Happy Kiwi snappers show their stripes in New Zealand Geographic photographer of the year comp

The winners of the New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year competition were named in an awards ceremony at the Auckland Museum last week and Bruce Mercer, a Cambridge-based photographer, took out the coveted photographer of the year award, as well as the photo story category, for images taken after the MV Rena ran aground on Astrolabe Reef in the Bay of Plenty on 5 October last year.

“Bruce Mercer’s photographs were an original perspective of an event that every media outlet was covering,” says the convener of judges and New Zealand Geographic editor, James Frankham. “Press photographers swamped the Bay of Plenty, but few created images that were original or impactful. Bruce’s images are both of those things.”

Now in its fourth year, the competition is a great brand extension for the Kowhai Media-owned, photo-centric magazine, which has won plenty of Magazine Awards in recent years and continues to grow its readership, and this year it attracted a record number of more than 3,100 entries, all of which had to be shot after September 30, 2010, within New Zealand or New Zealand-administered Pacific and Antarctic dependencies.

“There was a massive variety of entries, from people shooting on smartphones to professionals shooting on the latest digital SLRs. It’s a competition that’s open to everyone, and that diversity of entrants is also present among the finalists,” says Frankham.  “… The emphasis is on reality. But the photographer is also required to interpret what they are seeing in front of the camera. The photographer is not just a dispassionate observer, they are also a journalist with a critical eye on revealing reality.”

The People’s Choice award was a new addition to the competition this year. More than 31,000 votes were cast both online and at the New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year 2012 exhibition at Auckland Museum and Australian-based photographer Kah Kit Yoong took out the title with an image of storm clouds over Glenorchy. He also won the landscape category, while Natalie Slade won society and culture and David Hallett won wildlife. 

This year’s Young Photographer of the Year title went to Edward Duncan, a 17-year-old student from Mt Albert Grammar in Auckland, for an image of a flax weevil in the Marlborough Sounds.

All winning images are published in a 24-page feature in the November-December issue of New Zealand Geographic. Viewers can also head along to the Auckland Museum to check out the winning images, on display in the Sainsbury Horrocks Pictorial Gallery, which is open daily from 10am–5pm. Online galleries are available on the New Zealand Geographic website

Photographer of the Year – Bruce Mercer

Young Photographer of the Year – Edward Duncan

People’s Choice Award – Kah Kit Yoong


Winner – Natalie Slade

Runner-up – Jocelen Janon

Highly commended – Brett Phibbs, Mark Emirali, Chris Gin


Winner – Kah Kit Yoong

Runner-up – Eugene Polkan

Highly commended – Mark Watson, Chris Leskovsek


Winner – David Hallett

Runner-up – Mazdak Radjainia

Highly commended – Phil Reid, Craig McKenzie, Kelly Wilson


Winner – Bruce Mercer

Runner-up – Richard Robinson

Highly commended – Stephen Belcher

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