Federico Borella has been named Photographer of the Year at the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards, winning the $25,000 prize for his series Five Degrees – a look at male suicide in the farming community of Tamil Nadu, southern India, which is facing its worst drought in 140 years. The Italian photographer’s work takes its lead from a Berkeley University study, which found a correlation between climate change and increased suicide rates among Indian farmers, and explores the impact of both via images of the farming landscape, mementoes of the farmers, and portraits of their survivors.
“As global warming changes the face of life ever more rapidly – particularly in developing and underdeveloped nations – the work of artists such as Borella becomes ever more needed,” commented Mike Trow, chair of the professional jury. He added 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 the audience”.
The Sony World Photography Awards are divided into four categories – professional, student, youth, and open – which this year received over 326,000 submissions from 195 countries and territories. In total ten winners were picked out in the professional categories, with Borella winning the Documentary category with his project.
The Architecture prize was taken by Stephan Zirwes, Germany for his series Cut Outs – Pools 2018; Rebecca Fertinel, Belgium won the Brief category for her series Ubuntu – I Am Because We Are. Marinka Massaus, Netherlands, won the Creative category for the series Chosen [not] to be; the Discovery prize was taken by Jean-Marc Caimi & Valentina Piccinni, Italy for the series Güle Güle. Yan Wang Preston, UK won the Landscape prize with the series To the South of the Colourful Clouds.
Jasper Doest, Netherlands, won the Natural World & Wildlife category with his series Meet Bob; Alvaro Laiz, Spain, won the Portraiture category with his series The Edge. Alessandro Grassini, Italy, won the Sport category with the series Boxing Against Violence: The Female Boxers Of Goma; and Nicolas Gaspardel & Pauline Baert, France, won the Still Life category with the series Yuck.
Under the chair Mike Trow, the 2019 Professional competition was judged by: Erin Barnett, director of exhibitions and collections at the International Center of Photography in the US; Brendan Embser, managing editor of Aperture; Emma Lewis, judge and assistant curator at Tate; Liu Heung Shing, founder of the Shanghai Center of Photography; and Isabella van Marle, head of artist & gallery relations at Unseen Amsterdam.
Nadav Kander was awarded the 2019 Outstanding Contribution to Photography prize, while the Student competition was won by Sergi Villanueva from the Universidad Jaume I in Spain. Zelle Westfall, who is 18 and from the US, won the Youth Photographer of the Year. The Open Photographer of the Year was taken by Christy Lee Rogers, from the US.
The shortlisted work will go on show at the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition at Somerset House, London, before going on tour around the world; this exhibition will also include a section dedicated to Nadav Kander’s work.
The 2019 Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition is on show from 18 April until 06 May at Somerset House, London.