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Student and Youth Competitions 2021


Today the World Photography Organisation announces the shortlisted photographers in the Student and Youth competitions of the Sony World Photography Awards 2021. Winners of Student Photography of the Year and Youth Photographer of the Year will be revealed on 15 April via the World Photography Organisation’s online and video platforms.


The Student shortlist features bodies of work by 10 students at leading higher education institutions from across the world. Students were challenged to submit a series of five to 10 images responding to two different briefs. The first brief Building a Better Future asked students to tell the stories of those working towards a better future for all in the context of a challenging 2020. The work of the selected 10 students engages with key contemporary issues while highlighting the efforts of individuals and organisations from across the globe.

Environmentalism is the focus of several projects such as Border by Matías Alejandro Acuña (Argentina, Motivarte) who depicts the work of park rangers in Argentina’s Punta Bermeja nature reserve; Bàt-ti-to by Irene Facoetti (Italy, Cfp Bauer) features a series of black & white photographs combining radiographs and medical data of wounded birds treated in the CRAS WWF Valpredina rehabilitation centre; Home by Tayla Nebesky (USA, University of the West of England) looks at her parents’ efforts towards self-sufficiency on their ranch in California; and Faces: Building a Better Future by Matias Garcia Paez (Ecuador, Ravensbourne University London) presents interiors and portraits of members of a construction team working on the home of local architect David Vasconez who specialises in sustainable building.

Social and political activism is presented in series including My Local Leaders by Coenraad Heinz Torlage (South Africa, Academy of Design and Photography) which features portraits of philanthropic figures whose varied contributions made a significant impact on their rural community of Dundee in Kwazulu-Natal; Engelhande (Angel Hands) by Claudia Mauderer, (South Africa, Stellenbosch Academy) looks at the work of Sprouting Minds, a non-profit organisation in the Fisantekraal area, that aims to provide meals to school children and education on food sustainability through talks and cultivation initiatives; Hope in Nepal, with support from The Leprosy Mission by Hannah Davey (New Zealand, Elam School of Fine Arts) documents the work of The Leprosy Mission (TLM) in the village of Tikabhairab which funds the Anandaban Hospital and local groups working in the community.

Gosha Bergal (Russian Federation, Rodchenko Artschool) depicts protests for fair elections to the regional parliament in the city of Moscow, while Thomas Hengge (USA, New York University) covers Black Lives Matter demonstrations in New York City following the death of George Floyd. Cultural preservation is at the centre of Yanan Li’s (Mainland China, University of Technology) Inheritor series, which captures the spirit of Chinese opera, a time-honoured tradition, struggling to maintain its relevance in an era of technology and new media.

These ten students have now moved to the second stage of the competition and are each awarded with Sony digital imaging equipment to help complete their second brief Our Time. The brief challenges students to produce a series of images which explores the way they and their contemporaries see the world and how they hope to change it. Student Photographer of the Year will be announced on 15 April 2021 and is awarded €30,000 worth of Sony digital imaging equipment for their institution.

This year’s Student shortlist was judged by Kate Simpson, Assistant Editor, Aesthetica Magazine.


The Youth competition shortlist comprises six category winners each responding to a different monthly theme from July to December 2020.

In Pubarun Basu’s (India, 19 years-old, Composition & Design, July 2020) photograph, the shadows of parallel railings are projected onto curtains in the photographer’s home, creating the illusion of cage bars. From behind the curtains a pair of hands is trying to break through, conveying a sense of entrapment shared by so many across the world this past year. Tianyang Wang (China Mainland, 18 years-old, Culture, August 2020) black & white portrait depicts a local Tibetan man in his home. Emil Holthausen (Germany, 18 years-old, Natural World & Wildlife, September 2020) presents a striking image of a fox sitting in the snow while Ram Kaushalyan’s (India, 18 years-old, Street Life, October 2020) photograph of a young boy captures the vibrancy and energy of the local street fair where it was taken. Connor Lothian’s (UK, 18 years-old, People, November 2020) abstract image of a model performing in a studio is a result of his experimentation with colour and movement. Zak Elley’s (UK, 19 years-old, Show Us Your World, December 2020) collaboration with make-up artist Rebecca Ross presents the subject of the photograph in a full face of makeup based off the TikTok logo colour scheme. The portrait comments on the platform’s immense popularity alongside the dangers lurking in today’s social media spheres.

Youth Photographer of the Year is chaired by Gastón Deleau, Director, FOLA, Buenos Aires, Argentina. The winner will receive a range of Sony digital imaging equipment to nurture their vision.

Gosha Bergal, Russian Federation Rodchenko Art School
Coenraad Heinz Torlage, South Africa Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography
Claudia Mauderer, South Africa Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography
Yanan Li, China Mainland University of Science and Technology of China
Matías Alejandro Acuña, Argentina Motivarte
Thomas Hengge, USA New York University
Irene Facoetti, Italy Cfp Bauer
Tayla Nebesky, USA University of the West of England
Hannah Davey, New Zealand Elam School of Fine Arts
Matias Garcia Paez, Ecuador Ravensbourne University London
COMPISITION & DESIGN:Pubarun Basu, India
CULTURE: Tianyang Wang, China Mainland
NATURE & WILDLIFE: Emil Holthausen, Germany
STREET LIFE: Ram Kaushalyan, India
PEOPLE: Connor Lothian, UK