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© Hai Wang, China Mainland, Youth Photographer Of The Year, Youth Competition, Sony World Photography Awards 2023

Two young image-makers breaking boundaries

A pair of photographers from the new generation reveal their ambitions and inspirations

‘Desolation’, 2022, by Hai Wang

In the RPS Journal we are celebrating seven young photographers from around the world making their mark on the world stage. Now, we amplify the voices of two more image-makers who are attracting attention with their distinctive styles.  

Meet Hai Wang, 17, recognised as Youth Photographer of the Year in the Sony World Photography Awards 2023, and Kelly Zhang, 16, named RPS Young Woman Science Photographer of the Year earlier in 2023. 



Named Youth Photographer of the Year in this year’s Sony World Photography Awards, Hai Wang is emerging as a talent with an eye for bright, zippy colours. In particular, his award-worthy image of chairs at a school ceremony – which had been cancelled due to the Covid-19 outbreak – shows striking, cinematic composition. 

Wang’s wider portfolio, though, showcases a young photographer not afraid to cross genres. He has also learned to play with shadows, florals and architecture. This wide-ranging approach makes him one to watch in the years ahead.

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‘Bright trees and stars’, 2023, by Hai Wang

What do you enjoy most about photography?  

I feel the sense of belonging each second I’m holding the camera – it seems I am meant to have this job as my career. I feel myself lucky to find my interest and [attract] admiration as a teenager, and I also treat it as a special and effective way to connect with the entire world.  

What do you hope to express in your images? 

I love to express this normal world in a brand new and creative way with more layers and perspectives that lead to deeper thinking. On that special day [of the award-winning image] I saw volunteers piling up all the empty chairs that were supposed to be fully occupied by more than 2,000 people, sadness raised up from my feet to neck. I was feeling so hollow and I know my schoolmates were also suffering from this pandemic. I turned from being full of delight and expectation to disappointed. 

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‘Comfort’, 2022, by Hai Wang

What would you like to have achieved with your photography in five years’ time?  

That’s hard to say. I learned never to stop challenging myself no matter which level one is already at. Five years is long enough for me to get into a place where I’m known by most of the public – I wish to have my own artwork in galleries and hearing the audiences all giving compliments about them.   

Where do you find your inspiration? 

I focus on what I’m good at, especially outlines, the conflicts among various colours, the overlap of shadows … I carry cameras with me most places I go to so as not to miss every precious scene. The only advice I have for myself is go out and get more pictures.  

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‘Mortal beings’, 2022, by Hai Wang


A school student in New York’s Long Island, Kelly Zhang’s combined interests in science and art have led to the successful series The Brevity of Life, which zooms in on the phenomena of bubbles. Her singular image, 'The beauty of soap bubbles', was announced as the recipient of the Young Woman Science Photographer of the Year in the inaugural RPS Woman Science Photographer of the Year competition earlier in 2023.  

Clearly passionate about the subject of both science and women’s careers and representation in STEM, Kelly has proven herself an aficionado of the close-up image and is certainly one to watch in the science photography realm.

The Beauty Of Soap Bubbles

‘The beauty of soap bubbles’, 2022, by Kelly Zhang

What is it about close-up imagery that most appeals? 

What I find most appealing about close-up imagery is its ability to reveal details and textures that most people overlook. I am genuinely amazed as it is a totally different world. The fascinating patterns, colours, and shapes in the macro world are reminiscent of the larger world around us, prompting me to wonder whether the entire universe could be just a bubble. 

What do you hope to express in your images? 

I hope to express both art and science in my images. For example, recently, I have been taking photographs of soap bubbles. In science, I capture thin-film interference on soap bubbles, where the swirling patterns of colours are created by the interference of light waves reflecting off the thin soap film. In art, I use abstract macro photography of soap bubbles to symbolize the brevity of life through iridescent hues, rich textures, and spherical shapes. Soap bubbles represent the stages of human life from birth to rebirth, reminding us to make the most of our time by caring for others, taking risks, and enjoying life to the fullest. 

Photography can communicate scientific ideas to a broader audience, increasing public understanding and support for scientific research and policy. Additionally, it can be used as a creative tool to express scientific concepts, evoking moods or emotions and challenging perceptions about the natural world.  


Exquisite’, 2022, by Kelly Zhang

What would you like to have achieved with your photography in five years’ time? 

In the next five years, I hope to have used my images to positively impact society or the environment by raising awareness of important issues or inspiring positive change. I am dedicated to inspiring more girls and other unrepresented parties to engage in STEM careers; promoting the values of diversity, equity and inclusion, and raising awareness about climate change. 
What are the unique challenges and opportunities of being a young photographer as opposed to someone who has been doing it for a long time? 

As a young photographer, I face challenges like limited technical skills, resources and industry support. However, my age also gives me unique opportunities such as fresh perspective, a willingness to take risks, and familiarity with social media. Success depends on a combination of talent, resources and perseverance. I am grateful for the support and opportunities provided by the RPS Women in Photography group. 

Tell us about your portfolio, The Brevity of Life. 

In my abstract macro photography portfolio, I use soap bubbles to symbolize the fleeting nature of life through their iridescent colours, textures and shapes. Soap bubbles have long been used as a metaphor for the impermanence and fragility of life. I draw parallels with the human life cycle from birth to elderhood through the different stages of a bubble's life, from formation to bursting. I aim to encourage people to appreciate the brevity of their lives by valuing others, taking risks, being inclusive and enjoying every moment. 

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‘Bubble burst’, 2022, by Kelly Zhang

Meet seven more young photographers to watch in the May/June 2023 issue of the RPS Journal

The RPS Journal is available exclusively to members. Join us to receive our award-winning magazine and read more inspiring features. Explore full member benefits here