For the 2018 Urban Photographer of the Year, the Focus is Narrative and Connectivity

by Daniel Rosen
Apr 9, 2018 8:05 AM ET

The built environment, broadly defined, is an interesting, albeit static, subject to photograph. The buildings, the roads, the streetscapes, the very structures themselves don’t change or move. Rather, it is the frenetic activity and connectivity that happens in and throughout these built environments that makes it such a compelling subject.

Every year, CBRE’s Urban Photographer of the Year (UPOTY) competition challenges professional and amateur photographers alike to capture these moments of connectivity across the daily cycle of life. For the 2018 CBRE UPOTY, judges sought pictures that emphasized the power of the connections happening in and around cities. Winners were announced this week.

For the theme of this year’s competition, “Cities of Connection: People Places, Perspectives,” CBRE UPOTY received over 80,000 submissions from 180 countries, a dramatic increase from the 30,000 submissions from the year prior.

“The humanity and realism represented in the body of work this year was simply stunning,” said Paul Suchman, Global Chief Marketing Officer, CBRE, who was also a judge for the competition. “It captured everyday life. It captured conflict. It captured emotion. And a lot of times it captured things that were seemingly incongruous,” Suchman added.

Indeed, this year’s photographs have significance beyond their aesthetics.

“There was a deeper story ingrained in each image,” said Gareth Pon, a South African filmmaker and photographer who is one of this year’s UPOTY judges. These narratives elevate the image, depicting the built environment as “a catalyst for movement,” Pon added.

Another quality that judges were looking for was “vibrancy,” said Martin Grahame-Dunn, Chairman of Judges for UPOTY.

For instance, instead of the beautiful landscape shot of Wall Street, Grahame-Dunn was looking for an image that captured the intricacies of Wall Street life.

“I’d just love to see a Wall Street trader standing on Wall Street with a dirty water hot dog and a Financial Times under his arm,” said Grahame-Dunn. “That’s life.”

The overall global winner was awarded a special photography trip to a destination of their choice. Other prizes included GoPro packages, photography drones and more.

Plan International, CBRE’s EMEA charity partner, was involved in the competition for the fourth year. CBRE made a donation to Plan International for the first 10,000 entries received in this year’s competition, supporting the global NGO’s work in advancing children’s rights and equality for girls.

Last year’s overall competition winner, “The Man’s Stare,” by Moin Ahmed, a Bangladesh-based photographer, depicted a train rider during a rainy day in Dhaka, Bangladesh, an image noted for capturing the rider’s “entrancing visage.”

This year’s submissions were a “wonderful testament to the passion of the human spirit,” Suchman said. He added: “The creativity in human beings never ceases to inspire me.”

Martin Samworth, Group President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of CBRE in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), said, “The competition continues to grow in terms of influence and impact, with this year delivering a record number of entries and importantly, a tremendous amount of high quality work.”

“The images we received truly embody the spirit of city life and human interaction around the world, and I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to this year’s record-setting competition,” said Samworth.

This year’s winners are sure to elevate the connectivity people have with their everyday environments.

“A city is made of living stone as well as concrete,” Grahame-Dunn said, “and we are all living stones.”

For a full list of winners and photo inspiration, visit CBRE’s UPOTY site.