Finalists Named for 2023 Photographer of the Year

From a record field of almost 8,000 entries, 68 finalists will battle it out for the coveted title of New Zealand Geographic’s Photographer of the Year. From this number, one will receive the (almost as prestigious) Ockham Peoples’ Choice Award.

It’s that exalted time of the year again where New Zealand’s snappers, some toting monster lens like bazookas, others noobs with iPhones, come under one emblematic roof to celebrate New Zealand Geographic’s Photographer of the Year (POTY) competition. And lo, the numbers have crescendoed! Record entries of just under 8,000 have been narrowed down to 68 contenders across eight categories – Aerial, Adventure, Built Environment, Landscape, Portrait, Society, Wildlife and extended PhotoStory.

Now imagine the heavyweight responsibility upon the judges! It’s akin to finding that one, perfect, smooth pebble on a vast West Coast beach. One from these 68 will be coronated with the Ockham People’s Choice Award, considered by many in the Ockham office to be the Nobel Prize of Photography.

Light. Love. Sorrow

Showcasing Kiwi brilliance since 2006, POTY is New Zealand’s premier photography competition. It’s a canvas for both amateurs and professionals, a medium to portray heartachingly beautiful Aotearoa landscapes, heartbreakingly tragic cyclone-devastated Aotearoa landscapes ­– and everything else that matters in our land.

Last year, it was Taranaki’s Andy MacDonald who dazzled with an eclectic portfolio that included BMXers, ‘ballers, big South Island skies, chooks in church and a wonderfully gritty photostory on young speedway driver, Morgan Dumelow. “Full of colour, action, and profound meaning,” observed New Zealand Geographicpublisher, General James Frankham. The art lies not just in the shot but in “looking for patterns, juxtaposing subjects, creating angles”.

Two years earlier – 2020 – left an indelible mark on the annals of this competition. Stuff’s Alden Williams took out the big prize. A technically superb photographer with an astonishing eye for land and people – and for light, love and the deepest sorrow – his portfolio consisted of shots taken around Christchurch in a year of unmatched anguish. It included New Zealand’s oldest living WWII veteran, the late Ron Hermanns, then 108, standing vigil in his driveway for the lockdown Anzac Day in 2020. The definitive portrait of Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian-Kurdish refugee and author of No Friend but the Mountains, clandestinely typed onto mobile phone on Manus Island. The iconic image of Constable Michelle Evans – with hijab, rifle and rose – outside Christchurch Memorial Park Cemetery, as victims of the mosque murders are buried. Another photo, taken three months afterwards, documenting the human heartache at a memorial service at Hillmorton High School.

Williams’ attention to dramatic light is a hallmark of his work, said General Frankham. “The glow of a cigarette lighter, strong backlight through fog, the pinpoint accuracy of a shaft of light illuminating a father and daughter at a memorial for victims of the Christchurch attacks. These could be interpreted as examples of serendipity, but Williams was there when it happened, in the right place with the right lens, and a well-trained eye to the viewfinder.”

Ockham People Choice Awards: Vote Now!

Casting his eye over the Super 68 finalists, a mesmerised Will Deihl, Ockham CEO. “It’s our fourth year as sponsor. Such an honour! Such a privilege!” he says. “These photos evoke emotions... that will make you gasp in delight, sigh with pleasure, take your breath away. Aotearoa in its purest – brooding and bright, shadowy yet saturated.”

He’s managed to narrow his favourites down to a top 10, though is coy as to what they are. You see, it would be corruption – insider trading of Richwhite proportions – to influence what happens next. Instead, Deihl urges readers to make their own considered choice.

This is how it works.

1. Go to the website –
2. Scroll through the lot, making note of some of your personal faves.
3. Then go through again and vote.
4. Remember you only have five ‘votes’ – don’t make the mistake some do of being so blown away at what you see that you vote for the first five that pop up.

The votes will then be tallied and tabulated and the champ found. In 2020, People’s Choice went to Edin Whitehead’s stunning starry-seabird-ascending-to-the-heavens night shot. In 2021 it was Ruru Guru Grant Nicholson’s adorable image of two fledgling morepork that won hearts and minds. In 2022 it was rock wren wrangler Douglas Thorne’s delightful image of a pīwauwau / rock wren atop Barrier Knob in Fiordland.

And so to 2023. Get busy, get voting:

One more thing…

A nod must also go to New Zealand Geographic, the masthead under which this symphony of images come together. “A magnificent world-class magazine,” Deihl gushes, one “destined to live forever on coffee tables and at holiday homes by the beach.

“The work James and his team do to celebrate – and elevate – the finest images of Aotearoa and ourselves has been epic, even culturally transformative. We’re blessed to be part of the POTY whānau.”

CREDITS: Top image. David White from his cyclone series, contending in Photostory category of the 2023 competition. Middle gallery. Alden William's winning portfolio from 2020. Bottom gallery. The three Ockham People's Choice Award winners.