“The photographers we have selected who are part of the exhibition are the vanguard – they are the next generation,” says Brendan Embser, managing editor of Aperture. He’s talking about the professional finalists in this year’s Sony World Photography Awards, which he helped judge alongside three other photography experts: Emma Lewis, assistant curator, Tate; Liu Heung Shing, founder of the Shanghai Center of Photography; and Isabella van Marle, head of artist & gallery relations at Unseen Amsterdam.
The Sony World Photography Awards are divided into four categories – professional, student, youth, and open – which this year received over 326,000 submissions from 195 countries and territories. The shortlisted work will go on show at the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition at Somerset House, London, before going on tour around the world; this exhibition will also include a section dedicated to work by Nadav Kander, who has been awarded a prize for his Outstanding Contribution to Photography.
“Talking to people in Gaza, you realise how much the drones are burrowed into their daily lives,” says Daniel Tepper, an American photographer who has been researching and documenting the production and militarisation of drones in Israel since the 2014 conflict in Gaza.
In Arabic, unmanned aircrafts are referred to as ‘zenana’, local slang for the buzzing of a mosquito; in English ‘drones’ take their name from the male honeybee, and the monotonous hum it makes in flight. The Israeli military pioneered the use of drones in combat, employing the technology during the 1982 Lebanon War, and since then people in Gaza have become accustomed to the insidious noise of drones, sounding so close “they could reside beside us”, as Dr. Atef Abu Saif writes in his first-hand account of the 2014 conflict, The Drone Eats With Me. “It’s like it wants to join us for the evening and has pulled up an invisible chair,” he adds.
Despite this familiarity, what’s most scary about the drones is the fact it’s always unclear why they’re out – if they’re doing surveillance, if they’re armed, or if they’re about to strike. During the summer of 2014 the people of Gaza lived under constant surveillance, so much so you couldn’t distinguish a star or a satellite from a drone at night, says Vittoria Mentasti, an Italian photographer who experienced the conflict while reporting on it. According to Hamushim, a human rights group based in Gaza, drone warfare was responsible for almost a third of the 1543 civilian casualties in the 2014 war.
Swedish documentary photographer Loulou d’Aki’s Make a Wish has been a long time in the making. The project, which was shortlisted for the Grand Prix at Lodz Fotofestiwal this year, revolves around the aspirations and dreams of young people across the globe, recorded in a sweeping compilation of portraits and landscapes. Shot alongside commissions for international publications such as Le Monde, The New York Times and Die Zeit, it evolved over a number of years, charting the photographer’s life on the move.