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Travel Photography Scholarship 2013 - The Winner!

GREENLAND | Friday, 26 July 2013 | Views [26595] | Comments [28]

Yes, we know you all have been waiting patiently for this announcement…and it has absolutely come down to the wire this year!

We were blown away by the range of diverse photographic stories that were submitted this year. The judges were taken on an emotional ride – examining all of the raw, shocking, endearing and surprising entries from around the world.

World Nomads and National Geographic Channel would like to thank each and every one of you for applying, and for sharing stories that open our eyes, challenge our realities and stir our souls. Our hope is that you all continue to progress in your photographic journeys and contribute to the world of travel photography.

A Word from the Judges

Unlike a photography competition, this scholarship is not necessarily about finding the ‘best’ photos (ahem…some of you sneaky professionals!) but about choosing the person that we think has the most potential to develop their skills and be molded through the mentorship experience; individuals who each could use this opportunity to hone their craft, refine their technique, and learn to capture a great story from behind the lens.

Please feel free to leave your congratulations to the winner and the shortlisted entries below. However, if you have any other comments, concerns, program feedback or trollish rants, please email us at [email protected].

Announcing the winner of the 2013 Travel Photography Scholarship

Please join us in congratulating Divya Agrawal! Divya will embark on a 10-day assignment next month to capture the raw beauty of Greenland under the mentorship of Nat Geo photographer Jason Edwards.

1st Place - Dotma: In a house I can live

Divya Agrawal (India)

UPDATE! Read Divya's blog and check out her photos from her Greenland assignment.

Congratulations to Divya on her wonderful series about the devastated village of Dotma. The images were forthright and compelling, communicating the issues faced by residents holding the viewer to account. I felt myself transported back to similar communities I’ve visited and Divya’s desire to be a voice for the voiceless was palpable.

2nd Place - The Mentawai Islands

Frank Sterle (Australia)

Frank's essay on the risks facing the Mentawaian people, their rainforest home and future survival was beautifully captured. It was wonderful to see both the traditional and modern lifestyle depicted in such a sensitive manner.

3rd Place - Kazakhstan Ritual

Denis Bezrukich (Lithuania)


Denis’ fascinating images on an animal sacrifice ritual really stepped beyond the realms of what the Scholarship usually receives. It was educational but not judgmental and sort to explain an often-misinterpreted element of ancient religions and faiths.

4th Place - George

Ebrahim Moly (Egypt)

I almost found myself wanting to climb through the window in Ebrahim’s essay about computer instructor George and escape from his darkened apartment. The clever use of darkened walls and furniture gave the apartment a life of it’s own where George lives a symbiotic relationship.

5th Place – The art of pigeon racing

Mohit Gupta (India)

I loved Mohit’s interpretation of Mughal pigeon racing in India it was subtle and yet concise with every image carrying equal weight. His use of varying perspectives strengthened the essay especially his long views that really created a sense of place.

The Shortlist (in alphabetical order)

Alexandra Jitaruic (Romania) – Dear Grandpa

Amanda Nielsen (USA) – Vestments by Visti

Bea Bermundo (Philippines) - Bahay Pag-ibig (House of Love)

Cameron Inniss (Australia) – Syd Sherrin

Connor Stefanison (Canada) – The Common Loon

Dana Felthauser (Korea) – Farming the Desert

Daniela Sala (Italy) – Belfast, chasing after the past

Genna Sozo (Australia) – Shelter from the Desert Sandstorm

Jessi Kingan (Iceland) - Iceland

John Deery (UK) – Sea Gypsies of Borneo

Kial Menadue (Australia) – Altered Perceptions

Moska Najib (Afghanistan) – The God of Niyamgiri

Rachel Woolf (USA) – Roger and Eleanor

Sophie Bolesworth (UK) – Exmoor Ponies

Susan Papazian (Australia) – Havana – An Unfulfilled Promise

Sudhyasheel Sen (India) – Solar Smiles in Suri

Final Thoughts from Jason Edwards

I am a happier albeit older man after this years Photography Scholarship judging! I’m happier because I have just enjoyed viewing a wonderful collection of stories and images that really lifted the bar on subject diversity on previous years. This however also meant the decision making process was exhaustive ergo me now feeling about a decade older. A positive way to gain a decade I guess!

I was also very happy to review the Finalist RAW files and see that there was an appropriate amount of post-production for the most part.  However we did penalize some entries for excessive treatment and others for not supplying the RAWs at all. Overall it was incredibly interesting to see a dramatic shift in the images submitted once people realised they had to provide an unaltered file. In addition it is important to keep in mind the judging of the RAW files in comparison to the submitted entry, was just one of eleven criteria that I assessed.

As for the Captioning there was a marked improvement over previous years so well done! People might not realise that I enjoy learning about the images and what they represent so it can be quite frustrating when I’m interested to know more and there isn’t information forthcoming. Still, finalists lost valuable points for insufficient captions and that can be deadly in the final stages.

The Essay still creates a lot of angst; people just didn’t hit it this year. In the past I’ve thought “I could take those 20x people” if it were just about the Essay, but this year I really did have to grade the Finalists strictly as many ignored some or all of the criteria I requested. I think this will improve as the Captioning has but I was surprised to see this element go backwards.

There is always a lot of debate about the tone or subject matter of the entries and people often ask me if the story must feature a ‘negative’ element to win. NO, this has not been and will never be the case but here’s the thing, it’s what you guys give us!

Seriously, at a guess I would say more than 95% of all entries feature subject matter that will be distressing to many people. There are likely several reasons why we receive this type of entry, but we judge what we are given so it’s as simple as that. Just because it’s a ‘positive’ story does not automatically gain it a place in the finals. The same can be said for wildlife and landscape photography versus human-interest stories. We are inundated with ‘people’ stories so they seem to dominate the finalist list although this year we had a little bit more of a mix. Architecture, almost non-existent and I don’t know why.

In closing I’d like to congratulate to everyone that took the time to produce a portfolio and enter. This in itself is a great exercise and strengthens your photographic ability in ways you may not realise. Thank you for your ongoing support and contributions they are genuinely appreciated.

Please remember, what is most important about your images is what you capture at the time, not what you do in postproduction. Enjoy your photography as a creative expression of who you are and your place in the world. I hope to see you all again for the next Scholarship!

Travel. Learn. Create.

For all of you aspiring creatives, check out our Scholarships page and sign up to hear about our latest opportunities, tips, advice and interviews with industry professionals in the fields of photography, travel writing and filmmaking.

And if you're lucky enough to be mentored by one of our industry professionals, it could kick start your career!

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Heartiest congratulations Divya for bagging it this year. Wish you all the best on the expedition. :)

Would have loved to have my photographs receive positive/negative criticism had I got the chance to accompany you on the journey. But hey, there's always a next time (I hope so) and will just try and pray that I get better and make the cut then. :)

Have seen the albums of all the finalists and truly amazed. Congratulations to all of them.

  Sameer Jul 26, 2013 7:21 PM


My deepest congratulations to the all the winners, there was so much to learn from your pictures.

The winners are totally deserving, i wish them all the lucks and loads of learning and enjoyment during the internship.

Also i would request our mentors to pls suggest on areas on how i can improve in my work.


  Tanvi Jul 26, 2013 7:32 PM


Hey Divya, Congratulations. Make the most of your learning opportunity with Jason and the photo travel experience in Greenland :)

And this is for the shortlisted entries....heartiest wishes to you too for capturing the interest of the selecting team. All the best for next time :)

  Ankita Jul 26, 2013 8:05 PM


So we had to send in the RAW files as well during the time of submission??? How was it to be done? Never knew that.... :(

Congrats to Divyq!!

  Zahir Jul 26, 2013 9:03 PM


congrats to the winner Divya , enjoy to the max hope you the best :)
congrats also to the runner ups , specially 4th place this is amazing he is Egyptian so me also and congrats to the short listed also :)
thanks world nomads and Jason :)

  maryam Jul 26, 2013 9:21 PM


Congratulations Divya! Your pictures are simply astonishing. I'll be following your work, that's for sure! Have the greatest adventure in Greenland!
My best wishes for you and all über talented photographers on your amazing work!

  Floresx Jul 26, 2013 9:23 PM


Hi Zahir,
Raw files weren't a condition of submission but we reserved the right to request them as we got closer to a final winner. Congratulations to everyone who entered.

  simon_monk Jul 26, 2013 9:55 PM


Congratulations Divya!

  Kuldip Gadhvi Jul 26, 2013 10:40 PM


Congrats Divya!
Great Images and Essay, Enjoy the adventure!

I'm just stoked to have made the shortlist!
Thank you World Nomads and Jason Edwards!

  caminniss Jul 27, 2013 12:58 PM


Congratulations Frank! Nicely captured. Keep rocking that 'eye'! ;)

  shazzaski Jul 27, 2013 1:56 PM


Congratulations Divya, have a great trip!

  boslok Jul 27, 2013 11:48 PM


Congratulations, Divya, runners up and shortlisted photographers! Well done! All the best in your future endeavours.

  Anna Jul 28, 2013 10:19 AM




  romina_expressionfree Jul 28, 2013 11:50 PM


Well done, everyone.

Just an observation: Did anyone else notice that EVERY one of the top finalists pictured entered on pretty much the last day? Every single one? It makes you wonder how much the contest runners actually stressed not waiting until the last minute. It seems that those who would wait didn't care as much as those who worked to get submissions in early.

  BC Jul 29, 2013 6:57 AM


Hi BC,

We've been proactive as we have every year in alerting people to enter early, really to avoid any disappointment of missing deadlines (or crashing our servers!).

A lot of people work long and hard on their submissions over a period of months, but do wait until the last minute to submit. We dont hold that against them, nor do we feel their submissions are in any way lessened by the actual time it was uploaded.

We're just blessed that so many people take the time each year to apply and provide us with such a wonderful judging headache!

Chris Noble
General Manager

  Chris Noble Jul 29, 2013 10:16 AM


Congratulations to Divya and all the finalist (esp to Bea Bermudo from Philippines). Galing!!

  mon Jul 30, 2013 2:07 PM


Congratulations Divya. Keep it up. Hope you would capture some story telling photographs in Greenland.
We are proud of you.
And of course, enjoy your trip.
Tauji ( uncle)

  M c gupta Aug 1, 2013 4:12 PM


Nice entries, no comments about the winner. Judging a photograph is quite subjective and after going over all of the entries, I feel that there were images that deserved a better fate (many of them gave the sense of place and the essay was reasonable for a photography task, as this is not an academic dissertation). However, I can't avoid quoting Mr. Edward's remarks regarding the kind of entries that are most frequently submitted to the contest. Most of the runner ups presented disgustingly appalling stories with questionable respect for human dignity and ethics and these are factors that must not be disregarded. For example, I saw with dismay a gross story about a moribund elderly man, had I been one of his relatives I would have felt infuriated and would have considering sueing the contestant.

I feel that there is plenty of over exploitation of sad stories simply because candidates believe that by submitting those kinds of pictures they will enhance their chances to be chosen, and not because they feel sympathy or just because they want to help the people they portray, maybe without consent. If this scholarship continues to favour those kinds of images, they it for granted that next year that sort of entries will account for more than 99% of the applications. Candidates are not dumb, they know that this kind of sensationalist stories provide no benefits to the subjects being photographed (most of them unaware that their images are being used for someone's selfish benefit), but are very well regarded by the judges, not to mention that Mr. Edwards once wrote that he loved black and white photography and look: winners of 2012 and 2013 submitted black and white heart-wrenching stories (with a clever exploitation of the feelings and miseries of the subjects), not to mention that most of the stories originate in countries with rampant levels of poverty; India for example. Did you realise that the overwhelming majority of shots are reported to be made in India, Subsaharan Africa, the Philippines, Cuba or Haiti?

My humble suggestion to address my disappointment is that runner ups should be selected on the basis of categories. This will undoubtedly benefit the competition as there are wonderful images depicting wildlife, nature, culture, landscapes, architecture, flora, and happy moments. Not everyone likes going to a shanty (there are not places like that in the Country I live in), then photograph the locals and finally creating an appalling story without really contributing to the benefit of those that unwittingly helped you win. I can't stop thinking that the contest is blatantly biased and that those stories will continue to be preferred over other entries.
I feel privileged when I just select the place I want to visit, take a plane and go there to see something rewarding and share my experiences through my images, but for those who really want a mentorship rather than a win-the-lottery-like trip, it is really frustrating to see that someone from a poor country, or on a mission to a poor country, takes some pictures of amputees, drug addicts, prostitutes, displaced people, refugees, criminals, and slave workers has a greater advantage over someone who lives is a highly industrialised nation.

Just to think: photography is not only about those topics. I'm heading to Luxembourg next week on a short vacation and I'm unlikely to find a story that matches the judging criteria for next year's scholarship (yes I will enter again), but I will continue to share and enjoy my trips. There are interesting stories in rich countries too.

Congratulations to the contestants that were given the second and fifth places: You deserved a better ranking.


  Hans Aug 1, 2013 5:53 PM


Congratulations to the winner, finalists and everyone who took part. Amazing stories and talent.

  Kelly Rae du Plooy Aug 2, 2013 3:45 AM


thanks for your suggestion about Categories. We are looking for ways to develop the format at the moment so this is a timely suggestion. I should like to point out that you have only seen the shortlisted entries not ALL of the entries of which there were several thousand. There were plenty of stories about everything from Sea Gypsies to Epiphytes in rain forests that were not sad nor negative in any way shape or form. Plenty of talent out there no doubt.

However, this scholarship isn't just about the photographs or even about the story they tell: it is about creating an opportunity for one individual that we feel will grasp it and, just maybe, change the course of their life.

We are excited to give this opportunity to Divya and look forward to seeing what she does with it.

  simon_monk Aug 2, 2013 11:32 AM


Thank you Simon. Although I assume you belong to the panel of judges, it is nice to know that World Nomads is open to suggestions and criticism, feedback does help! By no means did I intend to say that the winner presented a bad quality portfolio, indeed her story was well written and exploited and the images were nice, despite the shocking location. The experience one gets by trying to create good pictures is an amazing exercise, however, as I previously stated trying to make this scholarship appealing by opening to categories while keeping the concept of the overall winner regardless of the nature of the story, will bring more benefits to contestants and the World Nomads photography scholarship.

I do acknowledge that this year less sensationalist stories were shortlisted, that's also a progress and starts opening the windows for more diverse topics, but it is undeniable that these kind of stories have been granted the first place during the last four years.

As for who will benefit the most, a new question arises. Not everyone that enters the contest works as a photographer. Many people have photography as a hobby and don't intend to make a living on it, so does it mean that being that the case the chances to be chosen are gone? The winner and the previous ones have been very much involved in photography not to mention the polemics generated early this year when an alleged professional photographer was chosen, despite being this a conspicuous fact.

It would be nice to know what you really are looking for. I'm not a photographer nor intend to make a living on it, as I can easily afford a vacation trip, but being mentored by a National Geographic Photographer is something I can't buy on line. When I'm not working I'm on a leisure trip and despite being close to turning 40 years old, I feel that this does should not hamper my aspirations for a mentorship as age also gives experience and responsibility.

If you set clear conditions like the people who have photography as a hobby, older than 30 years, and who have nothing to do with photography should not apply for the scholarship, it would be respectable and understandable. It's really bad creating expectations to people who would never be chosen, and having said that you're not looking for the best pictures and the best stories makes me feel like submitting an entry would be quite a waste of time if such an ambiguous selection criteria continues to influence the final decision. This year's winner has also an entry for a travel writing scholarship, so at the end does she want to be a photographer or a travel writer? More ambiguity....

It's just my opinion, I really appreciate your feedback and hope that the suggestion of opening categories as the scholarship evolves, can be considered by World Nomads.

Thanks for the opportunity anyway. I'm sure I will find nice stories in Luxembourg.



  Hans Aug 2, 2013 4:54 PM


Hi Hans,

Thanks again for all of your feedback. As Simon mentioned, we do welcome it. Feel free to send any further comments to [email protected], as we like to reserve this page for warm wishes and congratulations to the shortlist and the winner.

As for your question about who we are looking for - we are looking for aspiring photographers who hope to turn their passions into professions - and express that desire in their application essays. This is a money-can't-buy, mentorship experience and we do feel it should go to the person that could benefit most from the opportunity and would take the advice and skills learned from Jason mold that into a career in the future.


  scholarships Aug 2, 2013 5:26 PM


Congratulations Divvya.
All the best for your trip. Hope you have a blast. Wrap up, well.

  Antara Aug 5, 2013 5:26 AM


Thank you Nomads for this opportunity to grow! Thanks for all the photographers for their work and inspiration. Big big congratulations all the winners and Divvya, you've earned it!


  devi Aug 6, 2013 10:41 AM


Hi Hans,

Thanks so much for the feedback and my apologies for the delay in responding I am very behind on assignment edits and as a result emails/SM etc have suffered.

I'd like to mirror the comments by Alicia and Simon by saying thanks for the category suggestion. It's been difficult to work this in over the years for a few reasons one being that given the nature of the entries some categories will have nearly all the entries and others maybe none but hopefully that is evolving. Secondly, interpretation is an issue even pro shooters have difficulty with so amateurs struggling with getting their message across may, or may not; struggle discerning exactly what category their entry goes in. This might sound odd but I know other major event organizers and they also have this issue so to simplify the outcome they give no allowance if someone gets it wrong. A logical if not brutal way of resolving that issue, but there are also time and manpower factors but who knows all things change.

A couple of personal thoughts on your feedback firstly, I don’t care if it’s black and white or colour as this carries no weight at all in my decision making process. I love communicating with people about photography and don’t want to feel like I cannot give a personal opinion. I do like black and white but I love black and white film much more than digital as it has a very different feel. If I was hunting only black and white I’d trawl the entries for good old neg film but I don’t.

I have spent decades living and working in places where terrible things happen and people struggle to survive every day. Sometimes those places haunt my dreams so I can guarantee you I am not searching for that subject matter which fills so much of my life. In fact, I’m not searching for any specific subject matter just something that speaks to me and for someone who will benefit from my time. I am also very adept at tuning out the misery (albeit temporarily), and looking at the imagery for what it is, I do that for a living.

Again I would reiterate that if these types of stories dominate the submissions then the judging panel would likely put more of them through to me if they were stronger than the other submissions. As for the distributions of essay locations we have zero control over that element of the Scholarship but I think that represents where many issues lie on the planet. I honestly believe most people tell these sad stories out of a genuine desire to make the world a better place and that is humbling. Obviously there are exceptions to this and the media is full of this exploitation however I believe the members of the Scholarship community operate under a positive agenda.

As for the type of person I’m looking for all I can say is if people only knew the backgrounds of those I’ve judged. I’ve judged people in their seventies, mothers from farming communities, people with severe health or emotional issues in their life, the poor, the wealthy; the angry, sad or happy, those who love photography just for creative reasons and those whose desire to change the world burns through them every day. It is true most amateur photographers would love to do it as a profession which is great, but and this is a huge BUT, that is not who I am and it’s not all that I am looking for. It is a complex and emotional road for me selecting a winner that drives the judging panel crazy (I’m certain), but I love photography and I love that I can help, hopefully, someone explore their photographic potential. I will always do my best to select the person I feel is most suited to spend time in the field with me, and as far as I am concerned if you make it as a finalist you stand a chance of being that person no matter who you are.

Thanks again for your feedback and I hope you consider entering next year.



  Jason Aug 8, 2013 12:57 PM


will photograph starving children next year and put them in black and white, seems to be the way to go with these scholarships. sweet pics none the less.

  future_caveman Aug 14, 2013 5:15 PM


Thanks for your message, Chris. It is much appreciated, and we all wish the winner good luck. We'd all like to see the photos she and Jason took in Greenland--when and where will those be posted?

Out of curiosity--as well as for future contests--how do you determine if an entrant is professional or not?

Thank you.

  BC Sep 18, 2013 8:37 AM


Thanks for your concept, Frank. It is much valued, and we all wish the champion best of fortune. We'd all like to see the images she and Jerr took in Greenland--when and where will those be posted.

  google Feb 17, 2016 11:04 PM

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