The World Photography Organization has named the overall winners of the prestigious 2019 Sony World Photography Awards, with the top two prizes going to American photographers. The 2019 Awards received its highest ever number of entries - 326,997 from 195 countries and territories. See just a few of the overall winners below. All winning, shortlisted and commended images can be seen at the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition at Somerset House, London from April 18 - May 6 before going on a global tour.
Photographer of the Year – Federico Borella, Italy
Five Degrees is a project by Bologna-based Italian photographer Federico Borella (age 35). With a degree in Classical Literature and Masters in Photojournalism, Borella is an internationally published freelance photojournalist with more than ten years of experience as a news photographer and is also an educator in photography and photojournalism.
The 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, mementoes of the deceased farmers, and portraits of those left behind.
Image Name: Five Degrees Photographer Name: Federico Borella Year: 2019 Image Description: India, Tamil Nadu, May 2018. One of the skulls claimed to be the skull of a farmer who committed suicide, held by Mr Premkumar, a member of the South Indian Farmers Association. This skull was also used during a protest in Delhi in 2017, where farmers demanded a drought relief package and loan waiver for peasants from the state. But what leads farmers to this extreme act? They run into debt to invest in production, agriculture-related activities, machinery maintenance, and to repay previous loans. Despite these efforts, harvests damaged by adverse weather, economic factors, and short-sighted water management lead to debt repayment failure. Thus, a kernel of slow and gradual mental agony sneaks into these land workers’ minds and grows into the shame they feel towards their family and society. Series Name: Five Degrees Series Description: Could the dramatic increase in Indian farmers who take their own lives be closely connected to climate change and rising temperatures? A study from Berkeley University, found a correlation between climate change and suicide among Indian farmers. It is estimated that 59.300 farmer suicides over the last 30 years are attributable to climate change. According to experts, temperatures in India could increase by another 5°F by 2050. Without focused government intervention, global warming will lead to more suicides all over India. But what leads farmers to this extreme act? They run into debt through investing in production, and repaying previous loans. Despite these efforts, harvests damaged by adverse weather, and short-sighted water management lead to debt repayment failure. The impact of climate change affects global wellbeing, going beyond India and threatening mankind as a whole. This project is located in Tamil Nadu, the southernmost state of India, which is facing the worst drought for 140 years. Copyright: © Federico Borella, Italy, Shortlist, Professional, Documentary, 2019 Sony World Photography Awards
Open Photographer of the Year – Christy Lee Rogers, USA
The Open competition celebrates the power of single images. Winning images are selected for their ability to communicate a remarkable visual narrative combined with technical excellence. Selected from ten Open category winners as the most captivating standalone image, Nashville-based Hawaiian photographer Christy Lee Rogers is 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.
Harmony is an image from the artist’s Muses series that was inspired by the beauty and vulnerability of humankind. In this image Rogers has used the contrasts of light, dark, color, movement and cascading underwater bodies to create an ethereal scene reminiscent of Baroque painting.
Image Name: Harmony Photographer Name: Christy Lee Rogers Year: 2019 Image Description: 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, utilizing natural effects like the refraction of light with movement to bend reality, and shooting at night so I could really control my light. Copyright: © Christy Lee Rogers, United States of America, 1st Place, Open, Motion (Open competition), 2019 Sony World Photography Awards
Youth Photographer of the Year – Zelle Westfall, USA, age 18
Atlanta-based American student Zelle Westfall was awarded for her image Abuot, a striking 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 colorism 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.
Image Name: Abuot Photographer Name: Zelle Westfall Year: 2019 Image Description: 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 colorism flooding the media, it's important to highlight the beauty of dark-skinned women who are often told that they are "too dark." Copyright: © Zelle Westfall, United States of America, Shortlist, Youth, Diversity (2019 Youth competition), 2019 Sony World Photography Awards
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 €30,000 (Euros) worth of Sony photography equipment for the institution.
Image Name: Four women select the oranges that are going to be exported to all of Europe. Photographer Name: Sergi Villanueva Year: 2019 Image Description: Series Name: La Terreta Series Description: Sergi Villanueva (Universidad Jaume I) "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." Copyright: © Sergi Villanueva, Spain, Shortlist, Student, 2019 Sony World Photography Awards
The 2020 Sony World Photography Awards opens for entries June 1, 2019. All entries are free at worldphoto.org.