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Paolo Pellegrin Biography

Photographer Paolo Pellegrin has produced works documenting major social and political upheavals of the 21st century. He is a ten-time recipient of the World Press Photo award, and has been a member of Magnum Photos since 2005.

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Early Life

Born to a family of architects in Rome, Pelligrin studied architecture at The Sapienza University of Rome. He stayed there for three years before transitioning to photography at the Institute of Photography in Rome, where he met his mentor photographer Enzo Ragazzini.

Pellegrin's first projects in 1987 were focused on immigration, the circus, and homelessness in Italy. He worked as an assistant for well-known photographers and videographers until 1991, when he bought a second-hand car and moved to Paris. There, Pellegrin met Christian Caujolle from Agence VU, who represented him for nine years.

Paolo Pellegrin Photographs

Paolo Pellegrin's black and white photographs capture human subjects and places caught between two disruptions. Through an interplay of shadow and light, they contain an unfinished quality and offer a sober documentation that echoes the physical impact of war and displacement.

Political Coverage

Pellegrin's political coverage began as personal projects. They began in 1992, when the photographer made several trips to the Balkans to document the Romani people in Italy and Bosnia. At the same time, he was introduced to Grazia Neri, who represented him in Italy. In the following years, he documented children in post-war Bosnia and travelled across the world to work on a project on HIV, earning him his first World Press Photo Award for his work in Uganda in 1995.

Books and Publications

Pellegrin published his first book, Bambini, in 1997, which gathered his documentation of children in post-war Bosnia, Uganda, and Romania. Cambodia, a book showing photographs from the artist's collaboration with Médecin Sans Frontières was published a year later. Both were award-winning, as would be many of Pellegrin's subsequent projects.

Pellegrin received his first assignment from The New York Times Magazine in 1988 and was sent, with reporter Scott Anderson, to cover blood feuds in Albania. Pellegrin's collaboration with Anderson continued over the years, resulting in over ten features for the magazine.

Magnum Photo

The following years, Pellegrin travelled extensively between Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia, and Serbia, reporting on the war and its aftermath. In 2000, the photographer was offered a contract position at Newsweek magazine, where he worked for ten years. He was subsequently nominated as a Magnum Photo member in 2001, winning multiple awards for anti-terrorism coverage in Algeria and his work in the Balkans.


Pellegrin's subsequent coverage includes the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Yasser Arafat's funeral, Hurricane Katrina, Pope John Paul II's funeral, the Guantanamo Bay detention centre, the Lebanon war, the Iraqi Diaspora in the Middle East, the North African Revolution, the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo under the Obama administration— all of which awarded him various prizes and recognitions.

As I Was Dying (2007) gathers Pellegrin's photojournalism in war-torn regions over the years, featuring photographs documenting human loss and suffering across 140 pages.

'Congo' (2013)

In 2013, Pellegrin collaborated with Magnum photographer Alex Majioli to document the Republic of Congo and its population, living alongside the city's inhabitants for the duration of the project. Photographs show urban landscapes and lush forests, capturing the diversity of Congolese societies today in a blend of the photographers' styles.

'Antarctica' (2017)

In 2017, Pellegrin joined NASA as a part of the IceBridge expedition, an 11-year campaign beginning in 2009 that documented environmental changes in the Arctic and the Antarctic using air-born instruments to monitor the effect of temperature change on polar ice. The photographer captured the warming Antarctic in a series of aerial photographs showing close-ups of the imposing landscape marked by beauty, tragedy, and resilience.

Awards and Accolades

Pellegrin was nominated Photographer of the Year in the 70th Annual Pictures of the Year International competition (2013). He is also the recipient of ten Word Press Photo Awards, the Robert Capa Gold Medal Award for Overseas Press (2007), and the Dr. Erich Salomon Award from the German Society for Photography (2013).


Paolo Pellegrin's photographs have been shown widely in Europe, the U.S., and the U.K.

Select solo exhibitions include Somerset House, London (2021); Paolo Pellegrin, Reggia di Venaria, Venaria Reale, Turin (2020); Paolo Pellegrin: Un'antologia, Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo, Rome (2018); Great Performers, F11 Photographic Museum, Hong Kong (2016); Another Country, Festival Internazionale di Roma, Rome (2013); Dies Irae, Maison de La Photographie, Paris (2012); Paolo Pellegrin Retrospective, Kunstfoyer der Versicherungskammer Bayern, Munich (2011); As I Was Dying, Western Australian Maritime Museum, Perth (2008); and Iraqi Diaspora, Visa pour l'Image, France (2008).

Select group exhibitions include Romanias, National Museum of Art of Romania, Bucarest (2019); Desperate Crossing, Italian Institute of Culture, New York (2016); Terres dévastées, Festival Photo Peuples et Nature de La Gacilly, France (2015); Triennale di Milano, Milan (2010); Georgian Spring, Magnum Photos travelling exhibition: Uferallen, Berlin Germany; Teatro Circo Price, Madrid, Spain; Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2009); Euro Visions, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels (2007); and Confronting Views: Nine Phtographers on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, The Photographers' Gallery, London (2003).


The artist's instagram can be found here.

Elaine YJ Zheng | Ocula | 2021

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