition is now available to view at Somerset House in London from 14 April to 1 May 2023 and features over 200 images from winning and shortlisted photographers along with works by Japanese photographer Rinko Kawauchi, who won this year’s Outstanding Contribution to Photography.
See some of the winners of the Sony World Photography Awards 2023 below.
SWPA 2023: Photographer of the Year
From SWPA: Our War by Edgar Martins (Portugal) is an original and nuanced tribute to the photographer’s late friend the photojournalist Anton Hammerl, who was abducted and killed on 5 April 2011 by government militia, during the Libyan Civil War.
Frustrated by unsuccessful attempts to ascertain the whereabouts of his friend’s last mortal remains, Martins took matters into his own hands and travelled to Libya. He was brought in covertly by a petrol smuggler and was immediately faced with enormous challenges working in such a volatile environment. Realising that he would not be able to carry out a thorough and independent investigation, Martins instead chose to reflect on the question: ‘how does one tell a story when there is no witness, no testimony, no evidence, no subject?’
In Our War Martins conjures and alludes to the absent central figure through a series of portraits of the people Hammerl had connected with and those involved in the fighting (freedom fighters or their descendants, ex-militia, local residents, Gaddafi loyalists or lookalikes, and so on). They were chosen because they either resembled him, had similar ideas and beliefs, or reminded Martins of him at different stages of their friendship. The project explores the idea of absence, of documenting, grieving, and honouring a subject as well as reflecting on the role of photography within a conflict zone. Martins’ approach is to confront these questions head-on: to embrace the idea of the fragmentary and the many contradictions and ambiguities intrinsic to war.
Commenting on his win Martins says: ‘It is a huge honour to be recognised and although I am philosophical about awards and the subjective nature of someone’s choice, knowing that there were over 180,000 entries to this year’s Professional competition, is very humbling. In this case, it is also quite an emotional experience because I get to honour my friend on a world stage and bring attention to the family’s plight to find his remains. There’s no award that has the reach of the Sony World Photography Awards.’
Commenting on Martins’ winning project, Mike Trow, Chair of the 2023 Professional competition says: ‘Photography is so often about memory and its nature. Long-term memory is about the conscious recollection of past events and our knowledge of them – be it through direct experience or mediated through the myriad of media we use. Our War by Edgar Martins has used memory and invention to give us a powerful, personal set of portraits that attempt to explain the last days of his friend, the photojournalist Anton Hammerl. His work highlights the lengths photographers will go to to tell a story and create meaning; each image giving a sense of the journey Anton took without ever being explicit about how his life ended. The entire jury this year was fulsome in their appreciation of the work and its narrative force.’
SWPA 2023: Sustainability Prize
SWPA 2023: Open Photographer of the Year
SWPA 2023: Youth Photographer of the Year
SWPA 2023: Student Photographer of the Year
- SWPA 2023 Open competition category winners announced
- SWPA 2023: Professional finalists announced
- Best photography competitions to enter in 2023
- Best photography exhibitions to see in 2023