We decided to give the award to Federico Borella's project for the highly effective way in which it addresses a very relevant issue. The photographs not only chronicle the disputes in the Po Valley, but they also highlight the courageous struggle of mothers against a form of pollution that is extremely dangerous, given its range. The project managed to convey with visual impact the urgent need to protect the land for the sake of future generations, while combining aesthetics and thematic depth in an extraordinary way.

Federico Borella


Would you raise your children in the most polluted area in Europe? Several mothers who live in the Po Valley, in Northern Italy, which, according to The Lancet (2021), has that unenviable title, have decided to answer this question. Every day they fight for the protection of the place where their children will grow up, and they have formed a series of environmental groups. They are protesting against groundwater pollution by PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFAS (Polyfluorinated alkyl substances), which cause male infertility and thyroid cancer (more than 400,000 cases), they report the presence of dioxins and PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls) in children’s playgrounds and schools (where levels are 16 times more than the limit), they oppose the creation of landfills and they report the incidence of respiratory diseases in children (which are up by 28% in the area around Calcinato). These women are often ignored by local government authorities and are considered a nuisance by the rest of the community, but they have obtained significant results and are helping to build a better future for their children. 


Federico Borella was named Photographer of the Year 2019 at the Sony Photography Awards. His work has been published in various Italian and international magazines including The New York Times, National Geographic, Newsweek, Time Magazine, National Geographic, CNN, Stern, Dummy, Days Japan, XL Semanal, NZZ, Alpha magazine and Aftenposten, among others. After obtaining a degree in Classical Literature & Meso-American Archeology at the Alma Mater Studiorum University of Bologna, he completed a Master’s in Photography Journalism at the John Kaverdash Academy in Milan. From 2009 to 2015, he worked as a freelance photographer for La Repubblica newspaper and as a photographer for John Hopkins University in Bologna. From 2015 to 2019 he worked for QN Quotidiano Nazionale (National Daily). He’s currently based in Bologna (Italy), where he teaches photography and storytelling and organizes workshops and photography trips. His work as a documentary photographer focuses on social and environmental issues, particularly those related to the relationship between humanity and nature.

Federico Borella