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View the winning Professional images from the Sony World Photo Awards 2021

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Images from the ‘Bank Top’ series by Craig Easton, Sony World Photography Awards 2021 Professional category winner (Image credit: © Craig Easton/2021 Sony World Photography Awards)

UK-based photographer Craig Easton is the overall winner of the Sony World Photography Awards 2021, for his series ‘Bank Top’. 

Examining the representation and misrepresentation of communities in northern England, the project was a collaboration with writer and academic Abdul Aziz Hafiz. 

One year in the making, ‘Bank Top’ seeks to challenge the narrative that the town of Blackburn in Lancashire is “the most segregated in Britain,” a label bestowed on it in media reports. 

Easton and Hafiz worked closely with local inhabitants, exploring their stories and experiences through a series of black and white portraits and accompanying texts. 

Their work highlights issues around social deprivation, housing, unemployment, immigration and representation, and counters simplistic generalisations – aiming to provide context as to how these communities came together and a better understanding of how they thrive together now. 

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Another image by Craig Easton, who was runner-up in the Professional Documentary Projects category (Image credit: © Craig Easton/2021 Sony World Photography Awards)

Easton receives the title of Sony World Photography Awards 2021 Photographer of the Year, a cash prize of $25,000 and a range of Sony digital imaging equipment. 

Ten category winners receive a range of Sony digital imaging equipment and publication in the Sony World Photography Awards book; second- and third-place winners have their work published in the book. 

“What is so impressive about this project is the intent, dedication and understanding Craig brings to it,” said Chair of the 2021 Professional competition, Mike Trow. 

“He has worked closely with the writer Abdul Aziz Hafiz to create a complete piece, tacitly acknowledging that for a project as sensitive as this, words matter. 

“These are not people who necessarily asked to be photographed but Craig gained their trust. They look frankly to camera and we see a mutual understanding between documenter and subject. 

“It is the moral weight behind this work that makes it so important and deserving of this prize.” 

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An image from Craig Easton’s series ‘Thatcher's Children: 1992-2020’, which was runner-up in the Documentary Projects category (Image credit: © Craig Easton/2021 Sony World Photography Awards)

Commenting on his win, Craig Easton said: “I am delighted to have this work recognised by the Sony World Photography Awards. 

“I photograph to learn, to try to understand and to document and share stories. It is a privilege to be able to do so and to challenge perceptions and stereotypes – something that is especially important to me. 

“To have these stories from underrepresented or misrepresented communities in northern England where I live recognised and shared worldwide is wonderful. Thank you.” 

Read on to see the 10 professional category winners of the Sony World Photography Awards 2021… 

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ARCHITECTURE & DESIGN Tomáš Vocelka, Czech Republic. Taken on location at the Eternal Hunting Grounds pet crematorium, on the site of the former Drnov military complex. This space comprises a mourning hall, a crematorium and approximately 40 hectares of surrounding land where wildlife can thrive. (Image credit: © Tomáš Vocelka/2021 Sony World Photography Awards)

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CREATIVE Mark Hamilton Gruchy, United Kingdom, for his series The Moon Revisited. Made up of previously unprocessed images from NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the series aims to create a conversation about the unchanging aspect of the Moon contrasted with the Earth, which continues to be a dynamic place where change cannot be prevented. (Image credit: © Mark Hamilton Gruchy/2021 Sony World Photography Awards)

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DOCUMENTARY PROJECTS Vito Fusco, Italy, for his series The Killing Daisy. The Kenyan government has decided to liberalise the production of pyrethrum (the ‘flower of death’), opening it to private companies in an ambitious attempt to revive the sector and help local farmers meet the growing global demand for organic products. (Image credit: © Vito Fusco/2021 Sony World Photography Awards)

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ENVIRONMENT Simone Tramonte, Italy, for his series Net-zero Transition, which shows how Iceland has become a global leader in technologies that foster clean energy and emission reduction. In just a few decades, the country has moved away from fossil fuels to producing 100% of its electricity from renewable sources. (Image credit: © Simone Tramonte/2021 Sony World Photography Awards)

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LANDSCAPE Majid Hojjati, Islamic Republic of Iran, for his series Silent Neighborhoods, defined by Hojjati as places free of the presence of humanity. “We have raced to eternity, knowing life is fleeting, leaving the lights on behind us as if to say that once upon a time we were alive,” he notes. “The noise of their silence can be heard everywhere – but here in these places we are condemned to hear nothing.” (Image credit: © Majid Hojjati/2021 Sony World Photography Awards)

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PORTFOLIO Laura Pannack, United Kingdom, for her submission Portfolio Overview, which contains images from a variety of personal projects. “All of my work is driven by research and building a connection with those I photograph, while vulnerability and honesty are at the forefront of my process,” says Laura. “Such collaborations enable my imagery to be playful and push the boundaries of portraiture, while ensuring a foundation of trust is consistent.” (Image credit: © Laura Pannack/2021 Sony World Photography Awards)

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PORTRAITURE Craig Easton, United Kingdom, for his series Bank Top, a long-form collaboration with writer and academic Abdul Aziz Hafiz that uses the stories and experiences in Bank Top, Blackburn, to address wider issues around social deprivation, housing, unemployment, immigration and representation, as well as the impact of past and present foreign policy. (Image credit: © Craig Easton/2021 Sony World Photography Awards)

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SPORT Anas Alkharboutli, Syrian Arab Republic, for his series Sport and Fun Instead of War and Fear. Wasim Satot opened a karate school for children in the Syrian village of Aljiina, near the city of Aleppo. Girls and boys aged between six and 15 years and without disabilities are taught together. Satot wants to create a sense of community with his school, and overcome any traumas of war in the minds of the children. (Image credit: © Anas Alkharboutli/2021 Sony World Photography Awards)

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STILL LIFE Peter Eleveld, Netherlands, for his series Still Life Composition, Shot on Wet Plate. The wet plate collodion technique was applied to ordinary objects like glassware, fruits and flowers to turn them into something extraordinary. A lot of patience and careful planning of composition, lighting and exposure times is required, but the hard work pays off when finally it all comes together in one unique, magical moment. (Image credit: © Peter Eleveld/2021 Sony World Photography Awards)

WILDLIFE & NATURE Luis Tato, Spain, for his series Locust Invasion in East Africa. Desert locusts from the Arabian Peninsula began swarming across East Africa in early 2020, devouring crops and vegetation. Some parts of East Africa, including Kenya, had not witnessed such severe desert locust outbreaks in more than 70 years, and as Covid-19 restrictions have significantly slowed efforts to fight the infestation, millions of people have been exposed to to high levels of food insecurity. (Image credit: © Luis Tato/2021 Sony World Photography Awards)

Watch the virtual awards ceremony

Click here to watch the winners being announced at a virtual awards ceremony. 

And don’t miss the virtual exhibition of the winners’ and finalists’ work – while you’re there, you can also watch the ‘A Year in Photos from the Sony World Photography Awards 2021’ documentary, and download a free digital copy of the Sony World Photography Awards 2021 book.

Read more: 

Best camera for portraits
Best camera for wildlife
Best camera for landscape photography
Best professional camera
See the 2021Sony World Photography Awards Open category winners

Niall Hampton

Niall is the editor of Digital Camera magazine and has been shooting on interchangeable lens cameras for two decades, and on various point-and-shoot models for years before that. 


Working alongside professional photographers for many years as a jobbing journalist gave Niall the curiosity to also start working on the other side of the lens, and these days his favored shooting subjects include wildlife, travel and street photography, plus dabbling with studio still life.