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Paolo Woods was born in Den Haag (NL) of Dutch and Canadian parentage. He grew up in Italy, lived in London, Paris, Haiti and Ivory Coast. He is now based in Florence.


Paolo Woods ran a photography gallery and a laboratory before dedicating himself to documentary photography. He is devoted to long-term projects that blend photography with research. 

In 2003, with award-winning writer Serge Michel, he published Un Monde De Brut (A Crude World). Tackling the subject of the oil industry, this book involved working in twelve countries among which Angola, Russia, Kazakhstan, Texas and Iraq.

In 2004 he published the book American Chaos, a detailed reportage on western debacle in Afghanistan and Iraq. Both books have been published in France and Italy, and as magazine pieces in over ten different countries.

In 2007/2008 he has documented the spectacular rise of the Chinese in Africa. The book, Chinafrica, again co-signed with Serge Michel, has been published in France and translated in eleven languages including English, Spanish and Chinese. The work has been acclaimed as the most thorough investigation in the phenomena, and as an exemplary encounter between longform journalism and documentary photography. The book has enjoyed significant commercial success, selling over 40.000 copies in France only.

In 2010, he completed the project Walk on my Eyes, an intimate portrait of the Iranian society. The resulting book has been published in French, German, Spanish and Persian and the exhibition has premiered at the Festival of Arles, France.

In 2010 Paolo moved to Haiti. In 2013 he published STATE and PEPE both books co-signed with writer Arnaud Robert. The exhibition was produced by the Musee de l’Elysée in Switzerland and went on to be the most viewed in the history of the museum.

In 2012 he started a three years project called The Heavens. Done with photographer Gabriele Galimberti this was the first photographic investigation into the workings of tax havens. The exhibition opened at the 2015 Festival of Arles in France and has toured worldwide. The book has been selected as one of the best photobooks of 2015. 

In 2021, with Arnaud Robert, he completed Happy Pills, a five-year project on why pills are our new religion and how the pharmaceutical companies market happiness. Happy Pills is a book, an exhibition currently touring and Paolo’s first film that has premiered at the Festival dei Popoli in 2022. 

In 2022, he has been appointed as the artistic director of the festival Cortona On The Move, Italy’s main photo festival, the first edition he curated was titled “Me, Myself and Eye”.


Paolo is the author of eight books and his projects are regularly featured in the main international publications with reviews in the NYT, Le Monde, the Guardian just to mention a few. He has had solo exhibitions in, amongst others, France, US, Italy, Switzerland, China, Spain, Germany, Holland and Haiti and numerous group shows around the world. His pictures are private and public collections including the Musee de l’Elysée, Unipol, the French National Library, the FNAC, the Sheik Saud Al-Thani collection, the Servais collection. He has received various prizes including two World Press Photos. He is co-founder of RIVERBOOM, a collective and publishing house that explores the limits of the photographic language.



  • Paolo Woods, Arnaud Robert, “Happy Pills”, Delpire, Paris 2022

  • Paolo Woods, Gabriele Galimberti, “The Heavens”, Delpire/Dewi Lewis, Paris-London 2014

  • Paolo Woods, Arnaud Robert, “PEPE”, Musee de l’Elysée, Lausanne 2013

  • Paolo Woods, Arnaud Robert, “STATE”, Photosyntheses, Arles 2013

  • Paolo Woods, Serge Michel, Marche sur mes yeux, Grasset, Paris 2010

  • Paolo Woods, Serge Michel, La Chinafrique, Grasset, Paris 2008

  • Paolo Woods, Serge Michel, American chaos. Le Seuil, Paris 2004

  • Paolo Woods, Serge Michel, Un monde de brut, Le Seuil, Paris 2003

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