Zak Elley, who is currently in his second year of AUB’s BA (Hons) Commercial Photography course, has taken home the top prize at the Youth competition in December's Sony World Photography Awards 2020.
The theme of December’s contest was ‘Show Us Your World’. Entries came from young photographers from all over the globe and featured a wealth of imaginative interpretations of the brief, with pieces coming from photographers based in the United States, India, South Africa, Belarus, Turkey, Germany and Italy.
Zak's December win means he's earned a place on the shortlist to compete for the title of Youth Photographer of the Year. The winner will be announced later in 2021.
His winning image is one of six from his recent project, ‘Bridging AI to Humanity’, which explores artificial intelligence’s role in the spread of misinformation and hate content about the LGBTQ+ community on social media.
The piece Zak submitted was a collaboration with third-year BA (Hons) Make-up for Media and Performance student Rebecca Ross. The look worn by the subject was inspired by the TikTok logo’s colour scheme. Since its launch in 2016, the video-based social medial channel has quickly grown in popularity, and now has more than 800 million users worldwide.
To bring the image to life, Zak and Rebecca also worked with a small team of AUB students from different courses, including second-year BA (Hons) Acting student Candela Saenz Arana, who modelled for the piece, and first-year BA (Hons) Commercial Photography student Rocket Green, who acted as studio assistant.
Zak said: “We wanted to put forward the aesthetic that is quite dark and bold to represent the growth, but at the same time, leave darkness in the image for the amount of unseen things that lie on the social media site.”
Other pieces from the same series were inspired by the logos for Grindr, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and Tinder.
“Winning this award was a bit of a shock to me, I wasn’t expecting it at all,” said Zak. “For me, this award makes me feel like I made the right decision to study my dream career and that I am going in the right direction with my work.”
He added: “I want to say thank you to the Commercial Photography Level 5 tutors for their guidance during the project, as well as to my team on the day that helped create this image.”
Commercial Photography Course Leader Conrad Tracy added: “I am extremely proud of Zak, especially as a second-year student. It’s testament to himself and those from the Make-up course that he has collaborated with in winning such a prestigious international competition.
“These wins evidence the high level of achievement possible by those students who fully embrace what AUB has to offer. During a pandemic, it just goes to show what can be achieved; even through adversity.”
To see more of Zak’s work, visit his Instagram page.