Uruguay artist Pablo Albarenga has been crowned The Photographer of the Year in the 2020 Sony World Photography Awards for his series, Seeds of Resistance.
The winning body of work pairs images 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 characters in the stories are seen from above, as though they are laying down their lives for their territory.
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, 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."
Also announced are the ten category winners of the Professional competition alongside second and third place as well as overall winners of the Open, Student and Youth competitions.
Of the ten Professional winners, Sandra Herber of Canada was the overall winner in the Architecture category for Ice Fishing Huts, Lake Winnipeg. Pablo Albarenga also won first place for Creative. Maria Kokunova of Russian Federation scooped top prize under Discovery for The Cave. Chung Ming Ko (Hong Kong SAR) topped the category for Documentary for Wounds of Hong Kong.
Other winners include Robin Hinsch, Ronny Behnert, Brent Stirton, Cesar Dezfuli, Ángel López Soto, and Alessandro Gandolfi. See their winning photographs below or visit worldphoto.org.
British photographer Tom Oldham won Open Photographer of the Year for Black Francis, a black and white portrait of Pixies frontman Charles Thompson (aka Black Francis), originally taken for MOJO Magazine. Asked by Tom 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.
Ioanna Sakellaraki of Greece won Student Photographer of the Year for her series, Aeiforia, which features 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.
Hsien-Pang Hsieh, a 19-year-old photographer from Taiwan Region, was named Youth Photographer of the Year for 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 to others to slow down.