Many a story from around the world has been told with photography.
The winners of Sony’s 2019 World Photography Awards have been announced this week, acknowledging local photography talent from 62 countries.
Competitions like this recognise the global stage upon which photography is celebrated and the diversity in local content that the World Photography Organisation is committed to showcasing in front of a wider audience.
The gallery of this year’s winners offers a stunning mix of colour, people, landscapes, architecture, culture and wildlife.
While this collection is a testament to the talent of the individuals who pursue photography and relish in it, this diverse curation of entries also emphasises the importance of the medium as a gateway to the rest of the world.
For Scott Gray, founder and CEO of the World Photography Organisation, the circulation of photographs is the very lifeblood of the medium: “Around the world photographers have stories to tell and it’s the act of sharing, presenting and recognizing these stories that keeps the photographic medium alive.”
Here in the 21st century, sharing is something that we have become accustomed to doing regularly.
Sharing is caring
From the humble beginnings of still images, through to the advent of film and video, and eventually to the modern capabilities of modes such as time-lapse, connection has always been at the centre of visual media evolution.
Nowadays, photographs can be shared to several platforms at once, and reach a global audience almost immediately. Many of us have digital identities, posting photographs to help build up our social media profiles, which act as a sort of digital scrapbook of our lives.
Part of the enjoyment of this practice is the opportunities it facilitates in sharing things with others. Sharing images helps to foster a sense of connection with people from different parts of the world. On the flip side of this exchange, you too can experience snippets of life beyond your own.
But even in their more tactile forms, photographs have brought the world to the masses. Through historical images we are able to piece together past events and get a sense of what life was like for our ancestors.
Platforms like Instagram have also helped to rekindle a love for old photographs, with endless accounts which share historical, retro images of a time long since past. In this sense, such social platforms can be spaces for learning.
Unique stories from around the world
As well as previous time periods, photographs also allow us to see people and places that we might never otherwise see. As winner of the New Zealand entries, Todd Henry notes: “As I travel more often as a photographer I realise that a camera is often a ticket into places that would otherwise be inaccessible.
“Photography has allowed me to experience cultures in places that I never imagined I would venture to.”
Henry’s winning entry – an Amish woman covering her child from the rain in Central Pennsylvania – joins other unique perspectives, including a Shadow Puppet show in a small village near Xi’an in China, a ballet dancer midair in the subway in Santiago de Chile and an aerial view of a winding country road through the trees in Sri Lanka.
Indeed, each photograph has a story behind it: a lived reality and a moment that has been frozen in time indefinitely.
And an important aspect of photography as an art is documenting the wonder of life that is already there but that is just waiting to be captured through the lens.
Similarly, time-lapse photography helps to reveal what the eye cannot naturally see; accelerating progress so that it can be experienced in minutes, even seconds.
In all of its manifestations, then, photography gives us access to a myriad of stories which can help us understand more about the world we live in.