Capital Photographer of the Year has just completed its second season.
From over 2,500 entries – more than double the number last year – the team of judges selected just 18 finalists to compete for their category titles and the overall crown.
Ka pai to all who entered. You’ve made this another amazing celebration of Wellington and its creative inhabitants.
Scroll down to see who won Capital Photographer of the Year and People’s Choice.
House in the Clouds by Kristina Hlavackova
The photograph that won the Whenua category, the competition’s most popular, was an image Kristina Hlavackova rushed to capture through her kitchen window, a combination of perfect timing and artistic reading of the environment. “It was just before a storm,” says Kristina. “I was pacing around the kitchen with my camera waiting for a good moment.” With dark clouds crowding out the afternoon sun, she sensed there was a shot somewhere in the disorder. “The clouds were gathering around the house and I had to shoot it. There was real atmosphere in it with all the colours and movement.” Walters-Prize-winning artist Bridget Reweti says the image is “incredibly emotive and shows scale beautifully – it acknowledges the immense environment surrounding us”. The copper gradients contrasting with the dark areas led judge Shaun Waugh to label it “dramatic,” also noting the “lovely sense of timing capturing the highlights in the clouds.” Kristina says the church was illuminated for just “a split second” – she calls it “pure luck”. Despite winning the category with a landscape, Kristina is inspired by photographic exploration of the human condition: “That’s the hardest for me to capture – maybe that’s why I’m drawn to it.”
The Fog at Dawn by Bridget Sloane
The American writer and naturalist Hal Borland once described fog as “atmospheric moisture still uncertain in destination, not quite weather and not altogether mood, yet partaking of both.” In Bridget Sloane’s photograph, taken from her back yard in Karori, the morning mist has reduced the hills to islands, the windmills to hovering machines. Bridget says she is drawn to “uncluttered, simple pictures that have a sense of calm about them.” She seeks out simple compositions and uses a slow shutter speed – “fog certainly helps to simplify an image”. Bridget works for ANZ, and was working from home on the day. “I noticed the fog, so quickly headed to the back of the section to see what was happening. I had to wait a little longer for the light and colour to change”. To me this photo is peaceful and calming. CPotY judge, Bridget Reweti says the image “appears magical, like an island in the clouds somehow tethered to the land via the windmills”. Shaun Waugh, an experimental photographic artist who teaches at Massey, found “an alien, dystopian landscape, with the wind turbines appearing to lift the hill from the sky”. Bridget says she tries to get out and shoot a couple of times a month. “After working inside all day it’s great to get out and about on the weekends”.
Splash by Trixan Grande
“With the sunlight shining through the spray, casting shadows on the shore, you can almost hear the sound of the stones rolling on the beach as the water recedes.” That was judge Bridget Reweti’s reaction to Trixan Grande’s photo. This calming yet dramatic image was taken at Lake Ferry in the Wairarapa, where Trixan noticed the huge waves hitting the coast. He sought to allow the viewer to “feel that moment by just looking at it.” The image was carefully composed, Trixan ensuring it was framed perfectly before using a fast shutter speed to take the shot. The lighting of the photo most impressed Sarah Burton Fielding, who described it as “a simple moment made majestic by the sunrise hitting just the tips of the crashing wave.” She said it created “a sense of calm and solitude, despite the raw motion.” Trixan purchased a camera in 2017, to document his son growing up, and went on to explore photography further. Working as a software developer and looking after his family keeps him pretty busy, but he tries to get out to take photos several times a week.
The Mysterious Gardener by Eduan Groenewald
“The subject is my father, sitting in his garden – the green oasis that he’s shaped for the last 20 years.” This is how Eduan Groenewald described the submission that won him Capital Photographer of the Year, an image layered with personality and complexity. Judge, Harry Culy says it gave him “a feeling of the how the artist sees the world, and a sense of the sitter’s personality”. The interesting contradictions drew him in: “it is comical yet deadpan, formal yet quirky”. Judge, Sarah Burton Fielding agrees: “It’s absurd and funny and just beautiful to look at.” And the picture really does tell a story, of a father and son – Eduan moved to New Zealand from South Africa in 2019 to work for his dad as a dog handler. “I wouldn’t call it work, because it brings me so much joy to be with dogs.” In South Africa, Eduan studied photography, freelanced, then worked for a decade as a studio photographer. His winning image was shot on a medium-format Bronica SQ-A Sf. As for inspiration, Eduan says, “I love going through my book collection – photographers like Martin Parr, Alec Soth, and Mike Brodie are great examples of the work that inspires me. And when that inspiration strikes, I just get in my car and go shoot.”
Freedom Bikers by Alan Blundell
Alan Blundell found himself on Willis Street during the vaccine mandate protests. But this wasn’t an accident; his camera was in his hand and street photography is Alan’s passion. “I’m a fan of the great 50s and 60s American street photographers: Saul Leiter, Joel Meyerowitz, Gordon Parks, Garry Winogrand.” The slow crawl of the protest gave him ample shooting time. “I was able to step right into the melee to capture the rowdy burnouts and the bikers close-up.” Alan’s image Freedom Bikers captures the tension and atmosphere of the group poised to embark upon the divisive occupation at Parliament. Convenor of the judging panel Shalee Fitzsimmons described the image as “layered, emotional, and complex”, adding that the photograph captured a defining moment in Wellington’s year. Shalee also mentioned the emotive quality of the bikers and their machines. “It induces a sense of tension and chaos, with the motorcycle, an age-old icon of rebelliousness, front and centre.” Alan works for a non-profit iwi organization during the week, and photographs when he can. “Sometimes I might take photos for four days in a row, other times I might not pick up a camera for a couple of weeks. It depends on my mood, if I have time, or if I’m inspired by an event of some kind, such as the protests.”
Half Time Dip by Zuyi Woon
Much like his subject, Zuyi Woon’s photograph has been swimming; not in the harbour but in the kitchen sink he’d improvised as a darkroom. “This photo was taken from the stairs between the waterfront and Civic Square. I spotted this guy having a dip and checking his phone at the same time. I find it interesting that we just can’t live without smartphones.” CPotY judge Sara McIntyre, who specialises in documentary photography, thought the same: “It says a lot about our society today.” In contrast to the swimmer, Zuyi says he prefers all things analogue in his photography, and loves trying new film stocks. “They’re all unique and are different in their own way, just like filters on our camera apps. I develop all my film at home and sometimes turn my bathroom into a darkroom.” Despite the fact this was shot using black and white film, judge Chris Sisarich says it would have been “lovely” in colour. “I adore the simplicity,” he continues. “It’s a simple scene that says so much.” When he has closed up at Pour and Twist, the cafe he co-owns with wife Elaine, Zuyi heads out daily for snapping excursions. “I will go for a quick walk after work, but occasionally I will be out all day.”
Kite of Steel by Hang Ren
What Hang Ren saw among the cranes and rooftops took him straight back to his childhood. “I called the photograph Kite of Steel because it looked like a type of swallow-shaped kite that I used to play with when I was a kid, so there was immediately a strong connection.” His photo, the winner of the Structure category, was taken in Civic Square, completely unplanned; he just happened to spot it. The housing for the crane’s pulleys, just above its hook, resembles a Chinese swallow kite, an upright bird with wings outstretched. Judge and commercial photographer Chris Sisarich says, “It’s interesting that the photographer has seen this image”. He also praises its simplicity: “I love the composition, the colour palette, and the negative space – it’s all very nicely done.” Hang has been taking photos for more than a decade, first picking up the skills through some elective high-school photography classes. “I liked it straight away. I knew from that moment it was the beginning of my photography journey.” He has now been photographing for about 10 years. Aside from architectural photography, Hang sees himself as a landscape photographer: “It’s the style of photography I enjoy, which is because I enjoy walking and hiking – New Zealand’s landscape is too good to miss.”
Grid by Eva Kerer
During our daily commute we tend not to notice our city’s architecture. Structure finalist Eva Kerer, however, sees the “beauty of the mundane and the overlooked.” Her photo Grid was taken during a family visit to the capital from Nelson. “The modern architecture reflects and relates directly to the historic structures,” she says, “I wanted to capture this juxtaposition, the beauty of how these buildings complement each other to form the special character of Wellington.” Eva balances family life between her studies for a Bachelor of Arts and Media at NMIT Nelson. Photography has always been part of her life, but she has been able to invest more time in it since her youngest child started school, in 2019. Now she photographs professionally, helping clients to “visualize their ideas and values, and translate them into images.” Te Papa’s Curator of photography Athol McCredie praised Eva’s eye for composition, impressed by the contrasting “grid structure of the two buildings at close to the same scale.” Although she rarely finds time to go out purely to take photos, she says that family outings are “perfect excuses” to take time out to see the world through her viewfinder.
Wellington Airport Tower by Rob Fall
Rob Fall noticed the location for his photo en route to collect fish and chips in Lyall bay. He cycled back later in the week at sunset to get the shot. The photo was produced by stitching together multiple images, allowing him to include a large amount of detail. “I attempted to get the look of a medium-format photograph by taking a panorama with a 135mm lens,” he explained. “Unfortunately I forgot my tripod and took all the images handheld.” Rob began photography after attending an astrophotography workshop, run by Mark Gee (also a CPotY judge) at Carter Observatory. More recently he has been encouraged to take more daytime photos, inspired by the book Vintage Wellington by Charles Fearnley. Rob enjoys seeing “the love Charles had for the buildings of Wellington, many of which still surround us 40 years later.” Commercial and lifestyle photographer Chris Sisarich was impressed with Rob’s interpretation of the Structure category, commenting on the “juxtaposition of the modern architectural tower against the messy industrial area.” He also praised the “stunning tonal range and lovely soft light.” Rob is part of an online community of photographers, who help to influence this work. “It’s great to see how different people create different views of the city.”
Fog Beams by Jack Burdan
“Being born again, into the sweet morning fog” sings Kate Bush – a creative influence on Movement winner Jack Burdan. Describing it as “poetic in its sense of movement”, judge Virginia Woods-Jack praised the photo’s “use of time to create flow.” The picture was taken from the back yard of Jack’s home in Maungaraki, in the western hills of the Hutt Valley. He has a fondness for the phenomenon of fog, fascinated by the “tranquillity that comes with the disappearance of the outside world.” Jack is in his second year at Massey University, working towards a Bachelor of Design and majoring in photography. The movement in Fog Beams was achieved using a long exposure. World-renowned astronomical photographer Mark Gee said, “it’s a minimal but striking composition, using light and subtle silhouettes to tell the story.” Jack was attracted to the Movement category by the “experimental and playful” aspects of showing motion in a still image. As for Kate Bush, Jack says, “I aspire to channel that same passion she has for her craft and apply it to my own. Or maybe I just like her because she sings about fog.”
Young Star by Humaidi Ridwan
“Do whatever you feel passionate about,” something that makes you “happy every day.” That’s the message Humaidi Ridwan wanted to convey in his photo, Young Star. In Waitangi park, Humaidi met three young skaters and spoke with them about skateboarding. “They are really talented and have amazing personality.” Braxton, the subject of the photo, has already won several New Zealand skateboarding competitions. Artist and judge Bridget Reweti commented on the image’s “beautiful colour” and on the photo having been taken at exactly the right moment, capturing the skateboarder “with the tongue slightly poking out.” For Humaidi, the people he encounters while taking photos makes it fun. When he isn’t creating art with his camera he’s creating it with coffee, serving up latte-art flat whites in his job as a barista. He has been taking snaps almost every day for the last five years, mostly using his phone, honing a skill that last year made him a finalist in the Capital Photographer of the Year Mobile category. Humaidi says he doesn’t have a particular style of photography, but likes “to try different styles and compile them”.
My Body Is My Vehicle #16 by Sage Rossie
At 7am on a sunny Sunday in Prince Of Wales Park, Sage Rossie set out to create their latest piece. Their entry was the 16th addition to a series Sage has been developing during their design degree at Massey. Inspired by a desire to feel at home in their body, Sage describes the photo as “a self portrait of sorts.” A finalist in the Movement category, Sage’s photo gained high praise from judge and founder of Women in Photography NZ, Virginia Woods-Jack. She commented that the photograph “plays on the interpretation of what movement can be – both literally and philosophically.” The image’s interesting effect was made by Sage altering positions in the frame, “taking multiple exposures.” These fragments were then combined to complete the effect. Originally from Whakaraupō Lyttelton, Sage says, “the biggest influence on my creativity since moving to Te Whanganui-a-Tara has been the friends I have made here, many of whom are also artists.” These friendships were the inspiration behind Sage’s photobook Mooning The Sun, which documented two years in their Aro Valley flat share. It was a finalist in the Aotearoa Photobook Awards 2022. Sage’s photography is a way of “unpacking a new character.” They say, “I explore physically reimagining myself to exist in a queer multiplicity, static and moving, one and many.”
Sushi Night by Isabella Sutherland
“Everything beautiful about the flatting experience” is what Isabella Sutherland represented in her photo. This winning image gives the viewer a seat at a busy table. “You can almost hear the conversation,” said judge and photographer Sara McIntyre. To Isabella flatting is “organised chaos with people you love, if you’re lucky.” She finds something special in “living with your close friends and learning to navigate one another’s house habits.” In 2018 her parents passed their cherished Pentax point and shoot camera to Isabella as a parting gift before she travelled to Europe. “I’ve been using it ever since,” she says. Her Dad remains her biggest creative influence, with similar tastes in cooking, music, and fashion. Te Papa curator Lizzie Bisley commended Isabella for capturing, in one of her favourite images in the competition, “the social life of the interior, as a place of community and connection.” Capturing intimate moments with friends is especially important to Isabella. “This particular meal had us rolling with laughter, and chatting for hours while we tried out different flavour combinations.”
Mamma’s Bedside Essentials by Nina Cuccurullo
The bedside effects of Nina Cuccurullo’s mother are the subject of this charming window into a woman’s life. For Nina, it conveys routine. “My mother’s bedside light is turned on each evening prior to her going to bed, the prayer cards by the bedside show my mother’s deep Catholic faith and her devotion to Suzanne Aubert, whom she is praying to for a miracle; the phone is there for security; the box of tissues are always handy; and the small coaster is for my mother’s water bottle for when she is in bed.” Judge, Roberta Thornley says the arrangement makes for “a beautiful, softly luminous, and well-proportioned image. A warm domestic scene that reminds me that the aesthetic experience is informed by the relational.” Nina works in marketing and retail promotion for her brother’s business, Mediterranean Foods Trattoria & Deli, in Newtown. “It is a real family affair,” she says. She regularly photographs products to promote the business, developing her eye for photo composition. She took Mamma’s Bedside Essentials sitting in her mother’s bedroom chair. “ Victoria Baldwin commented on how “familiar” the image felt. Something “we see every day but never capture ourselves.”
Minecraft by Sam Tanner
Sam Tanner’s photo Minecraft captures a familiar sight for many parents. It depicts his youngest child engrossed in a computer game during the first lockdown. “The fogged windows, the lamp, the pyjamas, the bed hair, the beanie, the books, playing Minecraft – all these things speak to cosying up inside, even more so during covid times,” says Sam. CPotY judge Victoria Baldwin loved the “sense of play” in the photo. “Many images from a lockdown are candid, but this feels observational, considered, and composed. A true documentary image,” she said. Sam’s interest in photography started around seven years ago after the birth of his first child. “I’d always been loosely interested, documenting music adventures, using photos and social media. But when I stepped away from that, I really enjoyed exploring a new form of creativity and self-expression.” At work Sam is rarely away from a screen, so photography has helped him to “reconnect with what’s happening offline.” On his lunch breaks he often takes a walk “if the light is good” to see what he can find, but always has his camera at the ready. “I like to trust my gut that I’ve seen something important and think about it later.”
Lachie by Lorenzo Buhne
He’s done it again. This is the second year Lorenzo Buhne has won the Rangatahi category. The winning photo, a “spur of the moment shot,” was the result of a game with his friend, Lachie. The pair took each other’s photos on the last day of the school year. The 13-year-old has been taking snaps on digital cameras for almost four years before moving on to film photography. “I found a half-broken, bright red Hanimex film camera for $5 at the Salvation Army. I love it.” He finds inspiration from spontaneous “documentary and street photography,” fascinated by their ability to portray a story. Storytelling is exactly why this photo drew the judges’ praise. Curator of modern art at Te Papa Lizzie Bisley said, “I feel intrigued and connected to whatever is unfurling here – I want to know more.” She commented on the “ambivalent expression on the subject’s face” and “feeling of something about to happen.” Between winning photography competitions, Lorenzo is playing bass, ignoring his English teachers, working hard in math and trying to get out and about with his camera several times a month. He intends to continue in the creative field and to one day study photography at Massey University.
Bubble Head Sister by Will Preston
“I love the playfulness of this photo. It made me laugh out loud, and is a wonderful way of capturing a child as a subject,” said judge Lizzie Bisley about this image. Our youngest finalist at age 10, Will Preston photographed his younger sister, Amelia “pulling a fish face behind a fruit bowl filled to the top with water.” He says, “We were trying to get a reflection by filling it up with water, and we experimented moving the bowl back and forwards to get a different look.” Will’s Mum, a photographer and his biggest inspiration, owns a variety of cameras, which Will has been able to practice with. Massey University’s photography lecturer Sean Waugh described the image as, “a fun act captured simply.” He said, “the domestic setting and lighting speaks to contemporary times where we have spent a lot of time inside our home.” Living in Moores Valley in Wainuiomata, Will spends much of his time outside of school caring for animals on the family farm, and riding competitively. Between his hobbies he hasn’t had much time for taking photos, but says “it might be fun to learn a bit more now that I am older.”
Life is a beach by Jed Stace
Sponsored by Massey University, the Rangatahi category aims to encourage young people to get involved in the arts. In this most open of all the categories, the judges wanted to see a truly original representation of Wellington. The subdued feeling of Jed Stace’s Life is a beach is worlds away from those that beach photos would usually conjure. Jed said he chose “black and white filtering” to capture “Wellington’s moody feel.” Victoria Baldwin, Vice President of the Advertising and Illustrative Photographers Association, was impressed with the effect. She said, “I love the questions this image raises and the sense of purpose in the composition; the arrangement of the towel contrasting against the black sand and white sky.” The 11-year-old took the photo at Himatangi Beach, using his father’s old digital SLR. Jed, who found out about the competition from his school newsletter, said he has always been interested in photography, but has got more involved in it since acquiring a drone. “I love sending my drone up to catch sunsets,” he says, landscape and scenic photography being his favourites. He hopes to also learn more about photography with a manual camera.