ROSL PHOTO 23 | The Winners

26 January 2024

We were blown away by the quality and volume of submissions to our biennial photography competition, ROSL PHOTO 23, with photographers the world over finding dynamic interpretations of the theme ‘viewpoint’. Here Rosie Allen documents the judging process, and we hear from the three winners of this year’s prize

‘Viewpoint’ proved to be a particularly inspirational theme for entrants of this year’s ROSL PHOTO 23 competition, inviting some creative interpretations on the subject, and some emerging themes that seemed to reflect the strangeness and uncertainty of the post-Covid world in which these images were created. A topic such as viewpoint may at first glance appear divisive in the sense that all things are seen from one perspective or another, but in a modern world where even the authenticity of an image cannot necessarily be trusted due to artificial intelligence, we are challenged to assess what is shown to us and experience each visual story. The multiplexity of reading a photograph provides an opportunity to engage and challenge our own perception of what we observe when we adopt the position of camera lens.

Bleak outlooks

The judges (who comprised industry experts within the broader sense of contemporary photography including an arts journalist, documentarian, photojournalist and two artists) noted that there was a particularly bleak feel to many of the images, depicting lone figures, and faces turned away from the camera; a sense of isolation was commented on, appearing to reflect a solitude, or subjects captured in vulnerable situations. ‘Dislocation and disconnection’ were how one judge put it, perhaps a reflection of the perpetual feeling of being online and connected, yet increasingly fractured in the post-Covid society in which these pictures were created. ‘It seems like the gloominess may reflect on the fact that our collective viewpoint is rather bleak at the moment,’ observed Robin Footitt, Arts Curator and Project Manager of ROSL PHOTO 23.

Masculinity was another recurring theme, which is perhaps no surprise given high-profile conversations in the media over recent years around ideas of ‘toxic’ masculinity, and changing attitudes around the concepts of sex and gender. Some chose to portray male figures in stereotypically ‘female’ dress and poses, while others reflected on emotions and repression behind more archetypal depictions of men. There was plenty of conversation around how context and narrative could both illuminate and challenge the interpretation of a photograph, with opinions completely altered by further description of the subject and its creator’s story and background too, and how this could add meaning and life to the picture.

‘The quality of entrants for this round of the competition was really impressive’ says Robin, who had the unenviable task of curating the 3,150 images into a shortlist of 100 photographs for the judges to make their final deliberations. It was then their task to take ownership of the selection, whittling down to a shortlist of 20 for exhibition before choosing three winners; the overall prize winner and recipient of a £2,000 bursary, a runner up who would receive a £1,000 bursary and a £500 prize for the winner of The Madiha Aijaz Prize, an award for a young photographer of promise under the age of 23.

Images were received from all around the world with applicants from 81 countries submitting their work. Robin adds, ‘the competition is growing in strength and reputation every time we run the it; ROSL PHOTO 21 received 500 entries from 40 countries in 2021, so it’s incredible to see how much more reach we’ve had this year. It’s been incredibly difficult to sort through a large volume of images with such richness and diversity and in their interpretations of the theme, taken across a wide variety of subjects. I’m really excited to present the shortlist to members this December.’

Robin assembled an impressive panel of judges to assess the entries to this year’s competition, each bringing many years of professional photographic experience and diverse viewpoints to the table on the judging day, in which the team viewed and judged 100 entries to come up with a final winner.

ROSL_overseas_issue736_Raphaël_Neal_ Shane

My Beloved Grandparents Md. Zobayer Hossain Joati (b. 1994, Rajbari, Bangladesh) based in Dhaka, Banglades

Md. Zobayer Hossain Joati’s powerful image of his grandparents impressed the judges with its technical excellence, interesting angles and perspective, such as the striking framing of Joati’s grandmother through his grandfather’s arm, along with the composition’s seemingly endless opportunities for interpretation. For some the focus appeared to be on the relationship between the grandparents; was this a couple in conflict or deep conversation? For others the focus was on the photographer’s relationship with the subjects, and the importance of the grandfather’s body , the textures and nakedness sparking conversation around the ideas of both intimacy and ageing

‘I wasn’t particularly interested in photography as a child, but my parents used to ask me to take family pictures because they liked the way I did it; even my relatives praised my pictures, but I never thought of doing photography as a hobby. In 2012, I felt inspired by a India’s first photography reality show called Nat Geo Covershot, a competition on the National Geographic Channel. From then, without any photographic training, I started to take photos with one of my school friends using my Samsung Galaxy S Duos phone. Now I study photography full time and work as a freelance photographer.

My winning picture reflects my feelings on the fact that I don’t get to meet with my grandparents or spend quality time with them very often, due to familial problems and the physical distance between us among other things. They live in a very rural area and I live in an urban one which often affects my relationship and communication with them. In 2022, I went to my village with my parents and paid a visit to my grandparents. On a gloomy afternoon, my grandparents were in conversation and deep in thought when I took this photo with my mobile phone. This photo reminds me of their growing age and also their decaying relationship with me; my grandmother died about eight months after I captured this photo.

I’m not especially inspired by one particular photographer, but I admire the work of those whom illustrate the social, cultural and political aspects of a society or a community; they’re the ones that really speak to me.’

ROSL_overseas_issue736_Md_ Zobayer_Hossain_Joati _My Beloved_Grandparents

‘She Said’ Ypatia Kornarou (b. 1974, Athens, Greece) based in Athens, Greece

I was born and raised in Athens, the capital of Greece, where I still ive to this day. I fell in love with photography aged nine when I discovered a water gun shaped like a camera. Later, I faced a dilemma choosing between photography and my studies in economics; logic prevailed, and I chose a secure professional future. However, an unexpected health issue prompted me to return to the things I really love, and of course that meant photography.

The photographic series ‘She Said’, narrates the emotional connection between a winter swimmer and the sea and the photos were taken in March 2023 just as winter was ending. The birth of the idea came from a personal relationship I had already developed with my student Eleni Aliferi during my photography classes.

I wanted to sketch her inner monologue, to find myself an invisible spectator to observe her as she ventured into the cold sea on a winter morning. When I met Eleni, she said she had a seabed inside her; she said that when she dives into its depths, it is because she is looking for a bouquet of flowers with which to rise together to the surface. She also said that if anything were to happen to her while she was in the sea, she would be gone happy.

Aside from the obvious beauty and poignancy of Ypatia’s composition, the judges were unanimous in appreciating the ambiguity of the composition. For some the image represented the beauty of the female figure’s connection with the water, the waterline on her coat matching the horizon line in tribute to this kinship; for others there was a more melancholic feel to her contemplation of the water. It was also noted that the viewer cannot see any of the subject’s body; the hands are hidden within the coat and the face is hidden, adding an eeriness to the composition.

ROSL_overseas_issue736_Ypatia Kornarou_She_Said

‘BasketGlow’ Radoslav Sviretsov (b. 2000, Burgas, Bulgaria) based in Sofia, Bulgaria

About The Madiha Aijaz Prize:

Created to honour the memory of filmmaker and photographer Madiha Aijaz (1981–2019), one of ROSL’s 2017 Visual Arts Scholars in partnership with Hospitalfield, Liverpool Biennial and Open Eye Gallery. This prize is awarded to an exceptional young photographer to help them develop on their future creative career.

For me, photography is akin to listening to classical music; it offers a form of relaxation and a deeper sense of tranquillity. When I’m behind the camera, I feel truly in tune with myself. The joy of capturing and preserving a fleeting moment in time is a driving force in my photography. I believe that the moment you are reading these words will never be replicated in exactly the same way, in any place, or under any circumstances. This is where the essence of a skilled photographer lies, in the ability to immortalise those significant moments that deserve to be remembered for eternity.

The story behind this image started with the exciting news that a newly renovated basketball court had been unveiled right next to my former workplace. However, this wasn’t your typical basketball court; it was a canvas of unique, vibrant, and captivating colours, adorned with fascinating forms. The artistic vision behind this transformation was that of Nikolay Petrov, also known as ‘GLOW.’ His mission was clear: to reimagine and present familiar sports grounds in a non-standard and aesthetically pleasing way.

As I delved deeper into the details of this remarkable project, I couldn’t help but visualize potential photographs in my mind. I found myself pondering a question: ‘What if we removed the constraints of the third dimension and allowed everything to exist on a single plane? How would this altered perspective transform the world of sports?’ The photoshoot was a collaborative effort with my university architecture teacher, who happened to be a passionate basketball enthusiast. Together, we embarked on a journey to the location, armed with our cameras and creative vision.

While this image serves as a snapshot of that particular moment and place, it also reflects my broader photographic work. It captures my fascination with combining artistic expression with the world of sports, as well as my ongoing quest to find new perspectives and dimensions within familiar settings. This image is a testament to the power of creativity and collaboration, as well as the potential for beauty and inspiration in unexpected places

The judges loved the slightly abstract and ‘painterly’ quality of BasketGlow, and praised its unusual composition, commenting on the pleasing symmetry of the basketball court, thrown slightly off-kilter by pops of red.

The Judges

Jocelyn Bain Hogg, documentary photographer and educator, author of four photographic books including The Firm (Trolley, 2001), Course Leader at London College of Communication for BA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography

Charlotte Jansen, journalist and author of Photography Now: Fifty Pioneers Defining Photography for the TwentyFirst Century (Tate, 2021) and Girl on Girl: Art and Photography in the Age of the Female Gaze (Laurence King Publishing, 2017)

Seamus Murphy, documentary photographer and filmmaker, recipient of seven World Press Photo awards for his photographic work in Afghanistan, Gaza, Lebanon, Sierra Leone, Peru and Ireland

Hannah Starkey, artist, awarded the Vogue Condé Nast Award (1997); the 3rd International Tokyo Photo Biennale’s Award for Excellence (1999), the St. James Group Ltd Photography Prize (2002), and the Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society (2019)

Nilupa Yasmin, artist and educator, included in many permanent and private collections including Government Art Collection, The New Art Gallery Walsall and Birmingham Museums Collection. She is a Lecturer in Photography and recently completed her MA in Photography Arts at University of Westminster

ROSL_overseas_issue736_Radoslav Sviretsov_BasketGlow
Basket Glow
ROSL_overseas_issue736_Panagiotis Dalagiorgos_Caterpillar
ROSL_overseas_issue736_Mpumelelo Buthelezi
ROSL_overseas_issue736_Jonasz_Cieslak _Interlock
ROSL_overseas_issue736_Koubková_Barbora_ Mountain_Point
ROSL_overseas_issue736_Guillaume_Petermann _Delousing_Time
ROSL_overseas_issue736_Daniel_Bassett_Dark _Energy
Share this article