© Pablo Albarenga, Uruguay, Photographer of the Year, Professional competition, Creative, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards.

The World Photography Organisation is delighted to announce the overall winners in the prestigious Sony World Photography Awards 2020. The Photographer of the Year title and accompanying $25,000 prize is awarded to Pablo Albarenga (Uruguay) for his series Seeds of Resistance. Also announced are the ten category winners of the Professional competition alongside 2nd and 3rd place as well as overall winners of the Open, Student and Youth competitions.

Seeds of Resistance is a body of work which pairs photographs of landscapes and territories in danger from mining and agribusinesses with portraits of the activists fighting to conserve them. In 2017, at least 207 leaders and environmentalists were killed while protecting their communities from projects threatening their territories. According to a 2018 report by Global Witness, most of these cases occurred in Brazil with 57 assassinations being recorded, of which 80% were against people defending the Amazon.

Albarenga’s series explores the bond between the defenders and their lands – a sacred area in which hundreds of generations of their ancestors rest. In the photographs, the main characters in the stories are seen from above, as though they are laying down their lives for their territory.

Mike Trow, Chair of the 2020 Professional competition says: “This year’s winner comes from the Creative category and is a brilliant set of images which offers a powerful visual record of how deforestation goes hand in hand with the destruction of communities and peoples. The judging process this year was challenging – there were a number of extraordinary stories and sets of images that could have won the overall title, but Seeds of Resistance really stood out. Pablo is from Uruguay and this project is deeply personal to him as a photographer. The effort required to envisage, produce and shoot this series is laudable in every way.”

Commenting on his win Albarenga says: “With this important award, I see two victories: first, the opportunity to tell the stories of the traditional communities of the Amazon by highlighting the people who are still fighting not only for their future, but for everyone’s. We need to look beyond the trees, the oxygen and the “undiscovered” species of the rainforest. Secondly, that the photographer of the year award has landed in Latin America, a continent historically told through the eyes of foreigners. I hope that many more photographers from our region will continue to contribute with our voices, thus strengthening the amazing community of Latin American storytellers”


The Open competition celebrates the power of single images. Winning photographs are selected for their ability to communicate a remarkable visual narrative combined with technical excellence. Selected from ten Open category winners Tom Oldham (UK) is named Open Photographer of the Year 2020 and receives the $5,000 prize for Black Francis.

The photograph is a black & white portrait of Pixies frontman Charles Thompson (aka Black Francis), originally taken for MOJO Magazine. Asked by Oldham to acknowledge his frustration with photoshoots, Francis offered a perfect gesture of exasperation by digging his hands into his face. The result was an expressive photograph which ran as the lead image for the article.

Speaking of his win Oldham says: ‘It’s an incredible compliment to be chosen for this as I’m still buzzing to have made the shortlist alongside so much world class talent. I never dreamt I could get anywhere in the Open competition as the standard is so high and this award will really take some time to realise. I thank Mojo Magazine for the commission, my brilliant team and of course Charles for offering up such a moment. I’m astonished and delighted.’


Greek Student Ioanna Sakellaraki was chosen as Student Photographer of the Year 2020 for her series Aeiforia, createdin response to the brief Sustainability Now which asked students to produce a body of work connected to environmental sustainability. In her series, Sakellaraki presents night-time photographs of solar panels, wind turbines and battery farms used across the small island of Tilos in Greece which is the first in the Mediterranean to run almost entirely on renewable energy.

Sakellaraki represents the Royal College of Art in the UK and has won €30,000 worth of Sony photography equipment for her institution. Commenting on her win she says: “I am honoured to have been awarded the title of the Student Photographer of the Year. My series Aeiforia enabled me to share a positive story on the theme of sustainability by capturing the landscape as a passage into the night ambiance of the Greek island of Tilos. I hope that this honourable recognition will give me the opportunity to work on many more assignments of this kind. I am also thankful on behalf of The Royal College of Art for receiving the excellent equipment Sony generously offers as it will help other students to realise new projects with it.”


Selected from seven category winners, Hsien-Pang Hsieh(Taiwan Region, 19 years old) has won Youth Photographer of the Year 2020 for his image Hurry, featuring a street performer who is seemingly walking in a hurry but is in fact standing still. Inspired by his experience as a newly arrived student in Germany, Hsien-Pang sees the image as his comment on the intensive pace of life and a reminder others to slow down.


This year’s Outstanding Contribution to Photography has been awarded to printer and publisher Gerhard Steidl. This is the first time in the Awards’ history that the Outstanding Contribution to Photography has been presented to someone other than a photographer. Established in 1968, Steidl’s publishing house launched its own photobook programme in 1996 and within a few years grew it to what is today; the largest list for contemporary photography worldwide. His remarkable catalogue of photobooks features renowned practitioners including Joel Sternfeld, Nan Goldin, Bruce Davidson, Robert Frank, Berenice Abbott, Robert Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Karl Lagerfeld and Juergen Teller, to name a few. His publications encompass the entire history of photography, from early masters to today’s leading photographers, and represent the diverse spectrum of photographic expression – from art and fashion to documentary and street photography.

Winning photographers will be celebrated across the World Photography Organisation’s online channels and platforms using dedicated content including videos, presentations and live Q&As. A digital showcase of this year’s winning and finalist projects and images is available via the On Screen page.

In response to recent events, the World Photography Organisation has also launched the Stay Connected page, featuring a varied programme of online initiatives, activities and resources which aims to support and inspire audiences and photographers recognised at this year’s Awards.

Discussing this year’s Awards Scott Gray, Founder and CEO of the World Photography Organisation said:

“The Sony World Photography Awards was established to help get photographers the recognition they deserve with the exhibition providing an important platform to share their work with new audiences. Due to current restrictions with the global pandemic we were unable to hold this year’s exhibition however we are still dedicated to promoting winning images and projects and ensure the Awards provide awareness and appreciation for the photographers’ work. We are immensely lucky that we are able to work with Sony on this activation. Sony share our commitment to this medium and to the individual photographers and together we will continue to celebrate their work and raise the profile of photography as art.”

All winning and shortlisted images are available to download for publication at www.worldphoto.org/press


Winning photographers in the Professional competition have been selected by a panel of expert judges for submitting an outstanding body of work of five to ten images, ranging from personal subjects and observations to headline news and little known but critical issues. This year’s winners are:


WINNER: Sandra Herber (Canada) for her series Ice Fishing Huts, Lake Winnipeg

Finalists: 2nd place Jonathan Walland (UK);  3rd place José De Rocco (Argentina).


WINNER: Pablo Albarenga (Uruguay) for his series Seeds of Resistance

Finalists: 2nd place Dione Roach (Italy); 3rd place Luke Watson (UK)


WINNER: Maria Kokunova (Russian Federation) for her series The Cave

Finalists: 2nd place Hashem Shakeri (Islamic Republic of Iran); 3rd place Hugh Kinsella Cunningham (UK


WINNER: Chung Ming Ko (Hong Kong SAR) for his series Wounds of Hong Kong

Finalists: 2nd place Didier Bizet (France); 3rd place Youqiong Zhang (Mainland China)


WINNER: Robin Hinsch (Germany) for his series Wahala

Finalists: 2nd place Álvaro Laiz (Spain); 3rd place Luca Locatelli (Italy)


WINNER: Ronny Behnert (Germany) for his series Torii

Finalists: 2nd place Florian Ruiz (France); 3rd place Chang Kyun Kim (South Korea)


WINNER: Brent Stirton (South Africa) for his series Pangolins in Crisis

Finalists: 2nd place Masahiro Hiroike (Japan); 3rd place Adalbert Mojrzisch (Germany)


WINNER: Cesar Dezfuli (Spain) for his series Passengers

Finalists: 2nd place Denis Rouvre (France); 3rd place Sasha Maslov (Ukraine)


WINNER: Ángel López Soto (Spain) for his series Senegalese Wrestlers

Finalists: 2nd place Lucas Barioulet (France); 3rd place Andrea Staccioli (Italy)


WINNER: Alessandro Gandolfi (Italy) for his series Immortality, Inc.

Finalists: 2nd place Elena Helfrecht (Germany); 3rd place Fangbin Chen (Mainland China)

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