Winning and shortlisted images from the 2019 ZEISS Photography Award

From the underrepresentation of African Americans in cowboy culture to a migrant’s view on the UK leaving the European Union, the winning and shortlisted images in this year’s ZEISS Photography Award explore looking past the every day from a variety of perspectives.

Congratulations to Rory Doyle, who wins the 2019 ZEISS Photography Award with his series Delta Hill Riders, an ongoing series exploring the subculture of African cowboys and cowgirls in the rural Mississippi Delta. Judge Dagmar Seeland says about the winner: “Rory Doyle purposefully plays with and breaks the stereotypes attached to the subject of cowboys, and does this with great skill and warmth. His connection with his subjects is evident in every beautifully composed image. A fine visual storyteller, and a deserving winner.

For the 2019 competition, photographers were invited to submit a series of five to ten images focusing on the theme Seeing Beyond: The Unexpected. The Award asked photographers to unleash their creative and experimental potential, challenging photographers to address the unforeseen. The shortlisted images were chosen for each creator’s exceptional skill in visual storytelling. Selected from more than 58,000 images submitted by photographers from 150 countries worldwide, those depicting a distinctive eye were praised by the judges. Works from around the world were judged by Dagmar Seeland, Photo Editor and Writer, STERN magazine (Germany), Shoair Mavlian, Director, Photoworks (UK) and Simon Frederick, Artist, Photographer, Director and Broadcaster (UK).

Rory Doyle’s Delta Hill Riders and a selection of the shortlist will be on show at the Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition at Somerset House, London, April 18 to May 6.

Delta Hill Riders is Rory Doyle’s ongoing series exploring the subculture of African cowboys and cowgirls in the rural Mississippi Delta. It’s estimated after the American Civil War, one in four cowboys were African American, yet this population is drastically underrepresented in popular culture. Doyle’s insightful series invites us to challenge our acceptance of stereotypes around what it means to be a cowboy by sharing the stories an overlooked community. A beautiful body of work shedding new light at a familiar subject matter, Doyle’s work was awarded first place in this year’s ZEISS Photography Award.

Speaking about the project, Doyle says: “The work is timely with the current political environment, and a renewed focus on rural America. The project is a counter-narrative to the often-negative portrayal of African Americans. I have captured riders showing love for their horses and fellow cowboys, while also passing down traditions among generations. Ultimately, the project aims to press against my own old archetypes – who could and couldn’t be a cowboy, and what it means to be black in Mississippi – while uplifting the voices of my subjects.

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