It's always a fascinating source of inspiration when the Sony World Photography Awards reveals its national winners, plucked from over 170,000 images from 211 countries to give us an insight into different cultures and perspectives. Today, this year's lineup has been announced.
From Austria to Bangladesh, Egypt to Germany, Japan to Kuwait, Latvia to Qatar, Sweden to Vietnam, the national winners are chosen ahead of the competition finale in April when the overall winners in the Student, Open and Professional contests are unveiled with all winning images going on display at Somerset House in London.
Here, we share some highlights starting with Thanh Nguyen Phuc from Vietnam offering us Bike With Flowers, a colourful travel shot that cleverly lines up a floral decoration on a wall with a passing cyclist, shipping bouquets to the local market. "One hundred years ago, there were just 36 streets, and now there are many more, but the street culture remains strong in Hanoi," says Thanh. "There are many shops in the main streets, but people in the old streets prefer to get serviced by mobile street vendors. I spent a weekend following street vendors and found that they were walking or riding their bikes all day. Here is one of my favourite moments."
Another favourite of ours is The Scent of Cempasúchil by Sergio Carrasco. Bright and bursting with colour, it's a portrait that perfectly captures a local tradition. "Mexican Catrina, an icon of the Day of the Dead, wearing a typical Mexican dress from the state of Chiapas," he says. "She is standing in a field of Mexican marigold, or Cempasúchil, a flower traditionally used for Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations. Every year, my wife puts on a different Catrina costume to celebrate our tradition."
There are glimpses of the pandemic in some of the winning images. Masked Man in Tokyo by Yasuhiro Takachi is unusual for its location. Taken outside Tokyo Station, the area is usually bustling and full of people. But overall, it feels as though the world has moved on from the events of the last two years. While together, the winning photographs offer hope and positivity, there are still important issues raised. In Amal Prasad's Struggle of Life, we see that life of a village fisherman is not an easy one, and in Montsho by Tshabalala Bongani, we're reminded of racism and its devastating impact on young lives.
"Montsho, meaning 'black', is a word used in South Africa to make fun of a dark-skinned person," says Tshabalala. "This photograph explores the emotional effects of childhood teasing: depression and low self-esteem. Montsho opens conversations around the representation of the black body and black lives, challenging the idea that blackness is homogenous. For me, this photograph is about both destruction and preservation; it's about what we choose to embrace after going through trauma."
Elsewhere, we're treated to stunning images of wildlife, such as Jenny Zhao's Polar Bear Club or Wild Horses by Matjaž Šimic: "When we visited France this summer, we saw the famous white Camargue horses. Their elegance and energy fascinated me so much that I was left speechless."
There are gorgeous landscapes of different parts of our beautiful planet, sparking dreams of adventure once again. Kunuch Chutmongkolporn's Big Statue in the Middle of the City, for instance, was taken in Bangkok, Thailand last October. "The Big Buddha statue is from Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen. Around the fourth week of October, the sun sets behind the statue. To get a high-impact shot, I used a super-telephoto zoom lens to compress the sun with a bird, the statue, and the city in the foreground."
And there are breathtaking portraits of various characters including Rea by Edina Csoboth and Silence is the Most Powerful Scream by Sussi Charlotte Alminde, which she describes as a "forest story created on a cold winter's day last February. The idea was purely and simply to create a personal piece of art".
You can enjoy browsing through this year's national winners at your leisure over at worldphoto.org. Or simply enjoy browsing through our favourites below.