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Best Photos of 2020 Revealed

A record number of photographs were put forward - see who took the honours at The New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year Awards.


From almost 6000 entries - a champion has been found.

Aotearoa’s passion for the visual has been celebrated with the crowning of the New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year.

The captivating images of the finalists have been on display at the New Zealand Maritime Museum on Auckland’s Waterfront - and will be until March 2021 - enthralling visitors with the huge variety of photos and styles, rich with colour and emotion.

From this cream of the crop, the overall winner has been announced - with Christchurch-based Alden Williams victorious what’s been described as the most prestigious title in New Zealand photography.

A four-time finalist, Williams collected the prize for Landscape and highly commended for his entry into the society category - earning him the overall honour.

Landscape winner. Photo: NZ Geographic/Alden Williams.

New Zealand Geographic publisher James Frankham raved about The Christchurch Press photographer’s broad portfolio that saw him stand out in a record number of entries.


Highly Commended, Society category. Photo: NZ Geographic/Alden Williams.

“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.”

Photo: NZ Geographic/Alden Williams.

The conversation around the lack of women finalists has been highlighted in the lead up to the announcement - but by no means does their lack of numbers mean lack of quality.  Three of the eight category winners are women, including rising star Becki Moss claiming the Young Photographer of the Year.

Photo: NZ Geographic/Becki Moss.

Judges praised Moss’s approach of confronting subjects that are complex and poorly represented in mainstream media, with her portfolio varying from imagery reflecting life in lockdown, a pet day, and pictures from an ongoing project from within Auckland’s rainbow community.

Photo: NZ/Geographic/Becki Moss.

Edin Whitehead’s work is a mix of art and science in her role as a conservation worker. It’s clearly a mix that went down well with the public. From the 25,000 votes done in person at the NZ Maritime Museum and online, Whitehead has collected the People’s Choice Award for her shot of petrels departing their roosts at the Poor Knights Islands under the brilliance of the Milky Way.

People's Choice Award winner: Photo: NZ Geographic/Edin Whitehead.

Emma Willetts was also recognised for her aerial work with a picture of oystercatchers in Awaroa Bay in Abel Tasman National Park.

Aerial category winner. Photo: NZ Geographic/Emma Willetts.

Among the other category winners include Douglas Thorne for an image of a kōtuku in Milford Sound for wildlife.

Wildlife category winner. Photo: NZ Geographic/Douglas Thorne.

A stormtrooper getting festive at the Richard Santa Parade won Nelson Mail photographer Braden Fastier the society category.

Society category winner: NZ Geographic/Braden Fastier.

Scott Sinton’s visual essay on the Mangawhai Bowl Jam skateboarding competition took out the photostory section.

Part of the winning photostory entry. Photo: NZ Geographic/Scott Sinton.

And the colour category was awarded to William Patino for his picture shot over the peaks of Fiordland at sunset.

Colour category winner. Photo: NZ Geographic/William Pantino.


Written in partnership with New Zealand Maritime Museum. All winners and finalists’ work can be experienced at the NZ Geographic Photographer exhibition - A Year in Aotearoa. Runs until March 2021, click here for details.


Written by

The Big Idea Editor

30 Oct 2020

The Big Idea Editor