Craig Easton who captured the culture and misrepresentation of the Bank Top area of Blackburn has been named World Photographer of the Year 2021.

Run by the World Photography Organisation (WPO), the Sony World Photography Awards are in their 14th year. More than 330,000 images were entered across 10 categories in four different competition classes: Professional, Open, Student, and Youth.

Craig was announced World Photographer of the Year 2021 by Scott Gray founder and CEO of the World Photography Organisation in online ceremony. 

His series Bank Top was a collaboration with writer and academic Abdul Aziz Hafiz that focuses on the Bank Top area. It featured the residents and the shopkeepers from different backgrounds and cultures.

Accepting the award Craig said: “For me photography was all about documenting society. I see myself as much of a historian and as a photographer making work that will be looked at in generations to come, I hope.

“Winning the Sony World Photography Awards is a great honour. It is a great honour to be spoken about in the same breadth as those other photographers whose work I really admire. I feel overwhelmed and I feel overwhelmed because these stories are so important to tell.

“Northern Britain is the absolute epicentre of Britain’s wealth for me in the industrial revolution. The fall of that and the colonial projects and all of those things are all evident here now and these stories need telling. So I am absolutely delighted that this allows me tell the story."

Speaking about the project, Mike Trow, Chair of the 2021 Professional competition said: “What is so impressive about this project is the intent, dedication and understanding Craig brings to it...It is the moral weight behind this work that makes it so important and deserving of this prize.”

Craig noted that Blackburn has become synonymous with the use of words such as segregation and integration by the media and policy makers – terms which he believed were too simplistic to explain the challenges faced by such neighbourhoods and towns. 

His aim with Bank Top is to confront what he sees as dominant discourses in the media which fail to acknowledge the historical legacy and social costs of industrial expansion and colonialism. 

This long-form collaboration uses the stories and experiences in Bank Top to address wider issues around social deprivation, housing, unemployment, immigration and representation, as well as the impact of past and present foreign policy.

The photos were part of the ‘Kick Down the Barriers’ project led by Blackburn Museum & Art Gallery, exploring Blackburn communities.

Craig wins $25,000 (cash prize) plus a range of Sony digital imaging kit and global online coverage.

You can view the full series of images here

You can find out more about kick down the barriers here