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Sony World Photography Awards 2022: Winning images capture Dutch communities frozen in time

Written by Lea Dolan, CNN

A fisherman’s wedding band wrapped around a scarf for safekeeping. Precious metal buttons serving as a form of life insurance for the wearer. Sculptural white hats made from fabric extending up to 10 feet in length.

These curious sartorial details, ubiquitous in Dutch clothing over 100 years ago, are alive and well in the traditional communities captured by 21-year-old Dutch photographer Ezra Böhm.

On Tuesday, the organizers of the prestigious Sony World Photography Awards revealed that Böhm’s series, titled “The Identity of Holland”, had won him the title of student photographer of the year 2022. The annual competition, which is now its 15th year, also named Australian Adam Ferguson as Photographer of the Year, with other winners announced in the Professional, Student and Youth categories.

Böhm’s goal was to capture a sense of community that he believes is disappearing in modern society. Credit: Ezra Bohm

Böhm’s images appear as relics of the 19th century, with solemn – and often unsmiling – subjects dressed in traditional Dutch attire. But these are not artificial costumes: the wearers are dedicated to preserving their cultural history by donning historic clothing to attend church or choir outings.

“I started the series by sending e-mails to historical museums,” Böhm said via e-mail. “After a while, I came into contact with people who still wear the suits today. Once I (established) contact with them, things went fast. only a few people who wear traditional clothes and they often know each other.”

Sony World Photography Awards 2022: Winning images capture Dutch communities frozen in time

An image from Böhm’s series, “The Identity of Holland”. Credit: Ezra Bohm

It took Böhm more than a year to research, visit and document these close-knit communities. He often photographed multi-generational families in intimate settings – in front of a tiled hearth as a fire heated a copper kettle, or inside an antiquated living room while his subjects drank tea. Despite the absence of smiles, a tenderness emerges from the images.

“The goal was to celebrate and cherish the ancient culture of the Netherlands,” Böhm said. “But apart from all the beauty, these communities have something precious in common that we often miss in modern society: solidarity, security and pride,

“Many people today have lost their cultural roots and may feel alienated in a society full of global citizens. By showing these communities to the world, I hope people will start looking back to their own cultural roots.”

Böhm, a student at the Nederlandse Academie voor Beeldcreatie in Eindhoven, will receive 30,000 euros ($33,000) worth of Sony photographic equipment for his school.

Sony World Photography Awards 2022: Winning images capture Dutch communities frozen in time

Vietnamese photographer Tri Nguyen won the Youth Category at the Sony Photography Awards for this image visualizing themes of self-reflection. Credit: Tri Nguyen

Elsewhere in the competition, 18-year-old Vietnamese photographer Tri Nguyen won the Youth category for “Under The Moonlight,” a vibrant image of a boy basking in a ray of artificial light. Renowned Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky, known for his fascinating bird’s-eye view landscapes, won the Outstanding Contribution to Photography award.

The first prize in the competition was awarded to Adam Ferguson, 43, whose series of photos “Migrantes” depicts the life of migrants in Mexico, near the American border. Shot in black and white, the project saw Ferguson subvert the typical narrative of documentary photography by involving his subjects in creating their own images – often leaving them to hit the shutter. The result is a touching portrait of the harrowing realities of migration.

Sony World Photography Awards 2022: Winning images capture Dutch communities frozen in time

Ferguson’s winning photo series was titled “Migrantes.” Credit: Adam Ferguson

“Winning the Photographer of the Year award gives this story another life,” Ferguson said in a statement. “It allows a new audience to connect with the important stories of the people who have shared their story with me.”

Top image: an image by Ezra Böhm “Holland’s identity“series.


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