“URBAN STORIES” – Announcing the winners

We’re delighted to present the results of our eighth theme of Life Framer Edition V, judged by photojournalist and co-founder of VII Agency, Ron Haviv. Congratulations to the winning photographers and thank you to everyone who submitted.

With well over half of us now living in cities around the world and that figure rising daily, the footprint of the urban environment continues to increase, its influence becoming more and more pervasive. It’s no surprise therefore that it’s such a ripe backdrop for photographers – a dynamic cocktail of culture, architecture, people, where tradition and globalisation, nature and the man-made, the haves and the have-nots coexist, sometimes in harmony and more often in friction. The city can feel like a playground or a prison and everything in between, such is perspective and circumstance, but it is never dull. It is an ever-evolving theatre of human influence on the world. As Patrick Geddes so aptly said – “A city is more than a place in space. It is a drama in time.”

Here we find twenty urban stories from twenty talented emerging photographers. Exploring a range of themes through a variety of approaches, and in locations all over the world, they together represent a body of artistic creativity and technical excellence. We invite you to take a walk through these urban scenes and absorb it all!

Join the discussion on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and thank you to everyone who submitted their work.

First Prize: Miao Ting

“This image creates a mood via its great use of color and placement, bringing the viewer to the water’s edge, and in doing so making us wonder about past and future lives in this observation of the world.” – Ron Haviv

“Confidently sparse in its framing, Miao captures a scene that feels pregnant with anticipation. These two characters seem to hesitantly navigate a strange urban realm, beyond the boundaries of which we are left to wonder what might exist. In an odd way it feels allegorical for our times.” – Life Framer

Second Prize: Chris Leslie

“A lovely view of the past, present and future of many parts of the world.” – Ron Haviv

“In his accompanying statement, Chris describes the spectacular pace of urban regeneration in Glasgow, and in particular the disappearance of communities as tower blocks are demolished. Here we see a view within a view from one such tower, shortly before it was razed to the ground. What’s remarkable is the sheer amount of information in the scene – the walls plastered top to bottom with magazine and newspaper cuttings, a soon-to-be-gone palimpsest of the lives that inhabited this space and the times that defined them. The grass, trees and summer sky in the distance seem symbolic of hope, but there’s a palpable sadness that this once-loved environment, a visual tapestry of memories, will soon be lost in the rubble.” – Life Framer

Special Mention: Rory Doyle

“A scene so American yet so unusual.” – Ron Haviv

“A remarkable juxtaposition of local and global culture, of idiosyncratic tradition and all-pervasive consumerism, this image feels like a wonderfully contemporary snapshot of the tensions that exist in our urban world, made all the more memorable through its slightly surreal, magic realist quality.” – Life Framer

Other winning photographers:

Tommaso Altamura

“Aside from the tunnelled perspective which draws the viewer’s eye through to the centre of the scene, this would be a well-executed but nondescript image of an urban environment were it not for the color. Here the drab greys one might expect are replaced with a palette of reds and pinks – hues that transform an oppressive environment into something vibrant and dynamic. Kowloon is a place that evolves at a frenetic pace, and Tommaso captures that energy to create a visually arresting snapshot of the urban world.” – Life Framer

Max Sturgeon

“In a quite wonderful piece of juxtaposition, Max captures a humorous, wry view of the urban world. This man’s stack of egg crates rises up alongside the building under construction, both of them towering over us from Max’s crouched perspective. Such apposition calls to mind ideas of renewal, of new ways of life co-existing with old, and of fragility – these complex urban ecosystems we create perhaps more brittle than we might like to think.” – Life Framer

Joel Pulliam

“In a great example of framing, lighting and timing, Joel ramps up the contrast between light and shadow and leans on the clean geometry of his surroundings to compartmentalise these three figures – each alone and non-descript. It is in one sense just an elegant, candid street capture, but in another it feels symbolic of something bigger – of that sense of isolation one can feel in the urban landscape; of being hemmed in and lonely, proximally close to thousands of other people but emotionally alone. The great urban paradox.” – Life Framer

François Aubret

“François’ image is a masterclass in composition – carefully aligning and cropping components of the urban landscape to finding a stark visual clarity in his surroundings. It is both appealing in its pop-art primary colors and satisfying geometrical order, but also in its deeper layer of meaning: the heavily-cropped logo still immediately recognisable, and so evoking ideas of globalisation, homogenization, and the ubiquity of American cultural signifiers across the world.” – Life Framer

Andre Lichtenberg

“Through sun-bleached tones and a striking flat aerial perspective, Andre creates a fascinating study of the urban environment. What’s perhaps so effective is how it can be appreciated as an overall compositional piece, or carefully explored in its details – the elongated shadows giving character to the small figures that roam across the open man-made expanse. It encourages a meditation on our vast world, and the tiny spaces we occupy in it.” – Life Framer

Duy Phuong

“Urbanization and urban renewal is a topic that dominates both the international news cycle, and the submissions to this theme. Duy looks at that same subject in his home country of Vietnam, but here through the lens of mother and baby standing on the precipice to a barren wasteland, with new developments looming behind them. It’s a powerful personification of sometimes abstract ideas – here we can ponder what it means for the lives of this mother with a child to support, and her baby newly arrived into a rapidly changing world. It is striking both in its complexity of meaning and simplicity of execution. Duy describes a limbo between doubt and confidence, tradition and modernity, the safety of the world today and the hope that tomorrow may bring, and this mother occupies that space, both physically and figuratively.” – Life Framer

Alexandre Chaplier

“Capturing vibrant tones at odds with the sparse, decaying scene they describe, Alexandre’s confident composition offers an atmospheric glimpse into this pocket of the urban world. The colourful buildings, the barren pitch (the rock like some sort of cruel approximation of a football) and the single figure shrouded in mist combine to create something rich and evocative.” – Life Framer

Jelle Krings

“Taken from a series for which he photographed and interviewed those affected by the destruction of cyclone Idai which ravaged Zimbabwe and Mozambique in March 2019, Jelle’s environmental portrait of a family in their ruined home offers a rumination on heartbreak and hope. Taken only a short while after the destruction, it feels raw and intimate. Seeing this family unit, children and adults alike sitting in what was one of their bedrooms, brings home the absolute devastation of such an event but also of the strength of family bonds, supporting one another above all. It’s examines both the fragility of the systems we depend on, and the resilience to adapt and persevere when they are gone.” – Life Framer

Alexander Mendelevich

“With her bright yellow helmet and green heels at odds with the dreary concrete surroundings, and her peculiar prone pose, Alexander’s subject seems to inhabit a strange reality, a Theatre of the Absurd where the world’s logic has evaporated. Perhaps it’s no surprise – the line between sanity and madness often feels precarious in these overbearing urban mazes we occupy. In an world where the complexity seems to be ever-increasing, rebelling against it and embracing the irrational can feel increasingly like the only rational approach.” – Life Framer

Polly Tootal

“Polly’s series tells of the stories of the ever-growing emigrant workforce of the UAE – the people living in informal settlements and paid a pittance to build its cities “for the great wealth and privilege of others”. This image ruminates on that theme quite wonderfully; a beautiful composition that is powerful on several levels. The pink Holi paint splattered across our subjects provides some unexpected color in their tonally drab surroundings, the celebration implied by it at odds with the stark, barren terrain. But it’s their body language that lingers –uncertain, and distant from the photographer, but close and protective of one another, a subtle visual echo of the pylons behind them. The act of holding hands is far from the necessary “manliness” one might expect of builders scraping together a living in the desert, but so emblematic of a bond shared – the friendship and comradery that makes it worthwhile. Through quiet observation of simple gestures, Polly captures something quite profound.” – Life Framer

Daniele Esposito

“Boldly carving his image into two – a passer-by and their audience behind glass – Daniele creates a moment ripe with intrigue. Examining the café dwellers’ expressions of shock and awe we are left to wonder what may have been the trigger. He elegantly plays with the idea of the street as a theatre – as this enigmatic figure holds their attention, so do they hold ours.” – Life Framer

Yvette Marie Dostatni

“Here Yvette documents Bubba – a man who lives in his car since being evicted from Maxworks in Chicago, a community building soon to be demolished to make way for urban renewal. Packed full of possessions, his car may be messy and chaotic but it also tells his story. And the man himself sits in the corner of the frame, almost disappearing in cigarette smoke – a visual metaphor for how lives such as his are so easily ignored by city governments and private developers perhaps. It asks us to contemplate the lives of urban nomads who don’t quite fit the system prescribed, and, in spite of differences we may all have, of the shared importance of a place to call home.” – Life Framer

Diogo Duarte

“In Diogo’s clever CGI and photography composite, he places a burning building in the middle of a park, the few passers-by oblivious as it goes up in a blaze. Describing it as allegorical, it’s an apt metaphor for our indifference, or wilful ignorance of changes in the surrounding world. But of what specifically..? Of climate change, of global homogenization, of geopolitical tensions, or of something more local or personal? That, one supposes, is for the viewer to decide themselves. Juxtaposing chaos against calm pastel hues, Diogo asks us to contemplate what our burning building might be…” – Life Framer

Krzysztof Szczurek

“Through reflections in glass, torn posters, concrete and sky, we see a suited man silhouetted in this ambiguous collage of textures. He’s a symbol for our urban age – a signifier for success and progress, for the very reason our cities exist – but here seems lost and alone, forlorn and directionless. The associations of such ideas are clear. It’s powerful, provocative art.” – Life Framer

Ilya Trofimenko

“In this heart-rending scene we see a young homeless girl – alone and dejected, with a single coin in the tattered box that sits beside her. Ilya’s top-down viewpoint further emphasizes her meekness, and allows her to arrange elements that further compound her story – one passer-by ignores her completely, the other shadowed figures seem to watch from afar, unwilling to intervene. It’s powerful candid storytelling, and sad reflection of affluent places where young people can still be left behind.” – Life Framer

Stanislav Sitnikov

“This is a gorgeous, poetic image. The old lady and young boy inhabit only the very edges of this urban space – her peaceful, him weary – and the rest is defined by pastel tones, light and shadow. It feels languid, asking the viewer to take pause as its subjects do. Stanislav’s unconventional composition, unafraid to create empty space in the frame, makes it.” – Life Framer

Simon Beraud

“This scene – captured in grainy film – seems simultaneously open and oppressive. We see a wide-open space but it’s cast in shadows, and every figure stands alone, seemingly oblivious of the others. Such is the dichotomy of urban life. It feels tense and atmospheric – mundane but charged with a friction for what might come.” – Life Framer

A prestigious jury, 4 international exhibitions and $24000 in cash prizes.

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