2016 Sony World Photography Awards: Current Affairs Shortlist

“If it makes you laugh, if it makes you cry, if it rips out your heart, that’s a good picture.” – Eddie Adams (American Photojournalist)

The Sony World Photography Awards (April 22nd – May 8th, 2016) are one of my favourite art events of the year. This week, the shortlist for SWPA contestants were announced. Below are the photographers nominated within the category of Professional Current Affairs. Looking forward to seeing the full exhibit at Somerset House this Spring.

Current Affairs Category Description: Headline stories in newspapers and on international TV channels are often illustrated by photographs, as they can speak louder than words. Increasingly, images are used instead of words, for this very reason. This category follows the stories – global and on your doorstep – inviting images which freeze moments, capture key personalities and celebrities, mark the news of the day, week or month and document turning-point events.

Aleksandra Kulak – The Bats / La Batea

“The Bats. Following Mennonite colonies in Mexico and beyond, the impact of the reclusiveness, austerity and detached way of life on the lives of the children will be explored.”

Alessandro Penso – Lesbos

“According to UNHCR, approximately 850,000 refugees and migrants, including children, arrived in Greece by sea in 2015. Of these, just over 500,000 landed on Lesbos, a Greek island around eight nautical miles from the Turkish coast.  Although at the centre of migration flows, Lesbos had nothing to offer the mainly Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi refugees, asylum seekers and migrants who arrived there. Once they reached Europe’s beaches, they were welcomed with a long trek across the island’s mountainous interior, followed by days and nights spent in crowded refugee camps, where not even a place in a tent was guaranteed and where basic amenities such as toilets and showers were lacking. But it was in those under-serviced and poorly managed camps that they had to stay, in order to obtain the required registration to allow them to travel legally through Greece and continue their journey of hope towards other European countries, such as Germany and Sweden.”

Amnon Gutman – Ukraine Crisis – The East

“Since the September 5, 2014 ceasefire deal in Minsk Both Pro Russia rebels and the UA army used the relative lull to build up their forces and for months the rebels tried to seize Donetsk airport, a strategic and symbolic asset, from government forces. With the start of 2015, a new rebel push began and by 22 January the airport was in their hands. in February 12, 2015 a new ceasefire deal was reached through international mediation, in an attempt to stop the fighting spiraling out of control. the important logistic raliway hub city of Debaltseve fell into rebels hands a few days after the deal was struck. A prolonged crisis in Ukraine began on 21 November 2013, when then-president Viktor Yanukovych suspended preparations for the implementation of an association agreement with the European Union. This decision resulted in mass protests by its opponents, known as the “Euromaidan”. After months of such protests, Yanukovych was ousted by the protesters on 22 February 2014, when he fled the Ukrainian capital city of Kiev. Following his ousting, unrest enveloped the largely Russophone eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, from where he had drawn most of his support. An ensuing political crisis in Ukrainian autonomous region of Crimea resulted in the annexation of Crimea by Russia on 18 March. Subsequently, unrest in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine evolved into a war between the post-revolutionary Ukrainian government and pro-Russian insurgents. The conflict in the east has claimed the lives of more then 9000 people so far. (UN figures- December 2015), and left approximately 275,000 people displaced inside Ukraine (UNHCR- September 2015)”


Andrea and Magda/Neutral Grey – Sinai Park

“This year, tourism in Sinai has suffered once again from the effects the troubles in the region: a russian plane crashed from a bomb explosion on the 31st of october 2015, killing 224 persons; Untill then, the russian tourists had became the essential part of the Sinai visitors, as tourism industry is hardly surviving since many years: Egypt has largely bet on the tourist industry (around 15% of the GDP), and for the Sinai region it is nearly all of the economy that is based on tourism. A risky bet, since as soon as political tensions occur, it is the entire region that is deeply affected. The terrorist attacks of the 2000’s, the Intifada in nearby Palestine, the 2011 revolution, and more recently the emergence in North Sinai of ISIS affiliated groups have been undermining the coming of Westerner tourists on whom the entire region’s economy depends. General Sisi, elected since 2014, attempted to restore investor’s trust, showing off its many militaries assets as a proof a control. But the entire cost, from Taba to Sharm el Sheikh, is covered with carcasses of empty hotels, left abandoned or never completed. The business that survived from the 2011 revolution had just started to recover, when the russian plane crashed in october. The photos of this series reveal what the pipe dream of tourism industry left in Sinai: the architecture, artificial and na, reveals the progressive disconnection with cultural local reality. The facilities are conforming to global standards in order to satisfy the client’s expectations. The ambition of investors far from being realistic, resulted in oversized constructions, devastating the environment. The security requirements led to an extreme closuring of the land. The Sinai has become a non place (following the term used by French Ethnologist Marc Auge).”

Andrew Burton – Baltimore Uprising

“Freddie Gray, a black, 25-year-old man and a resident of Baltimore’s Gilmor Houses housing project, died in police custody on April 19, 2015 after being arrested days earlier for possessing a switch blade knife. His death sparked massive protests throughout Baltimore in an attempt to bring attention to the city’s systemic inequality and the alleged, routine excessive force used by police. The riots prompted Maryland’s Governor to declare a national emergency and to call in the National Guard to quell the protests as well as mass media attention. This body of work explores the days after Gray’s funeral and how the community’s actions struck a chord in the on-going national conversation regarding race relations and police treatment of America’s black community.”

Angelos Tzortzinis – In Search of the European Dream

Migration to Europe has increased over the past years, mainly because of political and social turmoil in the Middle East. During the recent years, Greece has been the path for thousands refugees and migrants for their crossing from Turkey to Greece and other European countries. The main places of entrance are the islands of Kos and Lesbos by sea. Greek government, in an effort to minimize the wave of refugees entering the country has built an 8-mile long and 8-feet high barbed-wire wall at the main entrance point at its northeastern borderline with Turkey. This caused a huge wave of refugees and migrants trying to enter the country by the Aegean Sea. For many, it is their first encounter with the sea. Hundreds have lost their lives in their attempt to reach the European Union, man hoping to reunite with long-lost friends and family. At the time I write this text, millions of refugees and migrants wait in Turkey to cross the sea border for a better life.

Brendan Hoffman – Winter of Discontent

“Since protests in Kyiv drove President Viktor Yanukovych from power in February 2014, Eastern Ukraine has been convulsed by a separatist insurgency that has evolved into a full-fledged civil war centered in the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, an industrial region known as Donbass. At heart is a desire among the rebels for greater autonomy, out of widespread fears justified or not that Russian-speaking Ukrainians are at risk of political repression by the government in Kyiv. Russian propaganda has carried this storyline further, implying that the Ukrainian government is comprised of fascists and backed by neo-Nazi Ukrainian nationalists. Russia itself has been widely accused of backing the rebels with weapons, cash, training, and fighters, prompting the deepest divide between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War. Ukraine’s economy has taken a massive blow. Huge expenditures on the war effort, combined with the loss of Crimea and much of the industrial output of Donbass, mean that international bailouts intended to stave off default may yet prove insufficient. Political reforms are inching along, and the overall atmosphere of instability has kept away foreign investment. Meanwhile, as always, civilians are falling victim to the indiscriminate effects of uncaring weapons. According to the United Nations, more than 9,000 people have died in the conflict as of December 2015. This series chronicles the dramatic uptick in fighting in early 2015 after a fragile ceasefire collapsed completely.”

Gabriele Micalizzi – Kobane, Enemy at the Gate

“Since the beginning of the civil war 4 years ago, Kobane is an isolated city, abandoned to itself, few meters from the Turkish border. Thanks to a quickly military advance from the YPG YPJ army, the Kurdish popular militias, have entered the city of Kobane after winning ISIS in the conflict of Tel Abyad. That night the city has freed its voice, among patriotic sings, car’s horns and rifle discharges towards the sky. Moving forward from east to west, Kurdish militias have first rounded and then conquered the city of Tel Abyad, a city remaining on the Turkish border, used as a transition for the ISIS refuelling and men. The victory is above all for the city of Kobane. The city remained isolated when in july of 2012, the Kurdish have created Rojava autonomous cantons, the Syrian Kurdistan. Choked from the Assad regime, the Jabhat al Nusra militia, Syrian rib of Al Qaeda, then furiously assaulted by the ISIS and behind the Turkish border hermetically closed, Kobane hadn’t gave up remaining without refuelling and without help. After few day, a catastrophic attack during the first Friday of the Ramadan, recalled after the black Friday, has shocked Kobane, Tunisia, France, Somalia and Kuwait. Kurdish have rejected few attacks from some extremists of ISIS dressed up as a military forces with the Kurdish effigies, shooting in the street and blowing up4 cars bomb of big dimension. Although, the attack has been rejected, 200 people among civilians and militaries died that day. Now a new era is coming for the city of Kobane and the Syrian Kurdistan.”

Jason Koxvold – Black Water

“From Kuwait to Afghanistan, California to Nevada, BLACK WATER is a chronicle of how war and surveillance became permanently intertwined with contemporary culture, the visual vernacular and political identity.”

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