Craig Easton named winner in the 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

The documentary photographer takes home top prize of Photographer of the Year, with category wins also going to Laura Pannack, Mark Hamilton Gruchy and Majid Hojjati

Craig Easton’s winning Bank Top series, which challenges the representation and misrepresentation of communities in northern England

Craig Easton has also been awarded in the Portraiture category for his series Bank Top – which he created in partnership with writer Abdul Aziz Hafiz. The black and white images concentrate on the Bank Top neighbourhood in Blackburn, as a way of exploring the representation of communities in the north of England. The imagery was born from an initiative by Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery, set up to challenge reports of the town as the most segregated in the UK. Easton and Hafiz spent a year on the project, working closely with locals to create texts to accompany the portraits.

“These are not people who necessarily asked to be photographed but Craig gained their trust,” says Mike Trow, Chair of the 2021 Professional competition. “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.”

From Bank Top by Craig Easton
From Bank Top by Craig Easton
From Craig Easton’s Thatcher’s Children documenting the Williams family in Blackpool, which won second place in Documentary

Other winners this year include Tomáš Vocelka in the Architecture and Design Category for his series Eternal Hunting Grounds – which documents a pet cemetery in a dilapidated military facility in Czechia; Laura Pannack in Portfolio for a series of images from personal projects; and Simone Tramonte in Environment for his Net-Zero Transition, which captures Iceland’s efforts to embrace clean energy.

Mark Hamilton Gruchy’s reworked images of the moon landing earned him a winning spot in the Creative category, while Majid Hojjati’s photos of the empty and abandoned places of the world wins in Landscape. Pannack is notably the only female photographer in the list of Professional winners.

The World Photography Organisation has also announced the winners of the Open competition, which celebrates the power of single images. This year’s Open Photographer of the Year is Tamary Kudita, awarded for her image, African Victorian, of a young Black woman holding traditional Shona cooking utensils. Coenraad Heinz Torlage takes home Student Photographer of the Year, for a set of images of the next generation of farmers, and Pubarun Basu claims Youth Photographer of the Year for No Escape From Reality – which depicts an illusion of shadowy cage bars on hands.

Locust Invasion in East Africa by Louis Tato, capturing swarms of desert locusts eating crops
Majid Hojjati’s Silent Neighbourhoods, capturing abandoned places “free of the presence of humanity”
Heaven & Cyanide by Laura Pannack
Net-zero Transition by Simone Tramonte, capuring how Iceland has moved away from fossil fuels in favour of renewable energy

The organisation’s yearly Outstanding Contribution to Photography prize goes to Graciela Iturbide, described as “Latin America’s greatest living photographer”. Iturbide has been documenting Mexico since the 1970s and “explores her country’s many complexities and contradictions, questioning its inequalities and highlighting the tensions between the urban and rural, modern and indigenous” as the WPO describes it.

Winners and finalists are all featured in a virtual exhibition of work, which can be seen online alongside a 60-minute documentary looking back on the last year of photography. A full list of winners is included below.

2021 Sony World Photography Award Winners:
Architecture and Design: Tomáš Vocelka for his series Eternal Hunting Grounds
Creative: Mark Hamilton Gruchy for his series The Moon Revisited
Documentary Projects: Vito Fusco for his series The Killing Daisy
Environment: Simone Tramonte for his series Net-zero Transition
Landscape: Majid Hojjati for his series Silent Neighbourhoods
Portfolio: Laura Pannack for her submission Portfolio Overview
Portraiture: Craig Easton for his series Bank Top
Sport: Anas Alkharboutli for his series Sport and Fun Instead of War and Fear
Still Life: Peter Eleveld for his series Still Life Composition, Shot on Wet Plate
Wildlife & Nature: Luis Tato for his series Locust Invasion in East Africa
Photographer of the Year: Craig Easton
Open Photographer of the Year: Tamary Kudita for her image African Victorian
Student Photographer of the Year: Coenraad Heinz Torlage
Youth Photographer of the Year: Pubarun Basu
Outstanding Contribution to Photography: Graciela Iturbide