Photo Competition

The Geographical Society of NSW Photo Competition is an annual competition. Participants are asked to submit digital images taken ‘in the field’. The field is broadly defined to encompass the spaces in which geographers undertake teaching and research related activities, outside their places of employment. The Society provides three cash prizes: 

• First prize: AUD400
• Second prize: AUD200
• Third prize: AUD100

The 2021 Competition concludes at 11.59pm on 30th September 2021. For information about how to apply for the competition click here. 


Recipients in recent years are:

First Prize: In depth learning

For me, studying geology and geography was like being taught how to read the earth's surface as if they were sentences in a book.  

Once I learnt how to read, I felt compelled to seek out more pages. Pages that require adventures to access. 

The photo is a metaphor for my current immersion as a student into these fields of study. As the abseiler enters the depths of the canyon, I am entering this field of study. There is excitement at the thought of the unknown in where the paths may lead in both situations. 

Photographer:  Simon Pheaktra Um

Location: Starlight Canyon, Wollemi National Park, NSW 2790


First Prize_Simon_JPG


Second Prize: Preševo at Dawn

This photo was taken in November 2015 at dawn, at the peak of the so-called 'Refugee Crisis', following a night shift of “crowd control”, helping refugees from the Middle East board buses in an orderly manner, so that they could continue their journey along the Balkan Route toward Western Europe. As I continue researching these spaces today, I recall these scenes and the abandoned landscapes. While Preševo still receives refugees their mobility looks very different. This photo represents what is left behind as people move quickly along the Balkan Route and represents what used to be.

Photographer: Jessica Collins

Location: Preševo, Serbia

Second Prize_Jessica Collin_Presevo at Dawn300


Third Prize: Seal

Here I am researching Fear and the Ocean using ‘wet ontologies’ and ‘wet methodologies’. I took the plunge to learn more about deep blue worlds and was lucky enough to meet a colony of fur seals! This one came right up to blow bubbles at me with a playful bark.

Photographer: Alexis Farr

Location: Jervis Bay, on Yuin Country NSW.

Third Prize_Seal_Alexis Farr copy


First Prize: "Walking together”

Dirk Pienaar’s son G, together with my son Kai, walk over the stunning red sand dunes of the Kalahari Desert after a dramatic and welcome summer storm. I have been privileged to research with Dirk, a #Khomani San leader, since 2013 and over the years he has welcomed me and my family into his breathtaking homelands on the border of South Africa and Botswana. The relationships between our kids is especially heart-warming and here G takes Kai on a walk through the dunes, showing him animal tracks and sharing some of the knowledge taught to him by his father. 

Photographer: Associate Professor Sandie Suchet-Pearson
Location: Erin Game Ranch, Kalahari Desert, South Africa

2020 First Prize


Second Prize: “I know those trees": Uncle Lex checking out Kgalagadi trees.

Darug custodian Uncle Lex Dadd accompanied me, Sandie Suchet-Pearson and our families to the Kalahari (South Africa) to meet #Khomani San tourism officer Dirk Pienaar. Uncle Lex said “I saw these trees from the aeroplane, and I thought, ‘I know those trees’. Then when I spoke to [Dirk], they are actually in a family of our trees in Australia. So I felt very comfortable, and at home, and at peace”. We have co-authored together about how this experience connected Uncle and Dirk to each other’s cultures, places and stories.

Photographer: Dr Marnie Graham 

2020 Second Prize


Third Prize: Reflecting on solar (Nkhata Bay, Malawi)

An animated exchange about how to identify good quality solar panels.  This is a subject of much debate in Malawi as while off-grid solar products are an attractive solution to energy poverty, the solar market is poorly regulated and thus filled with sub-standard products. In the absence of consumer education and effective regulation, cash strapped households tend to base their decisions on stories circulated through their social networks. This results in a context where verdicts on whether a product is “original”, “somewhat original” or “fake” are almost entirely based on subjective notions about size, colour, weight, and country of origin.  

Photographer: Shanil Samarakoon

2020 Third Prize

First Prize: Husnia Underabi

Title: Dangers of Place for Muslim minorities

Caption: The photograph taken during fieldwork at Lakemba Mosque reveals the vulnerability of Muslim men to terrorist attacks such that which took place in Christchurch earlier this year during Friday’s congregational prayers.

First Prize - Husnia Underabi

Second Prize: Milena Bojovic

Title: No More Cows

Caption: This is an image of a hand painted sign nailed onto a residential fence, facing a busy major road in Christchurch, New Zealand Aotearoa. This image was taken during my fieldwork about vegan societies in the South Island. The sign is emblematic of the local communities (both vegan and non-vegan) growing concerns towards further dairy expansion in the South Island, such as proposed dairy expansion at the MacKenzie Basin. The effects of dairy farming on the waterways is a topical issue in New Zealand Aotearoa, as dairy run off pollutes the regions waterways, rendering rivers and streams unswimmable.  

Second Prize - Milena Bojovic

Third Prize: Annie Wu

Title: Fieldwork in Maubise Market, Timor-Leste.  

Caption: Truck is the most popular form of transportation for inter-district commuting. People bring their goods with them while seating on the back of the truck. It was a cloudy day, therefore a truck ride could be more comfortable without the canvas cover. Bunch of local women and men are waiting for the enough number of passengers to board on the truck so that they could depart to capital Dili.  

Third Prize - Annie Wu (1)


First Prize: Kevin Huang

Title: Rhesus macaques

Caption: Rhesus macaques inhabit spectacular quartz-sandstone spires scattered across the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in Hunan Province, China. Research involving observations and questionnaires about encounters between macaques and tourists in the park have highlighted the power of positive human-wildlife encounters, revealing the psychological and physiological benefits of ecotourism, and illuminating Chinese cultural attitudes towards wildlife in outdoor recreation.1 

1Li, J., Yang, D., He, L. Tao, S. Zeng, L., & Buckley, R. (2012). Psychological, physiological and behavioural responses of tourists to interactions with rhesus macaques at Zhangjiajie, China. Journal of Ecotourism, 11(3), 202-206. 

First Prize_Kevin Huang

Second Prize: Adriana Zaja

Title: Portentous sky 

Caption: This photo was taken behind Wolgal Hut in the old Kiandra goldfields during fieldwork in Kosciuszko National Park. At the time I was researching feral horse activity and although it was difficult to get clear photos of the horses up close, the landscape and contrasting colours in the grass and sky were even more stunning.

Second Prize_Adriana Zaja

Third Prize: Joshua Bray

Title: Pig in The White Building, Phnom Penh  

Caption: 'The White Building' was a beyond-decrepit municipal housing block of several hundred units, not far from Phnom Penh’s city centre. Residents had been evicted, in anticipation of the building’s demolition for a 21-story tower. Among the waste of decampment, the remnants of the artisan community the White Building had fostered were clinging on for a few more precious days, sparing enough time and money to celebrate an unknown event with this glistening, whole pig. The social event was somewhat of an antithesis to the evictions, and a throwback to the much-lamented, happier time of the modernist building’s construction in 1963.

Third Prize_Joshua Bray

First Prize: Ashraful Alam

Title: When the path leads you home, Khulna, Bangladesh 

Caption: The photo is part of a 'walking-interview' with a migrant housewife. She was returning home after her day's work and carrying her share of cow dung sticks. In her words -“even our own men do not understand why we walk from door to door... There was a saying back in the village- if wives step outside the house it gets possessed by the evil. But, you know, we are already possessed by the biggest of all, poverty! Come, walk with me one day, you will know how these two limbs (her legs), keep the home alive." 

1st Prize Ashraful Alam

Second Prize: Kiran Maharjan

Title: Livestock Rearing around the Koshi River! Sunsari District, Nepal 

Caption: This photo illustrates how livelihoods are maintained by rural households in the villages around the Koshi River. Apart from the goat, the household has also raised some chicken and some pigeons in the backyard of a typical house from the rural Eastern Hill Region of Nepal. It is a common phenomenon to raise pigeons by the households around the river. 

2nd Prize Kiran Maharjan

Third Prize: Nicola Perry

Title: Floating houses at dusk. Prek Toal floating Village on the Tonle Sap, Cambodia 

Caption: This photo was taken during my honours research investigating the gendered implications of conservation laws in Prek Toal floating village, Cambodia. Every day, after we’d finished interviewing, my research assistant and I would take a boat back to the NGO base for dinner. Research days were typically long, so dusk would often be falling as we motored home, and the ride through the fish-tinged yet refreshing breeze provided an opportunity to reflect on the day. The peacefulness of this scene belies the roar of the un-insulated motor on our boat, echoed by countless others returning from or heading out fishing.  

3rd Prize Nicola Perry

In honour of the Society's 90th Birthday Exhibition, five additional photographs were awarded a Highly Commended Prize. 

Ashraful Alam

Title: Children and chained H2O. Khulna, Bangladesh 

Description: Children and the chained water source are a depiction of the uneven distribution of vital natural elements (such as water) on the urban fringes of Khulna city. The government allotted community deep tube-well is provisioned to serve everybody, yet landless rural migrants are the deprived cohorts, as often these sources are rationed by powerful elites. Children from migrant families take the responsibility of fetching water in the absence of their parents who are busy at work. In the worst days, these kids wait for the whole morning and miss the school. 

Highly Commended Ashraful Alam

Danilo Ignacio de Urzedo

Title: Peanut Genetic Diversity 

Caption: “Seed guardians” from the Kawaiwete indigenous communities promote the biodiversity conservation and management for food security in the Xingu Indigenous Territory, Southeastern Amazon.  

Highly Commended Danilo Ignacio de Urzedo

Joshua Bray

Title: “Livelihoods in Bagan” 

Caption: The plains of Bagan are scattered with a dizzying array of temples, of all shapes and sizes. Tourists now flood this tiny town on the Irrawaddy, and things are changing quickly for local residents, many of whom are providing tourist services in addition to or instead of their agricultural pursuits. The contrast with old and new was highlighted here, where a bullock team (and they were a team) carefully ploughed away at their work, while a mere 200 m to the left, a modern tractor completed the same task in five minutes flat, highlighting the change afoot in Myanmar.   

Highly Commended Joshua Bray

Michelle Hales

Title: The Hard Hat Highway. South Australia 

Caption: I researched the challenges faced by the accompanying spouses and families of mine workers when they relocate to geographically isolated mining communities. The Hard Hat Highway (the theme of this photograph) reflects both the metaphorical and actual roads travelled by mining families in a highly transient industry and the detours and roadblocks they face along the way. The photograph also depicts the wide open expanse of the outback which many city dwellers find overwhelming. The power lines on the horizon symbolise links to industry and civilisation but for some accompanying spouses the distance to these links seems just too far away. 

Highly Commended Michelle Hales

Nicola Perry

Title: Coconut Tea Cosy. Prek Toal floating village on the Tonle Sap, Cambodia. 

Caption: This photo was taken during my honours research investigating the gendered implications of conservation laws in Prek Toal Village, Cambodia. In the field, emotive moments can arise without warning. My research assistant and I would often be invited inside people’s houses to conduct our interviews, occasionally accompanied by a generous offer of tea or freshly cooked fish. As a first-time researcher, the field was challenging and the chasm between myself and my participants sometimes felt immense. The simplicity, functionality and ingenuity of the use of this coconut shell provided a poignant moment of recognition and human connection for me. 

Highly Commended Nicola Perry