2021 Sony World Photography Student and Youth Competitions Short Lists

2021 Sony World Photography Student and Youth Competitions Short Lists

© Emil Holthausen, Germany, Short List, Youth, Natural World & Wildlife, 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

San Diego, CA—The World Photography Organization (WPO) unveiled the short-listed photographers in the Student and Youth competitions of the 2021 Sony World Photography Awards.

What’s more, the WPO will reveal the winners of Student Photographer of the Year and Youth Photographer of the Year on April 15, 2021. The organization will announce the winners via its online as well as video platforms.

2021 Sony World Photography Student and Youth Competitions

Student Competition Short List

The student short list features bodies of work by 10 students from leading higher education institutions worldwide. 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 toward a better future for all in the context of a challenging 2020. The work of the selected 10 students engages with key contemporary issues; it also highlights the efforts of individuals and organizations from across the globe.


Environmentalism is the focus of several projects. In Border, Matías Alejandro Acuña (Argentina, Motivarte) depicts the work of park rangers in Argentina’s Punta Bermeja nature reserve.

WPO-Sony-World-2021-Tayla-Nebesky_UnitedStates_StudentCompetition_Building betterfuture
© Tayla Nebesky, United States of America, Short List, Student Competition, Building a Better Future, 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

Bàt-ti-to by Irene Facoetti (Italy, Cfp Bauer) features a series of black-and-white photographs. They combine radiographs as well as medical data of wounded birds treated in the CRAS WWF Valpredina rehabilitation center.

In addition, Home by Tayla Nebesky (USA, University of the West of England) looks at her parents’ efforts toward self-sufficiency on their California ranch.

Faces: Building a Better Future, by Matias Garcia Paez (Ecuador, Ravensbourne University London), presents interiors and portraits of members of a construction team. They are working on the home of local architect David Vasconez, who specializes in sustainable building.

Political Activism

Social and political activism is presented in the following. My Local Leaders, by Coenraad Heinz Torlage (South Africa, Academy of Design and Photography), features portraits of philanthropic figures. Their 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. The nonprofit in the Fisantekraal area provides meals to school children and education on food sustainability. WPO-Sony-World-Photo-Logos

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. It also 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 Moscow.

Thomas Hengge (U.S., New York University) covers Black Lives Matter demonstrations in New York City following the death of George Floyd.

Cultural Preservation

Furthermore, cultural preservation is at the center of Yanan Li’s (Mainland China, University of Technology) Inheritor series. It captures the spirit of Chinese opera, a time-honored tradition, struggling to maintain relevance in an era of technology and media.

These 10 students have moved to the second stage of the competition. Moreover, they were each awarded Sony digital imaging equipment to help complete their second brief, Our Time. The brief challenges students to produce a series of images that explores the way they and their contemporaries see the world as well as how they hope to change it.

Student Photographer of the Year is awarded more than $35,000 worth of Sony digital imaging equipment for their institution. Kate Simpson, assistant editor, Aesthetica magazine, judged this year’s Youth Photographer of the Year.

Youth Competition Shortlist

The Youth competition short list comprises six category winners. Each one responds to a different monthly theme from July to December 2020.

© Emil Holthausen, Germany, Short List, Youth, Natural World & Wildlife, 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

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. It creates the illusion of cage bars. In addition, from behind the curtains a pair of hands is trying to break through. It thus conveys a sense of entrapment shared by so many this past year.

Tianyang Wang’s (China Mainland, 18, Culture, August 2020) black-and-white portrait depicts a local Tibetan man in his home.

Emil Holthausen (Germany, 18, Natural World & Wildlife, September 2020) presents a striking image of a fox sitting in the snow.

Ram Kaushalyan’s (India, 18, Street Life, October 2020) photograph of a young boy captures the vibrancy and also the energy of a local street fair.

Connor Lothian (UK, 18, People, November 2020) presents an abstract image of a model performing in a studio. The photograph is a result of his experimentation with color and also movement.

Zak Elley’s (UK, 19, Show Us Your World, December 2020) collaboration with makeup artist Rebecca Ross presents the subject of the photograph in a full face of makeup; furthermore, it is based off the TikTok logo color scheme. The portrait comments on the platform’s immense popularity alongside the dangers lurking in today’s social media spheres.

Gastón Deleau, director, FOLA, Buenos Aires, Argentina, chaired Youth Photographer of the Year. The winner will receive a range of Sony digital imaging equipment.