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2019 Sony World Photography Awards Overall Winners Revealed

- 5 years ago

Last night in a glittering ceremony in the heart of London, Italian artist Federico Borella was named Photographer of the Year at the annual Sony World Photography Awards.

Federico Borella
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 carried out by Tamma A. Carleton, the warming over the last 30 years is responsible for 59.300 suicides in India. She estimates that fluctuations in climate, particularly temperature, significantly influence suicide rates.

Along with ten professional categories, Youth, Open [best single image] and Student winners, the coveted Photographer of the Year title was presented to the Italian artist for his series Five Degrees. The work was hailed by the jury for its sensitivity, technical excellence and artistry in bringing to light a global concern.

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

Picking up his award, which includes a $25,000 [USD] prize, 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.”

Federico Borella
Copyright: Federico Borella.

2019’s Outstanding Contribution to Photography recipient, Nadav Kander, was also in attendance to collect his prize.
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 in London.

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.”

Federico Borella’s series Five Degrees focuses on male suicide in the farming community of Tamil Nadu, Southern India, which is facing its worst drought in 140 years.
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.

Professional category winners and finalists

Open Photographer of the Year: Christy Lee Rogers, USA

The Open competition celebrates the power of a single image. Selected from ten Open category winners as the most captivating standalone image, Nashville-based Hawaiian photographer Christy Lee Rogers has been named Open Photographer of the Year for her work Harmony, and receives the $5,000 [USD] prize. Rogers is an internationally exhibited artist known for using water and lighting in her photographic works to create dramatic effects.

Christy Lee Rogers
Christy Lee Rogers: Open Photographer of the Year 2019.

Youth Photographer of the Year: Zelle Westfall, USA, age 18

Atlanta-based American student Zelle Westfallwas awarded for her image Abuot, a stunning single image in response to the theme ‘Diversity’. Speaking of her winning work, Westfall said “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.”  The Youth competition was open to all photographers aged 12-19.

Welle Westfall
Welle Westfall: Youth Photographer of the Year.

Student Photographer of the Year: Sergi Villanueva, Spain, Universidad Jaume I, age 25

Valencian student Sergi Villanueva was chosen by the judges from submissions worldwide for his photographic series La Terreta, an evocative portrayal of his homeland through the local orange farming and harvesting process. Villanueva represented Universidad Jaume I and has won a whopping €30,000 [Euros] worth of Sony photography equipment for the institution.

Sergi Villanueva
Sergi Villanueva: Student Photographer of the Year.

Outstanding Contribution to Photography: Nadav Kander

As one of the world’s foremost contemporary photographers, London based artist Nadav Kander is regarded as amongst the most successful photographers of his generation. His works cover a wide variety of genres, from atmospheric landscapes to celebrity portraiture and the Awards recognise Kander for his versatile, powerful and thoughtful contribution to the medium.

Nadav Kandar
Monument, Bonneville by Nadav Kandar: Outstanding Contribution to Photography, 2019, Sony World Photography Awards.

Professional category winners and finalists

The Professional winners and finalists were selected by a panel of expert judges as demonstrating artistic prowess and photographic expertise for series of five to ten images, across ten categories. To see the full series, head over to the awards’ website.

The 2020 Sony World Photography Awards opens for entries 1 June, 2019.  All entries are free at

About the author

Read 2019 Sony World Photography Awards Overall Winners Revealed

Simon Skinner

Co-founder // Editor

Having spent many years working in various pockets of the music industry, and always with a camera in hand, Simon has worked with organisations such as Warner/Chappell, Food Records and ultimately, co-founding the innovative independent record label, Izumi Records before moving fully into the world of publishing in 2007. Amongst numerous other projects in the last decade, he has been responsible for a number of specialist photo trade magazines and journals for the filmmaking and photography communities, along with a coffee table book entitled, "Great Britons of Photography' which he produced with Peter Dench and Leica. Now heading up PhotoBite, Simon and the team have set themselves a task of delivering informative and inspirational content for photographers of all levels, from the beginner, shooting with smartphones, to the seasoned photographer and filmmaker.