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  • Italian artist Federico Borella named Photographer of the Year
  • South African Brent Stirton places second in the Documentary category

The World Photography Organisation named the overall winners of the prestigious 2019 Sony World Photography Awards.

The coveted Photographer of the Year title and $25,000 (USD) prize was presented at a London ceremony to the Italian artist Federico Borella for his series Five Degrees, which also won the Documentary category. The work was praised by the jury for its sensitivity, technical excellence and artistry in bringing to light a global concern. The Sony World Photography Awards are a global platform for photography and provide a vital insight into contemporary photography today. For both established and emerging artists the Awards offer world-class opportunities for exposure of their work.

South African Brent Stirton achieved second place in the Documentary category for his series entitled Akashinga – The Brave Ones, a significant achievement as the 2019 Awards received a record-breaking 326,997 submissions from 195 countries. Judged by international photography experts from across the media, museums, publishing and academia, the professional competition in which Stirton competed awards outstanding series of five to ten images that demonstrate artistic prowess, across ten diverse categories.

Already a multiple award-winner, Stirton’s series Akashinga – The Brave Ones depicts the strength and courage of an all-female wildlife ranger team in action, who work with the local community in Zimbabwe to protect wildlife.

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Discussing the awarded series, 2019 chair of professional judges Mike Trow says, “The photographs really show the strength of the women. It is fascinating to learn they come from disadvantaged backgrounds, you don’t see any of that in the photographs. You see them training but you also see them interacting with the civilians. What was amazing about this work is that there are some really powerful single shots as well as the idea that the photographer is trying to tell a story. It really felt like a cohesive photo essay.”

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.

The judges praised this year’s winners for giving expression and interpretation to the lives and issues faced across the globe. 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.”

Produced by the World Photography Organisation, the Sony World Photography Awards are one of the world’s largest and most prestigious photography competitions.

Professional category winners and finalists

The artists below 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:

Architecture: Winner: Stephan Zirwes, Germany for series Cut Outs – Pools 2018

2nd Tuomas Uusheimo, Finland / 3rd Peter Franck, Germany

Brief: Winner: Rebecca Fertinel, Belgium for series Ubuntu – I Am Because We Are
2nd Christina Stohn, Germany / 3rd Edward Thompson, UK

Creative: Winner: Marinka Masséus, Netherlands for the series Chosen [not] to be

2nd Leah Schretenthaler, USA / 3rd Pol Kurucz, France

Discovery: Winner: Jean-Marc Caimi & Valentina Piccinni, Italy for the series Güle Güle
2nd Boyuan Zhang, China Mainland / 3rd Karina Bikbulatova, Russia

Documentary: Winner: Federico Borella, Italy for series Five Degrees
2nd Brent Stirton, South Africa / 3rd Mustafa Hassona, Palestine

Landscape: Winner: Yan Wang Preston, UK for the series To the South of the Colourful Clouds
2nd Marco Kesseler, UK / 3rd Kieran Dodds, UK

Natural World & Wildlife: Winner: Jasper Doest, Netherlands for the series Meet Bob
2nd Christian Vizl, Mexico / 3rd Maela Ohana, France

Portraiture: Winner: Álvaro Laiz, Spain for the series The Edge
2nd Massimo Giovannini, Italy / 3rd Laetitia Vançon, France

Sport: Winner: Alessandro Grassani, Italy for the series Boxing Against Violence: The Female Boxers Of Goma
2nd Kohei Ueno, Japan / 3rd Thomas Nielsen, Denmark

Still Life: Winner: Nicolas Gaspardel & Pauline Baert, France for the series Yuck
2nd Yiming Zhang, China Mainland / 3rd Cletus Nelson Nwadike, Sweden

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, colour, movement and cascading underwater bodies to create an ethereal scene reminiscent of Baroque painting.

Speaking of her win, Rogers says “It’s an honour to be recognized as a photographer, as for so many years most people referred to me as a painter or something unknown. And I’m so grateful to be a part of the photography community and to win this beautiful award!”

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.

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.

Outstanding Contribution to Photography – Nadav Kander

As one of the world’s foremost contemporary photographers, London based artist Nadav Kander is regarded as being one of 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.

The news of the overall winners joins the March announcement of 2019’s ten Open competition category winners and 62 National Awards winners, to complete the announcements of 2019’s Awards.  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.

Sony World Photography Awards

The objective of the Sony World Photography Awards is to establish a platform for the continuous development of photographic culture. The Awards do this by recognizing great advancements in photography through the Outstanding Contribution to Photography prize as well as finding and promoting new talents of the future, whether this be in the Professional, Open, Youth or Student competitions.  Sony is committed to supporting global photography. This is demonstrated not only via the Awards, but also by its significant grant program which offers selected winners of the student competition $3,500 (USD) and professional competition $7,000 (USD) to develop personal projects. The 2020 Sony World Photography Awards opens for entries 1 June, 2019.  All entries are free at

Judges – 2019 Sony World Photography Awards

  • Professional competition: Mike Trow (Chair), editor, photographer, consultant / Erin Barnett (Director of Exhibitions and Collections, International Center of Photography, USA) / Brendan Embser (Managing Editor, Aperture, USA) / Emma Lewis (Judge and Assistant Curator, Tate, UK) / Liu Heung Shing (Founder, Shanghai Center of Photography, China) / Isabella van Marle (Head of Artist & Gallery Relations, Unseen Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
  • Open, Youth & National Awards competitions: Rebecca McClelland, Photography Director & Head of Art Production for Saatchi Saatchi & Prodigious (UK).
  • Student competition: Jason Baron (Creative Director of Photography, BBC Creative), Bruno Bayley (Managing Editor, Magnum Photos) and Jeff Hamada (Founder & Editor, BOOOOOOOM).


About World Photography Organisation:

The World Photography Organisation is a global platform for photography initiatives.  Working across up to 180 countries, our aim is to raise the level of conversation around photography by celebrating the best imagery and photographers on the planet. We pride ourselves on building lasting relationships with both individual photographers as well as our industry-leading partners around the world. The World Photography Organisation hosts a year-round portfolio of events including the Sony World Photography Awards, one of the world’s leading photography competitions, and PHOTOFAIRS, leading international art fairs dedicated to photography. For more details see


About Sony Middle East and Africa:

Sony Middle East and Africa FZE is a 100% subsidiary of Sony Corporation and is the regional headquarters for the Middle East and Africa regions. The company is engaged in the business of Sony Consumer Electronics, Recording Media and Energy, Mobile Electronics (Car Audio) and Computer Entertainment (PlayStation) products in more than 40 countries in the region.

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