Cabbage, caravan, clothesline

Winners of Capital Photographer of the Year find beauty in unexpected places

A cabbage, a caravan, and a clothesline figure among the winning images in the inaugural Capital Photographer of the Year.

The competition is a love letter to the Wellington region – celebrating our creativity, land, and tangata whenua.

More than 1,200 entrants vied for the title of Capital Photographer of the Year and 18 were chosen as finalists. The winners were announced at a ceremony at Te Auaha Gallery, Dixon St.

Untitled by Jiaqi Tang. Winner of the Triptych category, and supreme winner of Capital Photographer of the Year.

Triptych & Supreme

Karori resident Jiaqi Tang has been named supreme winner of the Capital Photographer of the Year 2021. His work, Untitled, also won the Triptych category. “As a photographer, I always look for a space that escapes reality. In this space, I can embrace both truth and art. To me, that’s the essence of photography,” says Jiaqi.

Professor of Fine Arts (Photography) at Massey University Wellington and competition judge Anne Noble calls Jiaqi’s work, “a marvellous example of imaginative photographic storytelling. The captured moments, angles of view, lighting, and careful arrangement demonstrate photographic skill, thoughtfulness, and strong editing skills. This is a very strong three-image narrative evoking a life lived, with subtly and empathy.”

Bridge Street by Paul Hamer. Winner of the Whenua category, Capital Photographer of the Year.


Whenua was by far the most popular category, accounting for almost 40% of submissions. Ngaio’s Paul Hamer, who is also a finalist in the Structure category, won the Whenua category with Bridge Street. CPotY judge and commercial photographer Grant Maiden says Paul’s image, “manages to tell an interesting story with two elements. The sad-looking boarded-up house, with its best days behind it – and the shiny jet taking off, full with promise of the future.”

Paul photographed the scene partly because of the dramatic effect and partly to record a part of Wellington before it disappears – he was aware the airport was buying up houses on Bridge Street in Rongotai, boarding them up, and then demolishing or moving them. “I basically stood with camera poised across the street from this house, waiting for about 20 minutes for a plane to take off. I had to take care, because you hear the plane before you see it. Suddenly there it was lifting off in front of me. I had the camera set to take multiple shots rapidly at the fastest shutter speed available, and I took about ten in total as the plane passed over the house. This one was the first in the sequence, and I chose it because the trajectory of the plane matched the slope of the roof.”

Kayden & Xena by Monica Winder. Winner of the Society category, Capital Photographer of the Year.


Monica Winder’s winning photo was taken on her front lawn in Wainuiomata after her daily 5pm dog walk with her neighbours. “Wainui has always been given a bad rap but I have never felt a stronger sense of community anywhere,” she says. When Monica first started taking photos she found a quotation from Henry David Thoreau that really stuck in her mind: The question is not what you look at, but what you see. Monica says, “I try to look at and document what is happening in front of me with this concept in mind. This photo of Kayden and Xena to a lot of people is just a boy with a poo bag on his head, and it very much is, but there is also a story of his little life behind it.”

CPotY Judge Jeff McEwan of Capture Studios says Monica’s image provides “a slice of society framed with just enough detail to give you a hint of everyday family life.” Judges also noted the interesting take on a traditional portrait, and the humour in this tender moment.

Aon Centre by Rob Vanderpoel. Winner of the Structure category, Capital Photographer of the Year.


Rob Vanderpoel’s photo of the Aon Centre was taken for a local camera club challenge to photograph in the style of Andreas Gursky. The Lower Hutt resident says, “It was taken from the end of the overseas passenger terminal early evening in winter. I was drawn to the strong lines, the symmetry, and the vignettes visible through the windows. It gives me a real buzz to get into the city at any time of day to capture Wellington’s different moods. At home I will spend time post-processing and following photography blogs for inspiration and to keep up with what’s happening in the photography world.”

Award-winning astro-photographer and CPotY judge, Mark Gee, says Rob’s image “instantly gains your interest and draws you in, and the overall conceptual and technical qualities are very high.”

Cabbage Consultation by Yin Hsien Fung. Winner of the Mobile category, Capital Photographer of the Year.


Brooklyn’s Yin Hsien Fung won the Mobile category with Cabbage Consultation. Matariki Williams, CPotY Judge and Senior Curator Mātauranga Māori at Te Papa, says the image is compelling and it’s great to see accessibility represented in an everyday setting. “Of all the images, this one felt the most candid and human,” she says.

Yin Hsien’s photographic journey began as a teenager in Malaysia when a childhood friend introduced him to digital cameras. “That’s when we started experimenting with different types of photography. We roamed around the city taking photographs and talking about photography – perspectives, techniques, great photographers. The type of photography that resonates with me is more or less ‘street photography’. Of all my creative pursuits, the only item that I brought with me when I moved to New Zealand was my camera.” He spotted the couple in Cabbage Consultation during his weekly shop and was struck by them. “They were not in a hurry and showed a lot of respect and patience with each other, which I thought was a very lovely interaction between human beings.” 

Clothesline & Flowerbush, by Lorenzo Buhne. Winner of the Youth category, Capital Photographer of the Year.


The youngest winner is Lorenzo Buhne of Owhiro Bay, who won the Youth category with Clothesline & Flowerbush. Russ Flatt, a CPotY Judge and last year’s Wallace Arts Trust Paramount Award winner, says, “I really liked the framing of the flower bush in the foreground with the clothesline in the top left hand corner. It is beautifully framed and has cleverly made the mundane landscape layered through the domestic/landscaped scene. The colours and tones work well together, it almost seems like a staged image.” Capital’s Art Director and convenor of the CPotY judges, Shalee Fitzsimmons, describes Lorenzo’s image as experimental and energetic. “This photograph perfectly encapsulates the youth category, where boundaries are pushed and trial and error are key. There’s a charm to its frenetic nature, the colour, the subject and the framing.”

Check out who won the first People’s Choice Award here.

Capital Photographer of the Year is made possible with support from Capital Publishing Ltd, Mazz Scannell, Warren & Mahoney, Masonic Villages Trust, Splendid Photo, HuttValleyNZ, Go Media, Art Zone, WCC Creative Communities, and the Wellington City Council Mayor’s Office.


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