Travel Photography Scholarship 2014: The Winner

Jason Edwards, Amazon

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Every year we struggle to decide on who we feel might benefit the most from the assignment and from Jason's time and experience. This is incredibly difficult because it involves finding the right balance between photographic ability, intent and trying to interpret where someone hopes their photography will take them on their life journey - this is after all not a photo competition, but a scholarship opportunity. The end result is that there are usually many people that we would happily send on this journey with Jason, and it genuinely saddens us to that we can't send more than one aspiring photographer.

So, without further delay, please join us in commending this year's winner and the shortlisted entries.

Congratulations to Ingolfur Bjargmundsson the winner of the World Nomads 2014 Travel Photography Scholarship!

Ingolfur will be accompanying and assisting Nat Geo photographer, Jason Edwards, on a 2-week photographic assignment in the Peruvian Amazon in April. First he will dive into the ancient culture and history of the Inca Empire in Cusco with Explorandes. Then he will embark into the heart of the Amazon basin with Rainforest Expeditions to capture the rainforest wildlife and and explore the conservation projects that WWF Peru supports in this biodiversity hotspot.

The Winner

Ingolfur Bjargmundsson (Iceland) - Herding Sheep

HerdingSheep

Jason's Comments: Viewing Ingolfur’s series on sheep herding I was immediately drawn into the Icelandic countryside and the sense of community and tradition. The imagery was a fine example of how a story photographed in your own backyard can transport the viewer to a far away land and lifestyle. A wonderful use of natural light and local knowledge was used to produce a warm and thoughtful essay.

I'm very excited to be extracting Ingolfur from the volcanic plains of Iceland and dumping him in the forests of the Amazon. I hope he will gain as much from the experience as I will and I look forward to guiding him in whatever way I can. Or breaking him with the weight of my camera gear!

Runners' Up

Our 4 runners' up will each receive a free 45-min portfolio review from Jason Edwards (valued at $800 AUD)

Ben McRae (Australia) - Glimpse of a Geiko

GlimpseGeiko

Jason's Comments: Ben’s series on an evening spent with a Geiko was an interesting step away from the usual view of the Geisha. A perfect example of how a ‘place ‘ you have visited may be nothing more that a single room and your experiences within that room. It was a pleasure to see such use of simple surroundings.

Nicolas Blaiotta (Argentina) - The train artist

TrainArtist

Jason's Comments: I sensed from the outset that the time Nicolas spent with the guitarist in his story had a profound impact on him both as a photographer and personally. His determination to bring the viewer into the musicians place in the world was palpable. His use of existing light and unaltered landscape only added to his success in this regard.

Rafaella Vanosi (Italy) - Jenny on the road

JennyRoad

Jason's Comments: There is a raw beauty to Raffaela’s images of Jenny and her life in the sex industry. I was immediately immersed in the stark reality of her lifestyle through the placement of the lone van in the countryside. Raffaela documented Jenny’s working environment with great sensitivity.

Rosa Lacavalla (Italy) - Stabat Mater

StabatMater

Jason's Comments: I loved the dark, somber tones of Rosa’s series featuring a religious ceremony. The use of deep shadows and hidden forms not only added to the ancient mystery of the event, but also for me cast a neutral veil over the attendees removing any sense of opinion or motivation.


Final Thoughts from Jason Edwards

The judging is finally complete for the 2014 World Nomads Travel Photography Scholarship. My congratulations go out to our winner Ingolfur from Iceland, our runner-ups and our finalists, and also to all of the entrants whose amazing work created much debate and consternation for myself and the other judges.

In keeping with past years I like to give a little feedback on how I perceived the entries, their adherence to the competition guidelines and their ability to follow the brief. The latter is most crucial to me because it indicates how a potential mentee will perform whilst assisting me in the field. After all, if you cannot follow the competition brief then the field assignment will definitely pose significant difficulties.

My Positive Feedback

The overall quality of the entries this year was amazingly high! I would even declare that overall they were more solid than in any previous year. Not only does this highlight how hard people are working on their photography but also how carefully they are editing their submissions. The story telling was very strong and for the most part it was fantastic to see people avoided the temptation to include weak images, always a frustration for me when a single frame destroys an essay.

Another pleasant surprise was the degree of post-production on the images. Again, this was the best I have seen en-masse to date, as it’s always disheartening to see great imagery destroyed by too much post-production. This element of the judging is important to me and I penalize heavily when people beat their images to death or try and hide what they have done. The only photographers that aren’t exhausted with competitions where the best post-production wins are those that are great at it, and more often than not those people aren’t necessarily great photographers to begin with. Always keep in mind we will request the RAW files where we deem it necessary so it’s hard to hide what you have done!

This is an amateur event and not a junket for professionals so again it was pleasing to note we had fewer ‘pros’ trying to slip through the gates. There were a few and we noted them accordingly. Please keep in mind if you regard yourself as a professional, market yourself as a professional, and desire potential clients to regard you as a professional, then there is no reason why we will not do the same. If you are a professional or perturb to be a professional please don’t waste our time entering!

The variety of stories and the breadth of the coverage this year was very refreshing, seriously well done and thank you! I love looking at imagery but it’s always nice to come across distinctly different stories or fresh visions of previously documented locations. The sense of ‘Place’ was very palpable this year. Most pleasing was to see how many people looked for something to photograph in their community, absolutely fantastic! This is one of the very best ways to learn to tell stories photographically because you have local knowledge and the opportunity to revisit the location.

My Constructive Feedback

It was not only the overall quality of images and stories that made judging this years’ Scholarship difficult but also the number of people that failed to read and adhere to the brief we set. Wherever I turned there was an entrant that had great images but terrible captions, or a great essay and no captions, or great captions to 3 out of 5 images and then no captions for 2 etc etc! There were people that told me about their images in the essay about themselves, a major annoyance to me; or didn’t give me captions at all! In the essays people ignored what was asked of them, specifically asked of them.

Quite honestly it was heartbreaking when I had to give low marks for the written components after scoring the images so highly. And yes, I make EVERY allowance for foreign language entries especially where English is not a first or even second language. It doesn’t matter where you are from, if we ask you to tell us something and you completely ignore that request you will lose points even if you’re from Mars.

What made it more frustrating was that we prepared a new set of instructional videos on the judging criteria for this Scholarship so there were two sets of tutorials to watch, the new and the old (and the criteria descriptions on the website). Harsh I know, but seriously after this many years you would have to be crazy to think I’d let an entry through that used the essay to talk about the images and skip the captions. There are ten judging criteria and all are equally important in a numerical sense. The competition is very close so you cannot ignore any of them and expect to win.

Having said as much in the end I had to evolve or perish, I mean I’ve been at it for weeks, and I made allowances for the entries that were before me judging the written components with a less-demanding eye. Possibly the most important thing to remember about the Scholarship is that it’s a learning experience. Our ability to gauge what you the applicants, want from the Scholarship and what you hope to learn, and contribute, comes from your 1200 character essay. If you make it to the final round you may receive a phone call that also provides me with further insight into who you are and what I might help you achieve.

In Conclusion

Photographically the individual may be a diamond-in-the-rough or someone on the steps of a full-blown photographic career, but it has always been more than the images they submit. It’s also about who they are as a photographer, where they are heading creatively and their ability to assist me with my work. In short, I am always looking for someone that I feel will benefit the most from the experience in the field and from my time.

Please don’t get me wrong, our winner and finalists are very deserved in their achievements and should be praised for their entries. But please understand it was frustrating to see people ignore judging criteria that we’ve worked hard to produce for you. Again, our winners should be celebrated as should all the entrants because the World Nomads Travel Photography Scholarship provides a unique opportunity for lovers of photography to focus their attention on a specific project and work it through to edited completion.

So from me to you, thank you for the most challenging Scholarship so far! It was a cacophony of colour and emotion, adventure, travel, hardship and history. There was a real joy in viewing so many great images and reading about peoples’ lives and how photography has changed them. The next Scholarship will be here in a heartbeat so start thinking about your stories now or maybe even consider doing more work on your current story and resubmitting it!

Sincerely

Jason Edwards

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The Shortlist

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