Building a Better Future

Building a Better Future

For the Sony World Photography Awards 2021 Student competition, World Photography Organisation launched an open call for submissions that responded to a challenging year, creatively interpreting the brief Building a Better Future. This year’s competition was judged by Aesthetica’s Associate Editor, Kate Simpson, who has shortlisted 10 photographers from across the globe.

Building a Better Future is a far-reaching theme – one that could have welcomed any number of responses, especially with the comparative adjective ‘better’. What do we define as ‘better’, and who decides what this is? With rampant political disparity and fractured opinions on what constitutes the truth, these questions seem more pertinent than ever. To build a better future, do we need to put pressure on governments and policymakers to provoke landslide reforms and large-scale changes for social and environmental justice, or should we launch more grassroots movements where small-scale decisions have immediate effect?

This year’s entries proved that the next generation of photographers – from every continent on the planet – are not only talented individuals, able to meaningfully document individuals and organisations making tangible positive contributions, but are recognising what ‘better’ decisions look like, or should look like, and how they shape both local and global communities in the present and for years to come. 

The shortlisted entries engage with some of the most important socio-political issues of our time: the dissent of democracy, the dissolution of heritage and identity through mass-urbanisation, the Black Lives Matter movement and the climate crisis. There are real and raw emotions to be found in each submission: anxiety, fear and anger, as well as determination, compassion and hope.

There is also a huge amount of formal consideration, with care and attention to composition. These photographers have clearly thought about how to present their stories to audiences – from closely cropped vignettes of a completely self-sustained farm to blurred street photography capturing a protest-in-progress in New York, with focus pulled to a portrait of George Floyd in a shop window.

Shortlisted photographers and institutions: Claudia Mauderer, (South Africa, Stellenbosch Academy); Coenraad Heinz Torlage (South Africa, Academy of Design and Photography); Tayla Nebesky (USA, University of the West of England); Matias Garcia Paez (Ecuador, Ravensbourne University London); Hannah Davey (New Zealand, Elam School of Fine Arts); Irene Facoetti (Italy, Cfp Bauer); Yanan Li’s (Mainland China, University of Technology); Gosha Bergal (Russian Federation, Rodchenko Artschool); Matías Alejandro Acuña (Argentina, Motivarte).

For full details on the 10 shortlisted photographers, click here. The final winner of the Student Competition will be announced in April.

1. Home by Tayla Nebesky (USA, UWE, Bristol).
2. Bàt-ti-to by Irene Facoetti (Italy, Cfp Bauer)
3 & 4. Faces: Building a Better Future by Matias Garcia (Ecuador, Ravensbourne)
5 & 6. Border by Matias Alejandro (Argentina Acuña, Motivarte)
7. Engelhande – ‘Angel Hands’ by Claudia Mauderer, (South Africa, Stellenbosch Academy).
8. Protest for Fair Elections, Moscow City Duma Gosha Bergal (Russian Federation, Rodchenko Artschool)
9 & 10. Home by Tayla Nebesky (USA, UWE, Bristol)