The nation's best magazine - New Zealand Geographic - also sponsors our biggest, best and richest photographic competition. We hitched our dinghy to the good ship NZ Geo in 2020 and sponsor the Ockham People's Choice Awards.
The competition was established by NZ Geographic in 2008. Publisher James Frankham says he wanted to create a space to allow new photographers to get recognition for their work, and to support and celebrate existing photographers whose images “weren’t just the most beautiful and colourful, but were interesting and challenging and show us who we really are.”
Some things have changed over the years. To win the Landscape category, for example, James says a photograph “has to be orders of magnitude better than a winning entry in 2009. The craft has moved on, and an image needs to have a real X-factor and make you think about New Zealand and our context.” There have been technical improvements over that time, of course – photographers can now shoot by starlight, for example, which hasn’t been technically possible until recently.
There are technical skills, and there are social skills, and the Society and Culture category rewards both of these. “These photo stories have always been about the photographer having the bravery, insight and empathy to walk into a situation,” James says. He adds that this category is particularly rich because we’re in a “post-normal” society of lockdowns, climate change and inequality.
That said, there is plenty of positivity in the images too. “The response of the photographers is not one of anguish or bitterness,” James says. “As a photographer you have a role to play in the image-making that is interpretive. We see photographers highlighting innovation and adaptation, positivity and resilience. It’s realistic, but it’s uplifting.”
“The response of the photographers is not one of anguish or bitterness. We see photographers highlighting innovation and adaptation, positivity and resilience. It’s realistic, but it’s uplifting.”General James Frankham