Sony World Photography Awards 2021: Stunning images from shortlisted professional photographers


A baby chimp rescue, a leopard on the prowl, Norway’s epic coastline and the touching bond between a beluga whale and a fisherman.

These are some of the subjects in images taken by photographers who have been given ‘finalist’ and ‘shortlisted’ status in the professional category of the 2021 Sony World Photography Awards.

The photographers who took them are clearly at the very top of their game, having been picked out from more than 145,000 pictures entered into the professional competition’s 10 categories.

Commenting about this year’s now-revealed finalists and shortlist, Mike Trow, independent curator and photo editor and Chair of the Jury, said: ‘The integrity, intentionality and considered edits presented in this year’s projects stirred up debate and genuine appreciation among the jury.

‘Photographers rose up to the challenges of 2020 using the time to delve deeper into personal projects and explore the stories unfolding in their local communities. Their efforts have truly paid off with shortlisted and finalists’ works presenting a noticeable step up in quality, which made the competition feel special this year.’

The overall winners in the student, youth, open and professional competitions of the Sony World Photography Awards 2021 will be announced on April 15. Scroll down to see MailOnline Travel’s pick of the entries by finalist and shortlisted photographers.

This sweet image, taken by South African photographer Brent Stirton, shows the director at the Lwiro Primates Rehabilitation Centre in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Itsazo Velez, introducing two new rescued baby chimps to the juvenile enclosure. This image has helped Stirton earn shortlisted status in the wildlife and nature category. He said: ‘The chimps will be closely monitored by the keepers who live with the juvenile and baby chimps 24/7 in their enclosure and at night in their night dormitory. These chimps are all rescues and come from the bushmeat trade in DRC after their mothers were killed for bushmeat. The babies are often taken for sale and sometimes for pets. As a result, many of these chimps have lived lives of isolation, suffering and cruelty’

Virunga National Park pilot Anthony Caere flies two rescued baby chimps to the Lwiro Primates Rehabilitation Center in another cute image by Stirton. He said: 'Their mothers were killed and their meat sold by hunters who then tried to sell the babies as pets. Once at the center, the babies will be cared for like human children by keepers in a house, easing their trauma and preparing them to join the other rescued chimps in the sanctuary'

Virunga National Park pilot Anthony Caere flies two rescued baby chimps to the Lwiro Primates Rehabilitation Center in another cute image by Stirton. He said: ‘Their mothers were killed and their meat sold by hunters who then tried to sell the babies as pets. Once at the center, the babies will be cared for like human children by keepers in a house, easing their trauma and preparing them to join the other rescued chimps in the sanctuary’

A spellbinding image taken by British photographer Will Burrard-Lucas, who spent more than a year photographing leopards in Kenya's Laikipia County and is shortlisted in the wildlife and nature category. He said: 'All images were taken using a high-quality camera trap system that I developed myself for photographing elusive and nocturnal wildlife. One of the leopards in this area is a very rare melanistic individual - a black panther. Prior to this project, a black leopard had not been scientifically documented in Africa for more than 100 years'

A spellbinding image taken by British photographer Will Burrard-Lucas, who spent more than a year photographing leopards in Kenya’s Laikipia County and is shortlisted in the wildlife and nature category. He said: ‘All images were taken using a high-quality camera trap system that I developed myself for photographing elusive and nocturnal wildlife. One of the leopards in this area is a very rare melanistic individual – a black panther. Prior to this project, a black leopard had not been scientifically documented in Africa for more than 100 years’

Another mesmerising image taken by Burrard-Lucas. He added: 'The normal "spotty" leopards shown in this series are thought to be the parents of the black leopard'

Another mesmerising image taken by Burrard-Lucas. He added: ‘The normal “spotty” leopards shown in this series are thought to be the parents of the black leopard’ 

Norwegian photographer Aleksander Nordahl is behind this incredible shot of a beluga whale, called Hvaldimir. Thanks to this picture, taken in Norway, and others he submitted, he is shortlisted in the wildlife and nature category

Norwegian photographer Aleksander Nordahl is behind this incredible shot of a beluga whale, called Hvaldimir. Thanks to this picture, taken in Norway, and others he submitted, he is shortlisted in the wildlife and nature category

A tender moment between Hvaldimir and fisherman and former whaler Joar Hesten, captured by Nordahl. Hesten had previously freed the friendly creature from a harness and according to the photographer, it went on to become an 'Instagram star'. He added: 'In the summer of 2020, the whale turned up in the fjord neighbouring Joar's home. During that summer and autumn, the former whaler visited the whale, looked after it and discussed with annoyed fish farmers how they best could protect it'

A tender moment between Hvaldimir and fisherman and former whaler Joar Hesten, captured by Nordahl. Hesten had previously freed the friendly creature from a harness and according to the photographer, it went on to become an ‘Instagram star‘. He added: ‘In the summer of 2020, the whale turned up in the fjord neighbouring Joar’s home. During that summer and autumn, the former whaler visited the whale, looked after it and discussed with annoyed fish farmers how they best could protect it’

This majestic shot of a lion, taken in Kenya's Masai Mara, is by Northern Irish photographer Graeme Purdy - a finalist in the wildlife and nature category with a series of images of wild animals taken using wide-angle lenses and wireless triggers. He said: 'I have aimed for a unique perspective showing the raw beauty and power of the wild; hopefully, through more empathy with nature, we will learn to preserve it'

This majestic shot of a lion, taken in Kenya’s Masai Mara, is by Northern Irish photographer Graeme Purdy – a finalist in the wildlife and nature category with a series of images of wild animals taken using wide-angle lenses and wireless triggers. He said: ‘I have aimed for a unique perspective showing the raw beauty and power of the wild; hopefully, through more empathy with nature, we will learn to preserve it’

Another amazing shot by Purdy, this time of a cheetah in Kenya's Masai Mara. He explained: 'With these iconic wild animals, being in close proximity is too dangerous, so you need to be inventive and innovative'

Another amazing shot by Purdy, this time of a cheetah in Kenya’s Masai Mara. He explained: ‘With these iconic wild animals, being in close proximity is too dangerous, so you need to be inventive and innovative’

Russian photographer Fyodor Savintsev is a finalist in the landscape category and this dramatic shot is one of a series of images he took of the volcanic landscape on the Kamchatka Peninsula in eastern Russia. He said: 'The Kamchatka Peninsula is completely different from anything else I've seen. I was completely absorbed by its beauty and wanted to portray the volcanic belt as a living organism'

Russian photographer Fyodor Savintsev is a finalist in the landscape category and this dramatic shot is one of a series of images he took of the volcanic landscape on the Kamchatka Peninsula in eastern Russia. He said: ‘The Kamchatka Peninsula is completely different from anything else I’ve seen. I was completely absorbed by its beauty and wanted to portray the volcanic belt as a living organism’ 

Another incredible shot by Savintsev showing the Kamchatka Peninsula's volcanic landscape. He explained: 'I visited in the autumn when there is no snow covering the volcanoes and was struck by how the yellowing leaves looked against the black ash'

Another incredible shot by Savintsev showing the Kamchatka Peninsula’s volcanic landscape. He explained: ‘I visited in the autumn when there is no snow covering the volcanoes and was struck by how the yellowing leaves looked against the black ash’ 

Swiss photographer Niklas Eschenmoser is shortlisted in the landscape category thanks to his series of images showing 'the splendour of glaciers that once shaped the Alps'. This image shows the Turtmanngletscher in Switzerland

Another image in Eschenmoser's series. It shows Switzerland's Triftgletscher. He explained: 'This series is a homage to the landscape I have learned to love, but which is disappearing in front of my eyes. This body of work is a portrait of this majestic but fragile and ephemeral world of ice'

Swiss photographer Niklas Eschenmoser is shortlisted in the landscape category thanks to his stunning series of images showing ‘the splendour of glaciers that once shaped the Alps’. On the left is his shot of the Turtmanngletscher and on the right is the Triftgletscher, which are both in Switzerland. He explained: ‘This series is a homage to the landscape I have learned to love, but which is disappearing in front of my eyes. This body of work is a portrait of this majestic but fragile and ephemeral world of ice’ 

A striking image of a smog-covered bridge in the Iranian city of Ahvaz by Mohammad Madadi. He is a finalist in the environment category for his pictures of Ahvaz, which is one of the world’s most air-polluted cities and normally smothered by a sepia cloud of dust and contamination. He explained: 'The poor air quality has a significant impact on the lives of the residents of Ahvaz. Each year, thousands seek medical treatment for respiratory conditions'

A striking image of a smog-covered bridge in the Iranian city of Ahvaz by Mohammad Madadi. He is a finalist in the environment category for his pictures of Ahvaz, which is one of the world’s most air-polluted cities and normally smothered by a sepia cloud of dust and contamination. He explained: ‘The poor air quality has a significant impact on the lives of the residents of Ahvaz. Each year, thousands seek medical treatment for respiratory conditions’

A breathtaking image of Norway's Lofoten Islands, snapped by German photographer Marc Hennige

A breathtaking image of Norway’s Lofoten Islands, snapped by German photographer Marc Hennige

Another jaw-dropping shot of the Lofoten Islands by Hennige, who is shortlisted in the landscape category. He said: 'The Lofoten Islands are stunning and unique in winter. The freezing cold sea, steep mountains and colourful houses combine to make an absolutely breathtaking adventure'

Another jaw-dropping shot of the Lofoten Islands by Hennige, who is shortlisted in the landscape category. He said: ‘The Lofoten Islands are stunning and unique in winter. The freezing cold sea, steep mountains and colourful houses combine to make an absolutely breathtaking adventure’

This dramatic image is one of a series of photos submitted by Samad Ghorbanzadeh showing the dried-up areas of Lake Urmia in Iran. The judges were impressed enough to make him a shortlisted photographer in the landscape category

This dramatic image is one of a series of photos submitted by Samad Ghorbanzadeh showing the dried-up areas of Lake Urmia in Iran. The judges were impressed enough to make him a shortlisted photographer in the landscape category

A breathtaking image by Filipino photographer Marvin Grey, who is shortlisted in the landscape category for a series of beautiful shots he snapped on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. This picture shows a 'torii gate' on a snow-covered rock. Torii gates are used to indicate an entrance to a sacred spot

A breathtaking image by Filipino photographer Marvin Grey, who is shortlisted in the landscape category for a series of beautiful shots he snapped on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. This picture shows a ‘torii gate’ on a snow-covered rock. Torii gates are used to indicate an entrance to a sacred spot

Another stunning shot taken on the island of Hokkaido by Grey, who said: 'I saw it as a perfect opportunity to explore my ideas of a calm but harsh landscape, of what it could look like amidst the blizzard and the cold'

Another stunning shot taken on the island of Hokkaido by Grey, who said: ‘I saw it as a perfect opportunity to explore my ideas of a calm but harsh landscape, of what it could look like amidst the blizzard and the cold’ 

This dramatic shot shows firefighters working to douse flames that engulfed warehouses in the port of Beirut after a huge explosion in August 2020, when 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate detonated, killing hundreds and injuring and displacing thousands. The incredible photo is part of a series by Italian photographer Lorenzo Tugnoli that documents the explosion's aftermath. He is a finalist in the documentary projects category

This dramatic shot shows firefighters working to douse flames that engulfed warehouses in the port of Beirut after a huge explosion in August 2020, when 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate detonated, killing hundreds and injuring and displacing thousands. The incredible photo is part of a series by Italian photographer Lorenzo Tugnoli that documents the explosion’s aftermath. He is a finalist in the documentary projects category

Spanish photographer Brais Lorenzo took this image in his hometown - Ourense, in north-western Spain. It shows firefighters trying to quell a forest fire and is part of a series of poignant and dramatic images taken in the town by the photographer that earned him the accolade of finalist in the portfolio category. Pictures in this grouping show local events and issues

Spanish photographer Brais Lorenzo took this image in his hometown – Ourense, in north-western Spain. It shows firefighters trying to quell a forest fire and is part of a series of poignant and dramatic images taken in the town by the photographer that earned him the accolade of finalist in the portfolio category. Pictures in this grouping show local events and issues

A spectacular aerial image of the Port of Yingkou in Liaoning, China, by Chinese photographer Wentao Li. He is shortlisted in the environment category for a series of photos that ‘explores the amazing capabilities humans have for production, circulation and consumption’

This fascinating shot of an alpine barn in Laax, Switzerland, was taken by Swiss photographer Karin Nuetzi-Weisz, who is shortlisted in the architecture and design category. It is part of a series of images by Karin of the barns, which are a 'common sight in Austria, Germany and Switzerland'. She said: 'These picturesque wooden houses, made of heavy square beams, were built as simple block structures. They have a large entrance on the mountain-facing side and two tiny windows, which seem to stare at passers-by, on the side facing the valley. Finally, there is a mouth-like door'

This fascinating shot of an alpine barn in Laax, Switzerland, was taken by Swiss photographer Karin Nuetzi-Weisz, who is shortlisted in the architecture and design category. It is part of a series of images by Karin of the barns, which are a ‘common sight in Austria, Germany and Switzerland’. She said: ‘These picturesque wooden houses, made of heavy square beams, were built as simple block structures. They have a large entrance on the mountain-facing side and two tiny windows, which seem to stare at passers-by, on the side facing the valley. Finally, there is a mouth-like door’

A charming image snapped by Spanish photographer Antonio Aragon Renuncio at the Don Orion Center for children with severe disabilities in Togo. He is shortlisted in the sport category and said: 'At Don Orione Center, it's all about football. Football brings them peace for their souls and freedom for their minds'

A charming image snapped by Spanish photographer Antonio Aragon Renuncio at the Don Orion Center for children with severe disabilities in Togo. He is shortlisted in the sport category and said: ‘At Don Orione Center, it’s all about football. Football brings them peace for their souls and freedom for their minds’ 

Italian photographer Alessandro Gandolfi is behind this intriguing photo of 86-year-old Eugenia Mazzoni, who helps out her sons Eugenio and Isidoro in their cowshed in Albaredo per San Marco, Italy. The photographer is shortlisted in the portfolio category

Italian photographer Alessandro Gandolfi is behind this intriguing photo of 86-year-old Eugenia Mazzoni, who helps out her sons Eugenio and Isidoro in their cowshed in Albaredo per San Marco, Italy. The photographer is shortlisted in the portfolio category

Another image from Gandolfi. It shows violinist Martina Monti performing in the University of Ferrara’s anechoic chamber, where the walls, ceiling and floor are lined with sound absorbent material

Two men fish in the foaming Yamuna River in Delhi in a fascinating - and shocking - snap by Gandolfi. This is one of a series of images he submitted that led to the judges also putting him on the shortlist in the environment category. He said: 'A tributary of the Ganges, the Yamuna is one of the world's most polluted rivers. Every day the city of Delhi dumps hundreds of millions of litres of sewage into its waters'

Two men fish in the foaming Yamuna River in Delhi in a fascinating – and shocking – snap by Gandolfi. This is one of a series of images he submitted that led to the judges also putting him on the shortlist in the environment category. He said: ‘A tributary of the Ganges, the Yamuna is one of the world’s most polluted rivers. Every day the city of Delhi dumps hundreds of millions of litres of sewage into its waters’ 

Another environment-category image by Gandolfi, which helped him earn shortlisted status in the environment catego the Amrapali Yamuna Bridge in Delhi

Another environment-category image by Gandolfi. It shows heavy morning traffic and air pollution next to the Amrapali Yamuna Bridge in Delhi

A startling picture of a temporary Covid-19 hospital set up inside the Officine Grandi Riparazioni – a former workshop for railway repairs in Turin, Italy, that is now a cultural centre. It was snapped as part of a series by Italian photographer Luca Locatelli, who is shortlisted in the architecture and design category. He said: ‘These photos were taken just before the facility accepted its first patients [and] highlight the symbolic contrast between this icon of the first Italian Industrial Revolution and the medical technology that had been implanted in its belly to tackle the pandemic’





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