Each year, the World Photography Organisation celebrates the very best images and photographers on the planet with the Sony World Photography Awards

This year, more than 327,000 images were submitted across the four main categories: Professional, Open, Student and Youth. Four British photographers dominated the professional landscape category, but there are also plenty of other astounding images worth looking at. 

We’ve collected some of the winners for you to enjoy. 

Federico Borella/Sony World Photography AwardsAmazing images from the Sony World Photography Awards image 2

Five Degrees

  • Award: Professional Photographer of the Year 2019
  • Photographer: Federico Borella
  • Series: Five Degrees
  • Notes: World’s best series of work. Chosen from the 10 Professional category winners

The Professional Photographer of the Year award went to Federico Borella for the Five Degrees series of photos. This particular image tells one of suicide and tragedy:

“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.”

Zelle Westfall/Sony World Photography AwardsAmazing images from the Sony World Photography Awards image 3

Diversity

  • Award: Youth Photographer of the Year 2019
  • Photographer: Zelle Westfall
  • Series/Image: Abuot
  • Notes: Best single image taken by any photographer aged 12-19.

This image by Zelle Westfall from the United States saw the young photographer selected as the Youth Photographer of the Year 2019. All based on a single image, rather than a series of images as with other categories. 

Zelle Westfall said: 

“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.””

Christy Lee Roger/Sony World Photography AwardsAmazing images from the Sony World Photography Awards image 4

Harmony

  • Award: Open Photographer of the Year 2019
  • Photographer: Christy Lee Rogers
  • Series/Image: Harmony 
  • Notes:  This category was judged on a single image. Chosen from the 10 Open category winners.

Christy Lee Rogers, from the USA, won the Open Photographer of the Year award 2019 for her image titled Harmony. She received a price of $5,000 for this image that was captioned:

“Shot underwater in Hawaii, this image is part of my Muses Colllection. 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.”

Sergi Villanueva/Sony World Photography AwardsAmazing images from the Sony World Photography Awards image 5

La Terreta

  • Award: Student Photographer of the Year 2019
  • Photographer: Sergi Villanueva
  • Series/Image: La Terreta
  • Notes:  Best series of work taken by any student aged 30 and under.

Sergi Villanueva from Spain was chosen as this year’s Student Photographer of the Year thanks to the series La Terreta.

“In 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.”

Yan Wang Preston/Sony World Photography AwardsAmazing images from the Sony World Photography Awards image 6

To the South of the Colourful Clouds

Yan Wang Preston, from the UK, won first place in the professional landscape category for his series of photos titled “To the South of the Colourful Clouds“. 

“The series 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.”

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Polytunnel

  • Award: 2nd place professional landscape category
  • Photographer: Marco Kesseler
  • Series: Polytunnel

Second place in the professional landscape category went to Marco Kesseler for his photographic series Polytunnel

“This project looks under the surface and examines the hidden landscape within the spaces in which our food is produced. Looking at cyclical changes and the relationship between chaos and control in the natural environment. In the polytunnel, the seasons are stretched and softened within a polythene skin, creating its own cosmos. In these unseen spaces, nature vies for territory within a man-made colony.”

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In The Garden of England

A third place award in the professional brief category went to Edward Thompson for his series of photos taken in South East England entitled “In The Garden of England“.

“This body of work is part of a culmination of eighteen years of predominantly photographing the South East of England. There are a number of themes at work in this photo-series covering nostalgia, class and the beautiful uncanny of everyday English life. As a photographer, the work represents the continued pursuit of my visual style and approach to photography. It has taken a long time to get here and now, going through the wider edits of this work, I can appreciate that I always saw the world in this way.”

Kieran Dodds/Sony World Photography AwardsAmazing Images From The Sony World Photography Awards image 9

Hierotopia

  • Award: 3rd place professional landscape category
  • Photographer: Kieran Dodds
  • Series: Hierotopia

A series of stunning aerial photographs won photographer Kieran Dodds the third-place position in the professional landscape category

“Ethiopia has lost 95% of its native forests due to human activity in the last century. What remains surrounds circular Tewahedo Orthodox churches; these ancient canopies are protected as a tenet of faith. The country’s population will double in the next 30 years, further pressurising these natural treasures. Thousands of forest fragments exist across Northern Ethiopia – green islands of biodiversity in an expanding sea of agriculture – but a mere fraction are viable. Incremental erosion from grazing and subsistence agriculture is destructive: thinned forest edges kill the canopy from the outside in. To their guardians, each forest is a miniature Garden of Eden, essential to the building’s dignity. One priest described the trees as “the clothes of the church”. The forest’s religious significance is equalled by its ecological function: these sacred oases raise water tables, lower temperatures, block destructive winds and are home to yield-boosting pollinators. These genetic repositories are vital for human survival in Ethiopia.”

Tuomas Uusheimo/Sony World Photography AwardsAmazing images from the Sony World Photography Awards image 10

Paimio Sanatorium

  • Award: 2nd place professional architecture category
  • Photographer: Tuomas Uusheimo
  • Series: Paimio Sanatorium

With a colourful collection of images of the Paimio Tuberculosis Sanatorium, photographer Tuomas Uusheimo was awarded second place in the professional architecture awards. 

“The fate of one of the world’s greatest Functionalist masterpieces, Paimio Tuberculosis Sanatorium (1933) is at stake. The owner of the property has decided to sell it in the next six months. The Alvar Aalto foundation has launched an appeal to preserve Alvar and Aino Aalto’s key work intact and protect this example of “healing Modernism.” Paimio Sanatorium is a former tuberculosis sanatorium in South West Finland. It represents the “modernist” period of Aalto’s career, and followed many of the tenets of Le Corbusier’s pioneering ideas for modernist architecture. The building is widely regarded as one of Aalto’s most important designs and has been nominated for UNESCO World Heritage status. I want my photographs to show how buildings carry their past with them. While I am fascinated by natural and human-inflicted change that occurs as time passes, I also feel responsible for making a contribution to raise awareness of such unique architecture.”

Nicolas Gaspardel & Pauline Baert/Sony World Photography AwardsAmazing images from the Sony World Photography Awards image 11

Yuck

  • Award: 1st place professional still life category
  • Photographers: Nicolas Gaspardel & Pauline Baert
  • Series: Yuck

French photographers Nicolas Gaspardel and Pauline Baert were awarded the first place prize for professional still life photography with the series “Yuck” which was appropriately lead with this image of bubble gum on toast. 

” 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.”

Alessandro Grassani/Sony World Photography AwardsAmazing images from the Sony World Photography Awards image 12

Boxing Against Violence: The Female Boxers Of Goma

Professional photographer from Italy, Alessandro Grassani, won first place in the sports category for a series of images with a boxing focus taken in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

This image, in particular, stood out for us:

“18 year-old Blandini portrayed on the building site where she occasionally spend her nights. She also trains in the so-called Friendship Boxing Club. Blandini tells: “We live under the threat of being beaten and violated by men, in a general condition of discrimination. I was kicked out of my family by my mother’s second husband and found myself on the streets. For a living I do little jobs at people’s houses, although my biggest concerns are about defending myself. That’s why I do boxing: to prepare myself for life, to become a champion and maybe earn a living. My husband left me when my second child was born, leaving me completely unprotected. Once I was covered with petroleum by a group of men and set alight like a candle. The scars on my neck and my arm are the reminder of that night.”.”

Laetitia Vançon/Sony World Photography AwardsAmazing images from the Sony World Photography Awards image 13

At the End of the Day

  • Award: 3rd place professional portraiture category
  • Photographers: Laetitia Vançon
  • Series: At the end of the day

With an awesome series of images snapped in the Outer Hebrides, Laetitia Vançon was awarded third place in the professional portraiture category. This image of a man snoozing on public transport with a beautifully peaceful seaside background stood out for us:

“This series is a portrait of a territory through the prism of its younger generation. The Outer Hebrides are a string of islands (220km long with 27,000 inhabitants), located in the far North of Scotland, on the edge of what used to be Europe before Brexit. What is the daily life of these young people, in a place where the population is ageing and the economy is declining, where jobs and studies but also their choice of partners are limited? How do the young people develop a sense of belonging strong enough to decide to stay and keep the islands afloat? After two years following this project, overall, the young people show a common ability to bounce back. A kind of happy fatalism. It is as if they are tied by elastic: most of them want to go elsewhere, but they are ceaselessly brought back to their islands. By attachment but also, very often, by fear of the unknown.”

Brent Stirton/Sony World Photography AwardsAmazing images from the Sony World Photography Awards image 14

Akashinga – The Brave Ones

Brent Stirton took some striking photos for the documentary category which show the Akashinga conservation rangers. This is a band of all-female rangers who are in charge of managing the entire nature reserve in Zimbabwe. This series of images shows a brilliant program that’s re-empowering women who have come from disadvantaged backgrounds, with many of them being the victims of rape, domestic abuse and exploitation.

Brent Stirton explains the context of this image:

“Phundundu Wildlife Area, Zimbabwe, June 2018. Petronella Chigumbura, 30, an elite member of the all-female Akashinga conservation ranger force undergoes stealth movement and concealment training in the bush near their base. Petronella says she previously worked on her ex-husband’s family tobacco farm in slave-like conditions. This job has increased her self-respect and the salary enabled her to leave her abusive husband. She is now engaged in trying to get her children back and is being helped by the support of her ranger sisters to do so. Petronella is regarded by her instructors as easily as good as the best of the men they have trained for similar difficult conservation work. She also brings the added value of better community relations and intelligence gathering as a woman, the instructors are quick to add.”

Pol Kurucz/Sony World Photography AwardsAmazing images from the Sony World Photography Awards image 15

The Normals

  • Award: 3rd place professional creative category
  • Photographer: Pol Kurucz
  • Series: The Normals

A seriously quirky and colourful collection of images submitted to the creative category won Pol Kurucz third-place in the creative category. This series is somewhat ironically titled “The Normals”:

“By definition most people are normal. Some want to be different and follow the norms of a specific social or cultural tribe; they are normal too. And there are those who would laugh at nonsensical categorizations, who don’t believe in or live by conventions, who create their own reality and live it naturally. They are the subject of the photographer’s last photo series: genuine eccentrics, weirdos and lunatics who, in the eyes of the photographer, are the new normals. Shooting for this last series took place entirely in the Kolor Studio in the heart of Rio de Janeiro, where all the sets and accessories were built by the Kolor Art Collective. Most models, performers, and actors featured in the photos come from the city’s humanist microcosm and themselves belong to the redefined group of the eccentrics.”

Stephan Zirwes/Sony World Photography AwardsAmazing images from the Sony World Photography Awards image 16

Cut Outs – Pools 2018

  • Award: 1st place professional architecture category
  • Photographer: Stephan Zirwes
  • Series: Cut Outs – Pools 2018

With an expert hand and eye for detail, professional photographer Stephan Zirwes took all the right angles of public swimming pools in Germany to create an award-winning collection. The series of photos titled “Cut Outs – Pools 2018” won him first place in the professional architecture category. 

“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.”





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