- Getty Images photographer John Moore received the industry's top gong last night for his incredible photographs
- His pictures show the horror and heartbreak of the deadly Ebola virus as it ravaged West Africa last year
- The expert judging panel said his photographs conveyed the situation with 'heart, compassion and understanding'
- He was named the winner from group of 13 photographers across categories that included landscapes and culture
A series of images showing the heartbreak, brutality and horror of the Ebola virus as it tore through West African communities has taken the top prize at the world's largest international photography competition.
American John Moore's poignant photographs of the outbreak in Liberia were praised by the judges for compassionately illustrating how people's daily lives were destroyed and families decimated by the deadly disease.
The Sony World Photography Award winners were announced at a gala in London last night, where Mr Moore's images were named the best from a group of first place winners in categories that included architecture, arts and culture, conceptual, contemporary and landscapes.
Omu Fahnbulleh stands over her husband Ibrahim after he fell and died in a classroom used for Ebola patients in Liberia last year
Another of John Moore's award-winning images shows a Doctors Without Borders health worker carrying a child suspected of having Ebola at a treatment centre. Although the little girl and her mother showed symptoms of the virus, they survived and were released a week later
A burial team from the Liberian Red Cross sprays disinfectant over the body of a woman suspected of dying from the deadly disease
A despairing woman crawls towards the body of her sister as burial team members carry her from the site of her death. Mr Moore's images earned him the top gong, as well as first place in the Current Affairs category
Photographer John Moore, who is based in New York, receives his award on stage at the awards gala held in London last night
Other photo projects submitted for consideration included children playing football in one of Argentina's most dangerous slums, a stunning image of a starry Malaysian night sky, and pictures of people living in the inhospitable industrial outskirts of St Petersburg, Russia.
In winning the Photographer of the Year award, Mr Moore - who operates as a special correspondent for Getty Images - received a $25,000 prize and hi-tech Sony photography equipment.
The judging panel said: 'It is his spirit in the face of such horror that garners praise. His images are intimate and respectful, moving us with their bravery and journalistic integrity.
'It is a fine and difficult line between images that exploit such a situation, and those that convey the same with heart, compassion and understanding, which this photographer has achieved with unerring skill.
'Combine this with an eye for powerful composition and cogent visual narrative, and good documentary photography becomes great.'
Based in New York, Mr Moore has photographed in more than 70 countries and has won numerous accolades for his previous work.
This year's awards attracted a record-breaking number of entries, with 173,444 images submitted from 171 countries.
Yong Lin Tan won the competition's youth award for this stunning image, which was taken in the back alley of the photographer’s grandmother’s house in Kedah, Malaysia
Sebastian Gil Miranda, from France, received special praise for his images showing youngsters playing football in Jose Leon Suarez, Buenos Aires - one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in Argentina
A young child, whose face is obscured by the football, plays with his friends in the neighbourhood. The series of images took first place in the Campaign category and attempted to illustrate a social project aimed at keeping children away from drug trafficking
British photographer Simon Norfolk's images of mapping with a pyrograph on Mount Kenya won first place in the Landscape category
The flames illustrate the melting away of the Lewis Glacier - by indicating where the glacier used to reach in 1934
Svetlana Blagodareva, from Russia, won the Student Focus category for her images showing people who live on the outskirts of St Petersburg
The images used portrait-style photographs, laid atop images of the industrial and inhospitable area in which they live
An American teenager tweets during her prom in the winning image from the Arts and Culture category. The photographs showed U.S. teenagers as they went through their high school rite of passage
Aristide Economopoulos' photographs also covered dancing students at a prom in Verona, northern New Jersey
Ruben Salgado Escudero, from Myanmar, submitted this photo of 20-year-old Shan farmer Mg Ko with his cow in Lui Pan Sone Village. Pictured under his arm is a solar panel
Another of Mr Escudero's images showed construction workers in Myanmar digging a household latrine in Pa Dan Kho Village. The photographs illustrated the effect the introduction of solar power electricity was having on the inhabitants of remote Myanmar
Two photographs taken by Bernhard Lang, from Germany, showed the incredible patterns beach umbrellas create from above. The images were taken on a beach along the Adriatic coastline between Ravenna and Rimini, Italy, and won the Travel category
The winner of the Architecture category was Cosmin Bumbutz, from Romania. The image shows the beds and room used for prisoners' conjugal visits
When Romania joined the European Union its prison system underwent major reform, prompting the creation of the visitation rooms
Donald Weber, from Canada, won the Still Life category with these pictures showing the crude handmade weapons used by protesters in Kiev, Ukraine
Fan Li, from China, claimed top placing in the Lifestyle category for these photographs showing the ethnic Yi people living in the Great Liangshan Mountains of China
The intimate photographs were taken as part of a project representing the life of the Yi people living in southwest China
Giovanni Trolio, from Italy, named his series The Dark Heart of Europe. It looked at the underbelly of the city of Charleroi, Belgium and won the People category
This series of images - named Faded History of the Lost - capture the missing posters of those who lost their lives in the Bangladesh Rana Plaza factory collapse in April 2013. Rahul Talukder claimed first place in the Conceptual category with the photographs
Scott Typaldos, from Switzerland, took these compelling images of people living inside mental health institutions in Bosnia
Named Butterflies Chapter 3, the photographs claimed first place in the Contemporary Issues category
Riccardo Bononi, from Italy, took these captivating images of female professional wrestlers in Bolivia to win the Sport category
Mr Bononi said he discovered the proud Bolivian tradition while working in San Pedro prison, La Paz, and noticed a woman living in the prison left the premises each weekend to fight. Pictured is a female wrestler