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Sony World Photography Awards 2019 – The Professional and Overall Winners in Pictures

18 April 2019

Italian photographer Federico Borella has been named Sony World Photographer of the Year at the 2019 awards ceremony, which took place last night in London.

He also took first prize in the professional Documentary category, alongside nine other professional category winners, and the overall winners of the Open competition (best single image), Youth and Student competitions.

Photographer and artist Nadav Kander, known for his portraiture and landscapes among others, received the 2019 award for Outstanding Contribution to Photography.

All winners received Sony digital imaging equipment, publication in the winners’ book and their work will be shown as part of the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition at Somerset House, London.

Borella will also be awarded $25,000 (USD) for his winning photo series Five Degrees, which focuses on male suicide in the farming community of Tamil Nadu in Southern India, which is facing its worst drought in 140 years.

Upon winning, Borella said: ‘This award is one of the most important things for my career and my life. This kind of visibility is amazing because it allows me and my work to reach a global audience. It is a ‘golden ticket’ that happens once in a lifetime. I feel a huge responsibility because I have been able to witness and record this situation as a photojournalist. This award is proof to my subjects that they can trust me – and for my profession this is fundamental.

Produced by the World Photography Organisation, the Sony World Photography Awards are one of the world’s largest and most prestigious photography competitions. The 12th edition saw a record breaking 326,997 submissions by photographers from 195 countries and territories, presenting the world’s finest contemporary photography captured over the past year.

Mike Trow, Chair of the Professional competition commented that this year’s submissions ‘provoked a lot of debate and interest amongst the jury’ with works ‘pushing the boundaries of photography and challenging the perceptions and expectations of the audience.’

See the professional category and overall winners below:

Overall Winner and First Place Professional Documentary Category – Federico Borella, Italy

© Federico Borella, Italy, Overall Winner and 1st Place, Professional, Documentary, 2019 Sony World Photography Awards
India, Tamil Nadu, May 2018. Rasathi, 56, the wife of Selvarasy, 65, a farmer who committed suicide on May 2017 by hanging himself in his field. He got into debt with a Cooperative Society. According to a study by Berkeley University, the warming over the last 30 years is responsible for 59.300 suicides in India. It estimates that fluctuations in climate, particularly temperature, significantly influence suicide rates.

Landscape, Professional First Place – Yan Wang Preston, UK

© Yan Wang Preston, United Kingdom, 1st Place, Professional, Landscape,  2019 Sony World Photography Awards
To the South of the Colourful Clouds depicts the otherworldly “ecology recovery” landscape in Haidong Development Zone in Dali, Yunnan Province, China. Here, a small rural area is being urbanised systematically to create “an international leisure town and an ecology model town.” In doing so, the topsoil of the entire area is replaced by a type of red, semi-artificial soil, which forms the base for introduced, mostly non-indigenous plants, including thousands of mature trees. Meanwhile, green plastic netting is used to cover everything unappealing to the eye, from construction waste to disused quarries. The town’s objective here has shifted from an “ecological” concern to a cosmetic one of trying to be visually green. The images are part of an eight-year project “Forest” (2010-2017), for which the photographer investigates the politics of recreating forests and “natural” environments in new Chinese cities.

Portrait, Professional, First Place – Álvaro Laiz, Spain

© Álvaro Laiz, Spain, 1st Place, Professional, Portraiture, 2019 Sony World Photography Awards
Humans have inhabited North America for at least 16,500 years since they first stepped through the Bering Strait. The Chukchi, a Paleo-Siberian tribe from the Russian side of the Bering Strait may be key to understanding how America was inhabited. In Chukchi culture, past, present and future are intimately linked. You are not just you: you are your father, your grandfather and your great-grandfather, back to the first Bering Strait hunter. Thanks to population genetics research we are now certain that the first Chukchi hunters left their genetic footprint in all Native American people when they first settled in America. From the Navajo to the Mayans; from Alaska to Tierra de Fuego. The Edge combines this poetic yet powerful idea of shared memory and science through population genetics data analysis for every participant. A visual journey where past and future combine, exploring a period of our history full of unanswered questions and raising new ones about our understanding of current migratory processes across the entire American continent.

Brief, Professional, First Place – Rebecca Fertinel, Belgium

Bridesmaids © Rebecca Fertinel, Belgium, 1st Place, Professional, Brief, 2019 Sony World Photography Awards
In August 2015 the photographer (b. 1991) was invited to a wedding by her friend Tracy. Here, the photographer was introduced to the warm, unabashed approach to life of the Congolese community in Belgium and the Bantu concept “Ubuntu”: that you only really become human when you are connected to everything and everyone. The concept of Ubuntu seems to intertwine with the desire to belong to a group and maintain a group identity in a changing environment. Showing the ambiance but also the silent moments in between, I tried to capture the feeling of an event that seems like a true celebration, focused on joy and ritual and not on the need for a perfect venue. This project wants to place the viewer in an environment that most have experienced at one time or another at a wedding, party or a wake.

Wildlife and Natural World, Professional, First Place – Jasper Doest

© Jasper Doest, Netherlands, 1st Place, Professional, Natural World & Wildlife, 2019 Sony World Photography Awards
At the end of a long day at her veterinary practice, Odette makes supper, accompanied by Bob and, on her shoulder, Willy, a two-year-old free-flying chestnut-fronted macaw she rescued as a chick. Odette and her son also share their home with nine cats and ten dogs. Bob is unfazed by his housemates.
Bob is a Caribbean flamingo, from the Dutch island of Curaçao. His life took a dramatic turn when he flew into a hotel window, leaving him severely concussed. He was cared for by Odette Doest, a local vet who also runs a wildlife rehabilitation centre and conservation charity – the Fundashon Dier en Onderwijs Cariben (FDOC). Existing disabilities meant Bob couldn’t be released, but instead he became ambassador for FDOC, which educates locals about the importance of protecting the island’s wildlife.

Sport, Professional, First Place – Alessandro Grassani, Italy

© Alessandro Grassani, Italy, 1st Place, Professional, Sport, 2019 Sony World Photography Awards
Democratic Republic of Congo. Goma. 28/05/2018. 18 year-old Blandini on the building site where she occasionally spends her nights. She also trains in the so-called Friendship Boxing Club. The area of Goma, North Kivu has sadly been labelled the “rape capital of the world” and one of the worst places in the world for women to live. All these sad records have not stopped women, whose will to go on and overcome the atrocities suffered over the years, is stronger and more alive than ever in the story I’m telling. Some boxing clubs in Goma are the meeting place for a group of women who have found hope and passion in boxing. Here, women not only learn to throw punches, but to regain strength and the desire to fight against injustice, while dreaming and training to become the next world boxing champion. I created this series of portraits to depict this incredible group of young women living in a deeply patriarchal society, a place where women have only one way to survive: learning to fight.

Creative, Professional, First Place – Marinka Masséus

© Marinka Masséus, Netherlands, 1st Place , Professional, Creative, 2019 Sony World Photography Awards
This series is part of the Radical Beauty project, an international photography project which aims to give people with Down’s Syndrome their rightful place in visual arts. The young women I worked with shared a strong will to succeed. To prove themselves. It must be beyond frustrating to be underestimated all the time. With ‘Chosen [not] to be’ I reflect on their reality – the barriers they face, society’s refusal to see their capabilities, the invisibility of their true selves – and translate their experiences visually. In the Netherlands, people with Down’s Syndrome have collected their experiences in a book, called Zwartboek (Black book). They have offered this book to the government as a catalyst for change. Reading the collection of stories in this book broke my heart. There is so much misinformation. This misinformation leads to misconceptions and widely held preconceived notions which profoundly impact the lives of people with Down’s.

Architecture, Professional, First Place – Stephan Zirwes, Germany

Cut Outs – the Twin Slide, © Stephan Zirwes, Germany, 1st Place, Professional, Architecture, 2019 Sony World Photography Awards
In Germany, pools are public. They are part of social and cultural life, open for all kind of social classes, a place where people spend a lot of time, especially in childhood and which leaves pleasant memories. Everybody can afford the inexpensive entrance fee. The series was shot by drone, in summer 2018 at a height of only a few meters.

Still Life, Professional, First Place – Nicolas Gaspardel & Pauline Baert, France

© Nicolas Gaspardel & Pauline Baert, France, 1st Place, Professional, Still Life, 2019 Sony World Photography Awards
With a touch of mockery, BEURKMAGAZINE photographs food every day through metaphors that are as poetic as they are disturbing. For BEURKMAGAZINE, society is “yuck” in a pop culture universe. Our creative approach is composed of antithesis. Dali amused himself by composing works with irrational associations of forms, images and objects; Maurizio Cattelan, meanwhile, focuses on the subversion of symbols and provocation; we are somewhere in between, with a more general than personal point of view and a desire to give ugliness an artificial beauty. Food is at the center of our ideas, which are magnified, manipulated and reworked to highlight our message. The pop tone, tight shots and especially the titles are an integral part of our signature.

Discovery, Professional, First Place – Jean-Marc Caimi & Valentina Piccinni, Italy

© Jean-Marc Caimi & Valentina Piccinni, Italy, 1st Place, Professional, Discovery (Professional competition), 2019 Sony World Photography Awards
Bosphorus boat wedding parties are very popular choice among young couples, in particular for long time established middle class immigrants people from the Eastern countries, like Armenians, Iraqi and Afghans.
Güle Güle (goodbye in Turkish) is a personal project focused on the city of Istanbul. To document the profound changes happening in the city and within Turkish society, we got in close contact with the realities that are the driving forces and the results of this change. Photographs derive from multiple relationships, penetrating the complexity of the city and its contrasting microcosms. Gentrification, the marginalization of the poorer classes, increasing discrimination against homosexuality, the massive migration of Syrian refugees and the Kurdish community issue are just some of the hidden realities behind the subjects portrayed.

Open Photographer of the Year – Christy Lee Rogers, USA

© Christy Lee Rogers, United States of America, Open Photographer of the Year, Open, Motion, 2019 Sony World Photography Awards
Shot underwater in Hawaii, this image is part of my Muses Collection.  What started to work best for me was having a perspective from outside of the water, looking in and using the surface of a pool as a canvas, utilising natural effects like the refraction of light with movement to bend reality, and shooting at night so I could really control my light.

Student Photographer of the Year – Sergi Villanueva, Spain

© Sergi Villanueva, Spain, Student Photographer of the Year, Student, 2019 Sony World Photography Awards
“In my dialect, Valencian, there is a word that describes pride for the land where I belong: La Terreta. A feeling that surrounds us all, be part of La Terreta is to love our roots, the richness of our land, our culture, our people, our identity.Every time I go to La Terreta there is a sign that I see on the road that welcomes me home: the orange groves. That is why in this series I have focused on capturing daily life around the orange trees. From the farmers who plant and care for the trees to harvest the fruit, to the women who choose the oranges that will end up around the world. The orange tree is the essence of my land, it maintains the feeling of belonging and leaves the door open to future generations, spreading a message about the value of taking care of what nature gives us as a part of our identity.”

Youth Photographer of the Year – Zelle Westfall, USA

© Zelle Westfall, United States of America, Youth Photographer of the Year, Youth, Diversity (2019 Youth competition), 2019 Sony World Photography Awards
I had this image in my mind before I took it. This was the very first shot, just to test the lighting. Right away, I knew this was exactly what I was going for. The rest of the shoot was spent collaborating with Jordan. Abuot is my friend from school and she is one of the funniest people I know. In today’s society, with skin bleaching products and colourism flooding the media, it’s important to highlight the beauty of dark-skinned women who are often told that they are “too dark.”

Featured image: © Federico Borella, Italy, Overall Winner and 1st Place , Professional, Documentary, 2019 Sony World Photography Awards

Based on a Berkeley University study, which found a correlation between climate change and increased suicide rates amongst Indian farmers, Borella has explored the impact of climate change on this agricultural region and its community through poignant and powerful mixture of images depicting the farming landscape, mementos of the deceased farmers, and portraits of those left behind.

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