Alessandro Penso | Refugees in Bulgaria

Alessandra Penso.jpeg

Country of origin: Italy
Project location: Bulgaria
Program: Magnum Foundation Fund
Year: 2014

A European Union member state since 2007, Bulgaria has been hit hard by the economic crisis and consequently by heightened political instability. Today, the country finds itself confronting one of the most critical moments in its recent history and with a totally unknown phenomenon already within its borders: a refugee crisis.

In 2012, the total number of people crossing the Bulgarian border illegally was approximately 1,700. In 2013, it reached 10,200. This jump in numbers appears to coincide with increased efforts by Greece to close off its border with Turkey. Bulgaria, however, is totally unprepared to face a refugee crisis of this magnitude.


Alessandro Penso studied clinical psychology at Rome’s La Sapienza University. In 2007, he received a scholarship to study photojournalism at the “Scuola Romana di Fotografia”. Since completing his studies, his work has won several awards, including PDN Photo Student Award, Project Launch Award in Santa Fe 2011, Terry O’ Neill TAG Award 2012, Sofa Global Award 2013, and Photo Story of the Year Time Magazine.

He hopes his work will also help fight the dehumanisation and stereotyping of migrants which can take place in public discussion, sometimes for political gain. Alessandro’s work has appeared in numerous publications, including Stern Magazine, The Guardian, BBC, The New York Times, Businessweek, Time Magazine, the International Herald Tribune, Human Rights Watch, L’Espresso, Internazionale, D di Repubblica, Vanity Fair Italia, El Periodico, Le journal de la photographie, Enet and Ekathimerini.