Image © Mitch Dobrowner, USA, winner of L'Iris d'Or, Sony World Photography Awards 2012.
“My passion has always been to photograph landscapes during interesting weather events,” Mitch Dobrowner tells BJP. “Mainly because they offered the most interesting lighting conditions. So I asked myself, ‘Why not try to experiment?’ which brought me to research photographing storm systems in Tornado Alley.” Tornado Alley is a loosely geographically defined area located between the Rocky and the Appalachian Mountains in the US, and Dobrowner has now been shooting there for a couple of years, creating a portfolio of photographs that has won the 2012 Sony World Photography Awards.
Dobrowner was selected from more than 112,000 entries from 171 countries, and a shortlist of more than 120 photographers. He received the top prize in the Fine art/Landscape category, as well as L’Iris d’Or worth $25,000 at a high-profile ceremony in London on 26 April.
Dobrowner says he had to adapt and grow in order to be able to shoot storms the way he wanted to. “At first I didn’t know what to expect, but after the first few days I realised that shooting these storms was somewhat different from shooting a landscape,” he tells BJP. “The gear I initially used was not really capable of high ISO speeds which limited me in freezing the action, so I had to adapt my style and ended up being happy with what I captured. I also had to be prepared to make fast decisions with both exposures and composition. Sometimes you step out and all hell is breaking loose. So I retooled my gear and rebooted my brain. Both gave me the additional flexibility I needed and made it totally fun.”
"In July 2009, I tracked a severe weather system for nine hours. I eventually stopped in a field outside Valentine and stood in awe of the towering super-cell," says Mitch Dobrowner. "It was building with intake wind gusts of 60+ mph, and I felt like we were standing next to a 65,000ft high vacuum cleaner." Image © Mitch Dobrowner, USA, winner of L'Iris d'Or, Sony World Photography Awards 2012.
But, he adds, his most basic piece of equipment was a beanie, which he wore on his head to keep the hair out of his eyes. “I’m not so much into camera equipment,” he tells BJP. “To me, my camera is a tool; it’s not something to polish and shine and never use and brag about. To me, it’s like a paintbrush. I need to understand it like an extension of my hand. It can’t be something that I’m intimidated by or don’t fully understand. I don’t want to be thinking about it when I’m standing in front of a 60,000-foot cyclone. I just want to be concentrating on composition and exposure, and just have the ability to focus on what is in front of me.”
“You can see that the photographer put himself in dangerous situations to show this to us,” says Claudia Hinterseer, a co-founder of the Noor agency and one of this year’s jurors. “You feel the excitement of the project through his pictures. It’s very well executed and some of his photos just blow you away. It’s beautiful photography.”
William M Hunt, chair of the honorary judging committee, adds: “These pictures are fantastic. They are violent and well done. They feel like they are these large format pictures of somebody that tied himself to the mast of a ship. They are great looking.”
Dobrowner’s project is still ongoing, he says. “But, I do plan on getting back to my traditional landscape work again this year. I’m also very interested in photographing volcanoes and I hope to begin to gain some traction on that project some time this year.”
The World Photography Organisation also rewarded 12 photographers in 13 categories, including UK photographer Helen Thomson for her Last Meal project, which won top prize in the Still Life section. Her images are depictions of death row prisoners’ last meals. “Other photographers have approached the subject in quite a stark and clinical way,” she tells BJP. “I wanted to create beautiful still life images that would juxtapose the prisoners’ horrific crimes. At first glance, you just think they are nice still life, food images, but when you realise what they are about, it makes you feel a bit uncomfortable. I think it’s the simplicity and normality of the meal versus the bizarre concept of knowing when and how you’re going to die.”
Image © Helen Thompson, UK, Winner, Still Life, Sony World Photography Awards 2012.
Hinterseer says: “This work was entered in the fine-art category, but each picture has an editorial side. Each image has a story, an extra layer, which makes the overall work even more interesting.”
Photographers David Ibernón Boria was selected in the Architecture category for his White Niemeyer work, while Irina Werning won in the Portraiture category for her Back to the Future feature. Among the other finalists are Jacek Kusz, Kasia Bielska, Luis Henry Agudelo Cano, Manuel Geerinck and Peter Franck, who respectively received top prizes in the Nature and Wildlife, Contemporary Issues, Travel, Conceptual and Campaign categories. Rob Hornstra and Simon Norfolk topped the Arts and Culture and People categories, while Donald Weber’s Life in the Exclusion Zone won in the Current Affairs section.
Legendary photographer William Klein received the Outstanding Contribution to Photography Award, with a retrospective of his work going on show at Somerset House until 20 May. “A prodigious, giant of film, photography and graphic publications, William Klein is one of the true great forces of the 20th and 21st century,” says Marcus Bury from the Hackelbury gallery, Klein’s gallerist in London. “William’s work has blazed a trail of innovation and has had a major influence on the many artists who have followed in his wake. Klein’s documentaries, his films of satire, political commentary and anarchy, his studies of cities and icons of fashion all continue to inspire artists, graphic designers, filmmakers and photographers to this day. Never one to steer clear of controversy or confrontation, William Klein is a true master of the creative arts.”
For more details, visit www.worldphoto.org. Below, BJP features the work of the 2012 Sony World Photography Awards winners in their respective categories:
Image © Luis Henry Agudelo Cano, Columbia, Winner, Travel, Sony World Photography Awards 2012.
Image © PALMER+PAWEL, United Kingdom, Winner, Sport, Sony World Photography Awards 2012.
Image © Jacek Kusz, Poland, Winner, Nature & Wildlife, Sony World Photography Awards 2012.
Image © Kasia Bielska, Poland, Winner, Contemporary Issues, Sony World Photography Awards 2012.
Image © David Airob, Spain, Winner, Architecture, Sony World Photography Awards 2012.
Image © Irina Werning, Argentina, Winner, Portraiture, Sony World Photography Awards 2012.
Image © Peter Franck, Germany, Winner, Campaign, Sony World Photography Awards 2012.
Image © Manuel Geerinck, US, Winner, Conceptual, Sony World Photography Awards 2012.
Image © Peter Franck, Germany, Winner, Fashion, Sony World Photography Awards 2012.
Image © Donald Weber, Canada, Winner, Current Affairs, Sony World Photography Awards 2012.
Image © Rob Hornstra/INSTITUTE, The Netherlands, Winner, Art & Culture, Sony World Photography Awards 2012.
Image © Simon Norfolk, UK, Winner, People, Sony World Photography Awards 2012.
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