Only a terribly mean person could find fault with the traveling edition of the annual Sony Photography Awards. As both a showcase of a specific kind of photographic venture (more on that in a moment) and, likely more to the point, a brand-enhancing exercise in “excellence” promotion, the exhibition does exactly what it promises and is devised to do.
The competition specializes in the subset of photography most of us identify with National Geographic Magazine and its world-of-wonders aesthetic.
I know that sounds snarky but I do not mean it that way. Everybody loves this kind of photography, me included, for a reason – it is lovely and provocative, a moment of otherness, of not us/not here viewed from a safe distance. I buy a lot of postcards, and I have no shame when it comes to finely focused close ups of adorable mammals with pink ears.
What prompted my unease after wandering around this exhibition was a strong feeling that in a half-generation or less, shows like the Sony Photography Awards will be, at best, retro-cute, or at worst antique and irrelevant.