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Sony World Photography Awards ZEISS Photography Award 2020: Shortlist and winner announced

Press release   •   Apr 03, 2020 17:23 CEST

Sony and the World Photography Organisation are pleased to announce KyeongJun Yang (South Korea) as the winner of the fifth annual ZEISS Photography Award. Responding to the brief Seeing Beyond: Discoveries, Yang won for his series Metamorphosis, exploring the immigrant experience. Also announced are the nine shortlisted photographers.

For this year’s brief, photographers were asked to submit a series of works focused on the theme of discoveries that transform our everyday lives. These could range from personal revelations to scientific and technological breakthroughs or ideas that led to social change. In Metamorphosis, Yang presents a series of black & white images comprising portraits and still life each depicting or representative of Julie Chen, a young woman who emigrated to the USA from Mainland China at the age of twelve following her parent’s separation.

Each photograph is paired with Chen’s writings and quoted dialogue related to her experiences as an immigrant, feelings of loneliness and conflicted sense of identity. For Yang, currently an international senior journalist student at the University of Texas at Austin, Chen’s experiences strongly link to his feelings of isolation and strangeness while also echoing those of many others.

As the 2020 winner, Yang receives €12,000 worth of ZEISS lenses of his choice and €3,000 to cover costs for a photography project.

Commenting about his win KyeongJun Yang said: ‘Winning this award still feels like a dream. I am glad not only because I've won, but also because now I know I'm not the only person who likes my images. I'm happy my photographs have been enjoyed by others, somehow they don't seem as lonely anymore.’

Talking about this year’s submissions and the winning work, judge Max Ferguson, Photo Editor, said: ‘The use of subtle, personal images of the subject (Julie Chen) lets us get a glimpse into the life of a young Chinese American woman. The closeness and the quietness of the images is what allows us to see and think more about what is going on here. For me, this work stood out from the other submissions we judged as it was clear that although, these were documentary photographs, there was a conceptual underpinning to them which opened up more questions than answers and made for a more engaging reading of the work.’

Other shortlisted projects include:

The Flying Cholitas by Luisa Dörr (Brazil) looks at the Fighting Cholitas, a performing wrestling group of indigenous women dressed in traditional Bolivian dress. Once considered to be among the country’s most marginalised communities today, following civil rights campaigns in the 1960s, they have become to many a symbol of female empowerment.

Wahala by Robin Hinsch (Germany) draws attention to the ecological crisis and devastating effects of continued oil spillage and natural gas flaring along the Niger delta river.

Inspired by the great explorers and expeditions of the past, Parallel Universe by Jorritt T. Hoen (Netherlands) features images of exotic habitats from faraway corners of the world set up inside people’s living rooms.

Between Two Shores by Tadas Kazakevicius (Lithuania) presents landscapes and portraits of local residents in the Curonian Spit, a sand dune separating the Curonian lagoon and the Baltic Sea, rich in history and local mythology.

Also examining the human and natural toll of heavy pollution, Tajo by Stefano Sbrulli (Italy) features images of the tainted environment and disenfranchised communities that live near the El Tojo crater, an abundant source of elements and metals in Peru.

±100 by Magdalena Stengel (Germany) examines our ever increasing lifespans in a series of humoristic portraits depicting men and women between the ages of 90 and 100.

Sakhawood by Alexey Vasilyev (Russian Federation) documents the popular film industry in the remote Yakutia region in Russia. Seven to ten feature films are produced in the region each year ranging from romantic comedies to fairy tales, based on local legends and beliefs. Although amateur in nature, these films have gained increasing acclaim at international festivals with some even challenging Hollywood blockbusters in local cinemas box offices.

In Like a Father, Like a Mountain, Pan Wang (China Mainland) returns to the great Qinling mountain range to recapture childhood scenes and memories shared with his late father.

Hidden Motherhood by Alena Zhandarova (Russian Federation) presents a contemporary take on hidden-mothers photography, a common practice in the Victorian era in which young children posing for the camera were held still by mothers covered from view. In recreating the practice in her photographs, Zhandarova comments on the social standing of mothers who often feel invisible or secondary to their children.

This year’s winning and shortlisted works were judged by Louise Fedotov-Clements, Director, FORMAT International Photography Festival & Artistic Director, QUAD; Max Ferguson, Freelance Photo Editor; and Simon Lovermann, Founder & Artistic Director, De Greif.

The Sony World Photography Awards 2020 exhibition which was set to feature images by the winner and shortlist has been cancelled due to the current coronavirus situation. The World Photography Organisation and ZEISS recognise the impact this has on the ZEISS Photography Award 2020 photographers and are working on a series of online initiatives to support and celebrate their works.



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KyeongJun Yang was born and raised in South Korea and is 27 years old. Currently, he is studying journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. First as a self-taught photographer and later as a journalism student, he has developed his very distinct style of photography. Before taking part at the ZEISS Photography Award 2020 he has never before exhibited his works or won at a major photography contest. His now winning Photo Series "Metamorphosis" portraits the young female adult Julie Chen and is exploring her experiences as an immigrant. By winning the ZEISS Photography Award 2020, he has made a remarkable first impression in the photography community.


The World Photography Organisation is a global platform for photography initiatives. Working across up to 180 countries, our aim is to raise the level of conversation around photography by celebrating the best imagery and photographers on the planet. We pride ourselves on building lasting relationships with both individual photographers as well as our industry-leading partners around the world. The World Photography Organisation hosts a year-round portfolio of events including the Sony World Photography Awards, one of the world’s leading photography competitions, and PHOTOFAIRS, leading international art fairs dedicated to photography. For more details see Follow the World Photography Organisation on Instagram (@worldphotoorg), Twitter (@WorldPhotoOrg) and LinkedIn/Facebook (World Photography Organisation). Our hashtags to follow are #sonyworldphotographyawards #swpa.


ZEISS is an internationally leading technology enterprise operating in the fields of optics and optoelectronics. In the previous fiscal year, the ZEISS Group generated annual revenue totaling more than 6.4 billion euros in its four segments Industrial Quality & Research, Medical Technology, Consumer Markets and Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology (status: 30 September 2019).

For its customers, ZEISS develops, produces and distributes highly innovative solutions for industrial metrology and quality assurance, microscopy solutions for the life sciences and materials research, and medical technology solutions for diagnostics and treatment in ophthalmology and microsurgery. The name ZEISS is also synonymous with the world's leading lithography optics, which are used by the chip industry to manufacture semiconductor components. There is global demand for trendsetting ZEISS brand products such as eyeglass lenses, camera lenses and binoculars.

With a portfolio aligned with future growth areas like digitalization, healthcare and Smart Production and a strong brand, ZEISS is shaping the future far beyond the optics and optoelectronics industries. The company's significant, sustainable investments in research and development lay the foundation for the success and continued expansion of ZEISS' technology and market leadership.

With over 31,000 employees, ZEISS is active globally in almost 50 countries with around 60 of its own sales and service companies, more than 30 production sites and around 25 development sites. Founded in 1846 in Jena, the company is headquartered in Oberkochen, Germany. The Carl Zeiss Foundation, one of the largest foundations in Germany committed to the promotion of science, is the sole owner of the holding company, Carl Zeiss AG.

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ZEISS Consumer Products combines the company's business with camera and cine lenses, binoculars, spotting scopes and hunting optics. The unit is allocated to the Consumer Markets segment and is represented at sites in Oberkochen and Wetzlar.

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