The annual Sony World Photography Awards has announced the winners of its 2021 competition, with two of the top prizes going to photographers who reexamined biases in how culture and history are portrayed.
Zimbabwean photographer Tamary Kudita was named Open Photographer of the Year, a category honouring single images, and awarded $5,000 for her winning portrait, “African Victorian.” British documentarian Craig Easton was named Photographer of the Year and awarded $25,000 for the series “Bank Top,” which comprises black-and-white images and text, capturing a humanistic portrait of a small community in Blackburn, northern England.
In 2007, the BBC investigative documentary series “Panorama” reported Blackburn’s divisions that left White and Muslim Asian residents leading “separate lives.” Ten years later, the British broadcaster found the town to be “even more divided.”
In response to media reports portraying the town as Britain’s “most segregated,” the Blackburn Museum & Art Gallery invited artists and writers to collaborate directly with residents to show their day-to-day lives authentically, the World Photography Organization — organizers of the Sony World Photography Awards — said in a press release.
Together with writer and academic Abdul Aziz Hafiz, Easton focused on the neighbourhood of Bank Top, creating the project “to understand the divisions that this kind of language can create — this ‘them and us’ narrative,” Easton said over email.
“What we found was a place of the congregation — where people have come together from all over the world, for many decades, and created a community that is settled and vibrant, and continues to welcome new arrivals in solidarity.”
Also challenging stereotypes, Kudita’s “African Victorian” depicts a Black woman in a voluminous dark Victorian-style dress gazing at the camera while holding traditional cooking utensils of the Shona people. The image reflects Kudita’s dual heritage, she noted over email, alluding to her Shona ancestry and the Western culture into which she assimilated.