The Top 15 Entries in the Leica M9 Contest!

UPDATE – ALL 15 Finalists have been posted! Congratulations to all! The winners will be announced on March 1st 2011!

Ok, as promised I am starting to post three finalists every night for the rest of the week. By Friday all top 15 will be posted on this page. Before I post the 1st three let me state that these are not in any order. I really had a hard time choosing for this contest but the 15 I did choose were ALL fantastic in my opinion. All of them told a story, and any of them could win the grand prize 🙂 When I chose the top 15 I was not out there looking for image quality or even someone with amazing photo skills. I was looking for TWO photos that when put together told me the story that the photographer was trying to tell me. There were a few in the top 15 that had it all..superb photography skills and the story. For this contest it was more about the vision that the photographer had for his/her story.

With so many amazing entries I was having a hard time narrowing it down so I asked for help. Ashwin Rao, who contributes to this site on a regular basis, looked over my top 35 and chose his favorite 15. I then took his favorites and compared them with my favorites and then narrowed it down to the final 15 that will compete for one of two top prizes! The Leica M9 donated and signed by Seal along with my 50 Summitar is the grand prize, but let’s not forget there is also the brand new Leica V-Lux 2 that was donated by Leica Camera for the runner up! Also also had a huge hand in this so be sure to follow photographers there such as Seal and Heidi.

When all 15 have been posted the official judges, Heidi Klum and Rankin will be looking over  this page and picking the final winners. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Even to those who entered and did not make the top 15 YOU ARE ALL WINNERS! Why? Because this contest motivated you and got you out there to shoot. Your brain started working and your creativity was elevated. This contest had over 1300 entries and all of you did a great job. I am a humble guy but I have to admit, this contest ROCKED! I can not wait to see who will win the cameras as I am sincerely excited for all of you who made it.

One more thing before I start presenting the finalists. The decisions made here are final and as with every contest I have held or participated in,not everyone will agree with MY choices. BUT, I have gone over each and every one of these submissions to make sure I did not miss anything. I did this three times and every time I came back to the 15 that you will see on this page. These submissions are the creme of the crop and all of them completed the objective which was to create a photo narrative with TWO photos..basically, to tell a story. Yea, it was tough to do with only two shots but these finalists all did it! So please, no rude comments, none of the “my entry was better” comments and no bitterness! Besides, we may be planning a few more contests to keep everyone motivated and full of passion!

Without any further hesitation I bring you the first entries that will be part of the final 15.

PLEASE! Click on the images to view the larger version! They are MUCH better this way!

Andy Allaway, Crystal Lake, IL USA – “Accomplishment”

Chalid Mawardi Nasution, Indonesia – “Octopus Hunter”

António Miranda, Portugal- “Just living.”

Bram Platel, Eindhoven –  The Netherlands – “Free as a bird in my own world”

Ann-Marie Hensley, Brentwood TN – “Dachshund Through the Snow”

Brian Wytcherley, Shuangliu, Chengdu China – “Shortage of rural doctors in China’s Yunnan province”

Daniele Zedda, Ciampino (RM), Italy – “Faith in Yourself”

Dan Hartwright, West Sussex, United Kingdom – “My first camera tastes funny!”

Amy Medina, Holbrook, NY“Saying Goodbye”

Sasa Gagic, Bosnia and Herzegovina EUROPE – “Everyday is a new struggle”

Megan Baker, Brooklyn NY – “A Solitary Game”

Dan Skjæveland, Rogaland, Norway – “Our Future Hope”

Helene Marie Pambrun – “Some scars can’t be hidden”

Jonathan Cook – “Guy Jones – My Arm Was My Pillow”

Jacques L. Gudé – “Dreaming”

The remaining three finalists will be added to this page on Monday Feb 14th. Tomorrow a new post will be put up with 10 finalists and YOU will be able to vote for your favorites. The three with the most votes by Monday morning at 9am Phoenix, AZ USA time will make it here to this page. Good luck to all and congrats to those who made it so far!

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  1. Just wanted to say after ALL these years, thank you for giving me the opportunity to be the part of a group who’s pictures will remain on the internet for ever. I shot #10, it is a real documentary street photographs, and the story those two guys had behind them is out of this world. You could literally make a movie about it. What stories those two men told cannot imagine. .sad stories, that broke my heart. Initially i applied because of the prize, but the feedback i got posting these pictures afterwards, was unbelieveable. And now when I look at how grateful should I be to you Steve, I’m out of words. Thank you and God bless you.

  2. etc,etc 9 is a set up ,and 10 is only there because you misread their meaning.,,,,,as Ive said,you have a couple of my images for the daily inspiration that Id like removed from your storage as I dont want them shown here,if you could send me an e-mail confirming that you have wiped them Id be grateful.

    • Neil, still complaining about the finalists just before the winner is announced. Geez!

      Of course #9 is a set up and it tells a clear story. Set up shots were WELCOMED as was Photoshop, no one said they were not allowed. Time to get over it as you have no basis for complaint. #10 is here as it was one of the best sets regardless of how it was interpreted. I was the judge of the final 15, you were not. Seal donated the prize, you did not. I spent days and days going through the entrants, you did not. Your DI images have been deleted from my DI folder, no problem at all.

      Have a good day. Thanks


    • Its totally set up.. This is how they create a “fake dramatics” narrative photos.
      How embrace.. All 15 Finalist has set-up their models to win the attention for the Leica.
      Except for Brian Wytcherley – Shortage of rural doctors and Chalid Mawardi Nasution – Octopus Hunter.
      I really wonder which one of finalist become the winner and of course a little bit worry the final judges cannot see how obvious set-up for some.

      • Again, for the 80th time…I WELCOME set up images! This was NOT a documentary contest, a street shooting contest or an HCB contest. It was clear. TWO IMAGES that tell a story. If there were more “real” stories that were submitted that were stronger than those presented here they would have been in.

        #1 is not set up, #2 is not set up, #3 looks authentic, #4 is set up but tells a GREAT story, #5 could not be set up for the 2nd shot, #5 is not set up, #6 is a portrait that tells a story, #7 is pure comedy, #8 is set up but again, tells a story…etc etc etc.

        The winner will be chosen THIS week. Whoever wins will deserve the prize I am confident in this. The 15 above were the best “stories” of the 1300+ entries. Set up, not set up…doesn’t matter. No one EVER said they had to be real or documentary reportage shots.

  3. TRUE STORIES ARE MORE TOUCHING!!! I do think staged pictures could be very good sometimes, but I much prefer to see images from real life if there is a true story behind it.

    I like Brian Wytcherley’s photos best. They definitely tell the sad but true story. My father worked as a doctor in rural China for some years, so I know such things really happened…

  4. It seems such a shame that so many of those selected rely so heavily on there title to understand the narrative

  5. As a Chinese national, I understand that there is a lot of improvement to be done in the medical system, especially in these rural areas in the western part of China. There is a Chinese saying, ‘A thousand words cannot beat a picture’. Brian’s ‘Shortage of rural doctors in China’s Yunnan province’ still delivers a blow to my mind.

  6. Note for Steve: I originally intended to post my comment under this post but I messed it up. I hope it’s not a problem for you having the same comment in two different threads.

    After thanking Steve and Seal for this competition (I entered), I would like to share a few opinions that intend to address the main issues discussed till now.
    Obviously most of the photographers played smart churning out catchy images that were able to strike the right note in a general audience; as we know, a dramatic tone (in the topic and/or in the post processing) appeals to the mass. Therefore it’s not Steve’s responsibility if the best entries were like that.
    Second, while I believe this contest pushed people to shoot more, I hardly think it helped any creativity at all; on the contrary, in my opinion, the close deadline had a bad effect pushing most of us towards conformism and lack of originality. This is perfectly normal since any photographer, even the greatest one, can just take a small bunch of great shots per year. So, if we meant to see some art, the format should have been different, allowing entries produced in the last year (for example); everyone would have chosen the best of their best and I’m sure we would have seen less dark subjects and overall much higher quality.
    But complaining towards Steve is ungenerous indeed since he provided the contest for free and he had all the right (and the necessity!) to manage it according to his point of view.
    About the amount of the post processing allowed, I agree with whom thought that adding any object or figure to a photo was forbidden under the rules as expressed originally.
    About the importance of the title, I believe it was a necessary but complementary element: we could use it to describe the obvious happening in the images of course, but much more interesting was using it to drive the understanding of the viewer towards one of the possible interpretations that most of photos and photo narrative allow. I find ridiculous, as strongly advocated by someone, that the title had to be a plain descriptive element according to which judging the validity of the photo story; it’s not reasonable under an artistic point of view and it’s not logic because we can’t expect everyone to read the pictures in the same way.
    That’s all I wanted to say and I hope I could do it in a clear way (sorry for my English, it’s not my first language) and respectfully even if perhaps controversially.
    Many thanks to Steve again!

    • I disagree on the creativity part. Sure, seasoned photographers probably did not develop much, but I am sure there was a huge group of snappers who had never participated in a competition before who now felt like this was actually something they could partake in. That is the good thing about this, that it was not intimidating for beginners until the high-brow comments started coming in from the “experts” later on, but fortunately they could not do any harm then. Secretly, I am hoping Megan’s picture will win, as it is a damn good pair, and I would love all the haters to be really disappointed, lol.

      Maybe a lot of amateurs will be embarrassed of the pictures they took for this contest, but it may have been the start for them to reach a point where they could do so!

      Thanks a lot for all the work done and all the replies Steve!!! Soon it will be Rankin who will have got everything wrong (not Heidi obviously, she is too pretty to be wrong!) 😉

  7. all in all what i think means peanuts but i tend to agree with Marcel. the M has always been on the forefront of life in front of our eyes. raw, beautiful and compelling. manufactured events just never seemed to embody the whole M spirit (can’t believe i said that).

    anyhow, bravo to everyone who put their work out there! big props to Steve and Seal too.

    if i was judging, Antonio Miranda would be rocking a new (sort of) M9! top flight work Antonio!

    go Amy (Dangrabbit) too!

    • Thanks Emraphoto 🙂

      BTW, I also wanted to thank the marine (JManes) and the guy that worked at Walter Reed (Jack) that responded to my photos (in the other blog post) with their support for the story I was trying to tell. More importantly, you both deserve a big thanks your service to our country and to the veterans themselves.

  8. Alex,
    May I sign under your letter too, please?!
    Steve, looking to top 15 I fill like I misunderstood the rules 🙁
    I didn’t even think of winning, but, hey, the most exiting of Olompics is a participation. At least I am glad I received a letter of acceptance from Steve Huff!
    With that to say, I did submit landscape photographs. Very same time I uploaded to my flickr really nice narrative of 2 “pictures of people” as you said

    I looked through all posts at and thought that not polished documentary of out of standart pics would be more expected. But most of selected 15 pictures can be recaptured easy. Plus, they mostly are sad.
    Therefore, Steve’s choices surprised me a lot.

    Steve, looking to top 15 I fill like I misunderstood the rules 🙁

    Good luck to winner of course and thanks for organizing the competition.

  9. Please add just this comment (better wording and corrections)

    First of all, thanks for that cool contest, to Steve and Seal.

    There are some real cool shots! My personal meaning is, that some of them are too much “posed” for a Leica M9 contest, live writes the best stories, and I think that’s is what M Photography is mostly about. But I know that this is not necessary for this contest.

    My favorites are definitely (not in this order):
    – Octopus Hunter
    – Shortage of rural doctors in China’s Yunnan province
    – Faith In Yourself

    “Dreaming” is sweet.

    In some of the top 15, I really don’t see a story!?
    I’m really not saying mine should be up there, but some I think shouldn’t be there. And then that it can be shot with cheap equipment does to me not necessary mean that the composition can be bad too.

  10. First off, I want to thank you for having the contest, it afforded me the opportunity to take a weekend photography expedition and I ended up with some great photos, and memories.

    I did want to express my disappointment with one aspect of the final 15. Except for 1 picture they all tell their narrative with pictures of people (and the one that doesn’t uses pictures of pictures of people). I feel that this ignores an entire category of photography, and in addition, ignores the often more challenging and equally narrative evoking ability of landscape, architectural or non human containing photos. It’s also sad because while the M9 is surely an amazing tool that can be used for most any type of photography (except I imagine fast moving sports) I feel that the manual nature of the camera lends itself to photo’s of static scenes, and I know you keep saying that this contest is supposed to be won by anyone, but I feel it would be a shame if such a beautiful tool were not to be fully utilized.

    I understand this also must reflect your (Steve) personal taste in photography, and I certainly can’t fault you for that.

    Regradless of my opinions I know that this could be seen as bitching and I don’t want to come off as a sore looser. Even if my photos were not selected, I would still have liked to see more balance in the selections, which I feel would have added more photographic, technical, and story telling diversity to the contest.

    Just had to say what was on my mind, and also, good luck to all those selected. Everyone who got out, got creative, and took pictures is a winner of some sort.


    My work (including my submissions), if you want to directly critique it or just become a friend on flicker, can be found here…

    • Hey Alex,

      I checked out your photos and they are *really* beautiful.

      I know what you are saying about non-human photos and stories. The joke amongst my family and friends is that I seem to always shoot “the world without people” because I rarely do people photography in general. Though it’s typical of my style to shoot barren seascapes, solitary objects and old architecture, shooting more human “stories” is an area I want to improve on, and I took Steve’s contest as a challenge to do just that.

      Follow me on Facebook if you’d like… I’m going to add you as a contact on FlickR, but I don’t update my stream all that much.

      • Thanks for the compliments Amy.

        friended you on flickr and checked out your stream.

        I really like your sense of color and composition….

        I look forward to seeing your future work

  11. Thank you Steve and Seal for this contest ,
    I hope that the M9 will be won by someone that needs it and knows how to use it – from the finalists I would think the best choices would be :Jonathan Cook, Brian Wytcherley and Antonio Miranda – of course there are some very good other entries – but I do not see the “Leica feeling” in them …
    anyway, thank you again for the competition and hope that it was also fun for you.

    • Thanks! I had fun and it was a great experience for me. I’m truly excited to see who the winner will be and I would not change a thing if I had to redo it all over again. Thanks to all!!!

    • It seems to me that, as someone posted before, Jonathan Cook took his photos on an M9 with a very expensive lens, and Brian Wytcherley has won awards for his work, they are hardly ‘amateur’ in the sense that most people here expect when describing an amateur photographer, and therefore its not very sporting for them to enter a contest such as this which was obviously for amateurs in the more obvious use of the term.

      • This post is in response to comments by Dan Hartwright, Bradley, and Jacob.

        The question seems to be: What kind of person that already owns an M9 could use an M9 for this contest to win an M9?

        My answer can be found in two places. In the link below and in my words. I urge you to visit the link first, because my words are so inadequate. The link is the story of Guy Jones, the gentleman in my photos, in his own words (it’s 4.5 minutes long).

        I’m a grad student studying photojournalism at the University of Missouri. Yes, I own an M9. Yes, I own a nice lens. Yes, I did buy them myself. Yes, I did save a long time for them. Yes, I did use them for the images selected. No, I am not rich. No, I do not own a “collection” of cameras. My camera and lenses are tools and are used and treated as such.

        As an MA student I completed a two-week “bootcamp” at the Columbia Missourian newspaper in January 2011 and during that time I convinced an editor to let me spend a week with Guy Jones, the gentleman in my photos. This week was very touching for me and I left my time with Guy wanting to help him more.

        The audio slideshow linked above has been shown at his shelter and I’m told they have experienced a surge of volunteers each night since. Apparently, Columbia is also considering developing an additional shelter and I’m told the audio slideshow played a small role in that process.

        Both of these things help Guy indirectly but I want to help more directly. If I am so lucky to win (A HUGE IF in this field of competition), I plan to sell my M9, keep the contest M9, and donate 50% of the proceeds to help Guy. I have talked with the church that provides the shelter and other community agencies and am hoping to have local donations match anything I could contribute. The goal is to help create some sort of fund that could help with food, housing, and job training, and make a long-term difference in his life.


      • Part 2: My post wouldn’t fit!

        BOTTOM LINE: I did not plan to mention any of this because I did not see the relevance at this stage or any earlier stage. All my “plans” are inconsequential at this point. My biggest frustration with even having to respond to this is the distraction it creates from the works of the other fine photographers on this site.

        BOTTOM BOTTOM LINE: There are 14 other amazing photos that I am up against, each with as good or better a chance of winning as I have. Let enjoy their efforts and work.

        By the way Dan, congratulations on your spot among the finalists, your pictures are quite endearing. I have a 7-month old son myself and he has not yet grabbed my camera but that day is coming! Bradley, I visited your linked gallery and you seem to have a passion for photography—I wish you the best as you move forward. Jacob, I was unable to find any of your work but you seem to have a keen sense for injustice—this is a good trait for a photographer to have and to use wisely.



        • Hi Jon,

          Just wanted to make it clear I wasn’t saying there was any issue with you using an M9 etc, I was saying, in my other post, that it shows great diversity that there is a large range of camera gear used to enter the competition – a good thing!

          I’m a bit of a geek sometimes and reading the ExIF data to see what cameras and lenses people used was quite interesting for me 🙂 and as I mentioned, its an ability I developed through my own incompetence with lightroom 🙂

          I just posted the ExIF off of your images as Bradley specifically asked about who used an M9. I debated whether to reply as I was afraid it might turn into another ‘political debate’ 😉 but decided that you probably have nothing to hide, and someone else is likely to post it in response in perhaps a less balanced way, so posting the raw exif info would be the best solution.

          Anyways… mountain out of molehill and all that! Great entry Jon and best of luck – just wanted to clear the air and ensure I’m not grouped into any ‘faction’ on here!

          Thanks for the kind words about my son – at 5 and a half months he wakes me up by slapping me, and will chew anything! He will drop any toy and lunge for my camera whenever i use it around him, so at least I know what to get him for Christmas! 🙂

          In the interest of being balanced, and perhaps a hint of camera geeky-ness, I have posted the exif from my first photo below (the second one was on the little Canon IXUS my son is holding) as you can all see I’m a prime lens lover!

          I will be getting an M9 one way or another, and I’m in the process of preparing to sell all my camera gear and a whole lot of other gear so I can buy an M9 and a 50mm f2 as soon as I can. The other drawback to big camera is you cannot use them with a baby strapped to your chest – whereas you can use an M9! Not sure my wife buys into my reason why i ‘need’ an M9 but hey….. 🙂

          Once again best of luck Jon, and everyone!

          Camera Maker: Canon
          Camera Model: Canon EOS 5D
          Lens: EF135mm f/2L USM
          Image Date: 2011-02-01
          Focal Length: 135mm
          Aperture: f/2.8
          Exposure Time: 0.010 s (1/100)
          ISO equiv: 200
          Exposure Bias: none
          Metering Mode: Partial
          Exposure: aperture priority (semi-auto)
          White Balance: Manual
          Flash Fired: No (enforced)
          Orientation: Normal
          Color Space: ProPhoto RGB
          GPS Coordinate: undefined, undefined
          Photographer: Dan Hartwright

  12. Hi Steve
    A great big thanks must go to you for setting up all this excitement and anticipation, everything about it has been fantastic and getting everyone involved has been great.
    Reading all the comments, the good, the bad and the ugly, it’s got everyone talking and that’s a great thing. The controversies, there always is one or two in any competition, will always split the crowd. In fact just picking 10 out of 1300 odd entries will always split the room. From the disqualification(my view is it was an honest mistake and his humble apology was certainly accepted from me), To photoshopgate, have all made for interesting debate. My view is both shouldn’t count, photo’s taken in the timeframe and not created by someone else should be ethics enough. BUT this is my view and that’s what should make this FUN. I don’t agree with some of Steve’s choices BUT that’s only my view and that’s what makes this FUN!! As long as the chat stays fun, let’s keep it going.
    I’m sure and hope all the talk and debate hasn’t finished and look forward to reading with interest.
    Good look to all the finalists and whoever wins, enjoy it, become a better photographer and make sure you don’t put it on ebay!!!
    Great site Steve, your energy and enthusiasm is contagious and I thank you for that.

  13. The best one is:

    Ann-Marie Hensley, Brentwood TN – “Dachshund Through the Snow”

    Story, joy, lighting, composition, action, colors, perspective. Best.

  14. My favorites:

    Accomplishment — needs to win!
    Octupus hunter
    Dashchund through the Snow

    Most of the others are very disturbing. Dark. Grimy. Sad. I suppose I have a very different style, I like to see happiness, love, joy, perfection. I admit to being a bit idealistic, I wear rose colored glasses, even when my life hasn’t gone well I focus on the positives and try to forget the sadness/heartache. I like to get that out of my mind. The last thing I want to look at or be reminded of is pain/poverty/death and drug addiction.

    I don’t see the homeless mans shoe in the trash can, so that’s confusing to me. Also, I really dislike Megan’s photo, it seems so forced.

    Well, even though my entry wasn’t chosen, I will say I’ve become a fan of this site! I’ll be checking back often. Thanks for the great contest Steve and Seal!

  15. I read once that a National Geographic article of a dozen pictures is distilled from 20,000 or so photos.
    How many entries did Steve have?
    And how many photographs did the photographers take before submitting these ?
    Just thinking, you know.
    The problem for the judges is that they will probably easily reject 1/2 of them then they’ll be stuck.
    Good luck. ( I wonder if they knew what they were getting themselves onto?)

  16. The meaning of “Just Living” is so deep and it doesn´t let anybody uninterested. Above all this is the great function of art in our times. Despite it has a composition notion, the photographer doesn´t care too much about respecting a classic archetype to make it. The intention is “just express” that human experience and give the image all that soul of one life. For me, this photo should clearly win.

  17. Well i guess i have already lost XD

    All the histories are beatiful…congratulations to all of you, even if you dont win the camera you prove you are great photographers 🙂

    • I wish it had been honestly, although im sure steve made a nice pile of cash with all the traffic generated. The M9 was just such a weird one, I didint even want to enter by the end because i knew if i won it it would represent more money then i have in all my combined bank accounts and I would have to sell it, which would go against the spirit of this competition.

    • The story was maybe too obvious, but it was there. As to the naked girl, so? What’s the difference between a guy who gets excited about it and someone who went through an ordeal and is more impressed with the more darker and sad entries? In the end, we relate more to what we know. Sex and death are the most common issues in the world.

    • the story was concise strong and depicted one of life’s subtle moments– sensual w/o relying on the nudity, the snow vs. The natural light and steam — without having to resort to cheap tricks. don’tspeak for everyone getting excited over a nude. if thatss ur assumption then expand ur photographic education.

    • no different then people submitting images that are painful stories of have to do with death, humans naturally try to prop that sort of thing up just as much as nudity.

  18. i feel like this is a dumb question but I don’t understand the story michael Nguyen was telling. the photos themselves, are nice. she’s out in the cold, and then inside in the warmth. i’ve been in Japan in the winter…so what am i missing? i feel like there should be more to it, or something that i’m not picking up from it. help a girl out…

  19. There are some fantastic shots! I am glad I am not the one picking the winner. That would be tough!

  20. I understand that Michael Nguyen photos were taken using film, had he scanned the two image during the allowed time period then they would or at lest should have been allowed.

    By definition a photograph can be created by and with a number of devices including film, sensor and scanner.

    so by definition the image would have been created on the day that they were scanned.

  21. Atkins after reading one of my comments suggested I should critisize, so I have spent some time having a good look at the entries rather than a superficial one, what is interesting about looking at them in depth and trying not to think they would not accept them for National Geographic, Steve has made very good choices from the load he had to look at, mine is not there but looking at the chosen ones I’m am not surprised, making comments about the stories is not easy, they do all tell a good story, I could make a numbered list with a short comment to go with them but all the comments would just about be the same, I cant really fault any of them, if I was the judge and had to choose the first and second I would find it very difficult, here is my personal choice.

    1st, Just Living
    2nd. A Solitary Game

    To me they tell the two best stories and I also think a lot of thought went into the stories, I find A Solitary Game rather sad, Just Living looks sad but in a way its not, it tells two stories depending on your point of view.

    Story 1. the sadness of an old man dying in solitude surrounded by memories.

    Story 2. it could also be a celebration of inevitable death, he is surrounded by memories and he obviously has faith so to him death is part of his journey.

    There are my thoughts.


    • Fabulous! I also think that the entries are great and it is quite difficult to choose. I am not going to analyze why I like the following just yet, but there are two that really appeal to me:
      The MMA guy from Italy – but I think I am very biased here, because I have been doing martial arts for some time now, so I find a lot of stuff to relate to.
      The second one is “Free as a bird in my own world”. I think the story fits perfectly the title and there are several contrasts made on different levels. Very interesting and appealing to me and probably the most joyful entry.

  22. Hey Steve, thanks for addressing my concerns regarding the opening up of the voting to all of us. I’m a little embarrassed to see that the entries were expanded from 10 to 15 submissions (didn’t catch that). All in all, I’m cool with your decision.

    The contest is going to take on an interesting dynamic with this weekend’s voting. For the record, my intention is to view the votable submissions – and to place my vote – based on which contestant best demonstrates that they will benefit the most from a rangefinder system, or even a new camera for that matter. I’ll try to eliminate from my decision those who may have luckily fallen into a situation where a photo-essay was found, and instead consider the photographer’s ability to use their imagination, technical skill and artistic understanding in their submission.

    If a photographer can use their eye and their heart, along with a fair understanding of the craft, I believe it is possible for the artist to make the “camel pass through the eye of a needle” through their work. That is what I’ll be looking for this weekend. Even though I’d like every voter to think along the same lines, I realize it is a little presumptuous – but wouldn’t it be great if the one most deserving the prize, is also the one who would most benefit from it?

  23. To all who entered, congratulations – you entered into the spirit of the competition and took part and that’s what counts.
    A huge THANK YOU goes to the competition organisers and judges – especially Seal for this fine prize!
    But an even bigger thank you is for Steve, for his patience shown to those who entered – he was very kind with my feeble attempts to send my entry. My first attempt had the photos in the wrong size so Steve emailed me to say that. Again I tried to send my entry and it was too small and Steve kindly explained what he was getting from me, I finally managed to get what I hoped was the correct size to enter.
    Steve, well done.

  24. Well, I reckon the one of the mixed race kid with the camera is the best!……

    …..oh wait – that’s my one… 🙂

    Seriously my first and second place are…. (drum roll)….

    1) Dachshund Through the Snow
    2) Accomplishment

    Try and enjoy this competition people; where’s the fun/enjoyment in bitching?
    I’m open to any and all constructive criticism so bring it on!

    So far someone has suggested I should have called it ‘curiosity’ and they are right! Much better title!
    Someone from Sussex said they liked the spontaneity of my shot, thanks – my son inspired me by eating cameras! (btw I haven’t lived in England for years – I have a mailing address in Sussex but I’m currently in SE Asia)

    Anyone else? I can take it! 🙂

      • Better than my title for sure! Perhaps next time I should employ someone to write the title for me….

        I was hoping he would pick the camera up so I could see his face on the display on the back in the photo, but no – lens went straight into his mouth 🙂

        • Ha! Didn’t go as planned? That’s the beauty of it!
          Always have a plan, never worry if things don’t go according it.

          I am really not a fan of naming visual work – destroys a lot of the possible interpretations.

          • Naming it was the hardest part really. Probably as I made it hard in my head, sitting and trying to think of something ‘clever’ or ‘artisitc’ but then i realised im neither of those so I just named it after something silly. That I am good at 🙂

    • A few alternative titles:

      Hungry photographer
      Aspiring photographer
      Young photographer (nah – too easy)
      You looking at me?!
      I can’t use this plastic toy camera!
      Hey dad – give me a real camera!
      f/3.8?! You got to be kidding me?
      My other camera is a M9
      Let’s see. Where’s that macro setting?
      Does it work?
      Oh crap. I forgot to focus.
      Where do I load the film in this thing?

      • Excellent! 🙂 great suggestions. “hey dad – give me a real camera!” is probably a few years away but I can see it coming!

        If I win, when he grows up and works out how I got an M9 then “My other camera is an M9” is likely to feature at some point im sure…… 🙂

    • Dan, thank you so much! The people for me is what this is all about. Nice to make connections and fall in love with the work of others. Our hearts are in it or you wouldn’t see them in our photographs. In the end that is where my love of photography lies.

      Ann-Marie Hensley

      • Hi Neil,

        To be honest all he wanted to do was eat the camera!
        I found him with my wife’s camera trying to pick it up and suck it. We (wife and I) were a bit worried he would electrocute himself! We found he had inadvertently taken a few shots, so, i set the self timer and put it flat in front of him, he would pick it up and then she dived in just before he got his lips around the lens (not always in time!)
        Meanwhile i grabbed my camera and took some photos of him as he picked it up.
        So, the second photo is taken by a 5 month old!

        I changed the images to black and white, and cropped the first one a bit, sent them to Steve. I then spent 30 minutes cleaning my wifes camera and making sure it worked ok stil.

        I can honestly say there is no way he will be sucking on an M9 if I win 🙂 But i will buy him an infant camera thingy and encourage him to use it. In fact I have Canon D10 on the way for use in the pool and on the beach so that he can suck on 🙂

        -Dan Hartwright

  25. Hi,
    Well done to all the finalists. Some wonderful images here that convey real emotion and make you think. Selecting just one will not be an easy task!

  26. Quote,Steve,…¨The homeless man many of you may misinterpret. It took me a few views to see what it was saying and to ME I see a near death homeless man in image #1. His leg is swollen and he is wearing a brace on his leg. His eye looks horrible and he looks like he is near the end of his life. In image #2 it is a different man going through a dumpster. What do we see inside? The mans brace which tells me he probably died and his brace was thrown out. This is how I read the story. ¨
    I dont think youve looked that closely Steve,am not sure about this poor man wearing a leg brace or not,looks more like a part of his boot or a rolled down sock but what I think youve interpretted as his leg brace in the dumpster is part of a car chassis.If Im wrong then good,if Im right then I hope you havent excluded a better entry because of youre misreading.
    As for youre criticising any one who comments without having entered ,well that rubs the wrong way a little.Some of us are first and foremost self critical and wouldnt enter anything that we are not happy with.I think this is a good thing and not to be laughed at,and belongs with our admitedly fuddy duddy ethic of truth and honesty:something that seems to be lacking here with the setups and photoshoped images.Im not sure what is real and what are fabrications.

    ps. there is no anger here,I truely like some of these images,this is just a comment on the comments tinged with a little disapointment .

  27. “The mind is the most powerful imager of all. Don’t say too much with the camera”

    I must have missed that one somehow Jarle, that is good … very profound too. 🙂

  28. Discussions like these are inevitable, and instead of being provoked and offended, I think we should all use the opportunity to listen and learn. Even the people “complaining and whining” have some valid points, in my opinion.

    I think most of the finalists are good, a few are really good and a couple I don’t really care for. No problem. Personally, I’d like to see a few more creative interpretations. I think Seal himself said it well: “The mind is the most powerful imager of all. Don’t say too much with the camera”.

    Some of the finalists are *too* clear, in my opinion. I submitted a series which probably wasn’t clear enough. Do I still think it’s good enough to be on this page? You bet! Am I offended that it’s not? Absolutely not. I fully respect the jury’s decision, but I don’t necessarily have to agree with it 🙂 Again, no problem. It’s been great fun so far – thank you.

  29. Just been looking through some of the posts and find them very interesting, about planning a a picture, I read somewhere that HCB planned some of his candid shots, the one that illustrated this article was the picture of boy with the bottle of wine, when you look at it with this knowledge it screams arranged picture at you, I am not knocking Bresson, the man was a genius and an inspiration to thousands of photographers including me, without him we would not have as many street photographers.


  30. Ridiculous comments?
    Hmmm. Could Saying Goodbye be considered exploitive? Absolutely. But then so can Everyday Is A New Struggle, and Our Future Hope. Of course so is Just Living, Shortage of rural doctors… and Accomplishment. All of those photos in a sense trade on pain and loss in order for the photographer to receive something of monetary value. The question is would the photographers have picked those subjects in the course of their daily photographic excursions? If not, then yes, the shots are manufactured and can be considered exploitive.

    Some may find shots of a soldier’s grave cross a line, others the use of a child’s tragedy combined with cuteness. I personally find photographing the homeless in order to win a camera exploitive. However, I don’t know the photographer. He may document the lives of the homeless and do everything he can to help them.

    Everyone has a line that they feel should not be crossed. And every photographer exploits his/her subject to some degree. It is the nature of the craft. However, it is up to each of us to determine where that line is for ourselves.

    Of course if Dachshund Through the Snow wins and the dog doesn’t receive its share of the monetary value of the camera in doggy biscuits then it is being exploited as well.

    • “Of course if Dachshund Through the Snow wins and the dog doesn’t receive its share of the monetary value of the camera in doggy biscuits then it is being exploited as well.”

      Hey – how do you know the dog won’t be the one using the M9? 😉

  31. C’mon people lets stay cool, leave the comments and critics aside and enjoy the competition. You still don’t know if you will be selected in the last 3 or not. Either way the Jury will select the winner and even if you do not win the camera it’s not end of the world! Don’t be so material 🙂

    • Dovla, that is a comment section right here 🙂 And how there can be a competition without some critics? People can critic and still appreciate it. Criticism is a great way to improvement 🙂

  32. This contest has certainly created some hard reactions, I have never had so many emails in my inbox, to me the most interesting observation is people who do not like manufactured images, within the time limits this was inevitable and the rules did not say otherwise,the one about the soldier is a bit of a grey area as somebody said he signed up and died within a month but it does tell a story, I was very fortunate as two pictures from a group told a story and where taken within a few minutes of each other so it’s a true story, I could criticise some of the top stories but I won’t I will leave that to more knowledgable people than me.


    • Barrie, it was very evitable, if you ask me, most people did it. Also, according to Steve’s own words this wasn’t allowed. Enough of that though.
      I really suggest you criticize. There is no such thing as being “knowledgeable” in art. As long as you are constructive I am sure your opinion will be greatly appreciated. 🙂

  33. Thanks! Yea, he is holding prosthetic devices! The expression on his face in #2 is priceless. This is why it is called “Accomplishment”. I love the photos. I cant believe some of the ridiculous comments in this post by 2-3 people and they didn’t even enter. I have also stated that if your images did not make the top 15 it doesn’t mean they were not good. There were many strong images sent in but only 15 can make the cut.

      • I was referring to the comments from those who said the images were all garbage, etc etc. Those are the ones who didn’t even have the skills to enter so to me their words mean nothing. Just ridiculous. Other comments about things like photoshop are also ridiculous. PHOTOSHOP was welcomed. Megan followed the rules and asked me up front if what she planned was OK. I said YES. I love her submission. You dont but its not your contest and you are not a judge. The complaints about Amys set being posed and set up are also ridiculous. There was no rule stating all images had to be real documentary photos. Most submissions were staged/posed, etc.

        The complaints and whining just brings things down and is un-neccesary. To those whining about nonsense i suggest just moving on, especially if you didn’t enter because if so then why the massive interest in this? Just looks to me like 2-3 people trying to start trouble.

        • I think he’s talking about me! I didn’t mean it – I just never come across well on the internet. 🙁

          I’ll just shut up before I offend any more people. (If that’s at all possible!)

          • Nope, wasn’t talking about you! 🙂

            In reality, now that I look back it was only one guy who was rude, obnoxious, and starting to get to the “personal attack” level with myself, Amy and Megan. It’s been taken care of 🙂

        • Steve, you seem to not get what is going on. Nobody has an issue with Megan’s entry per se. The issue is how you handled it. My complaint is not about bringing anything down, but making sure that the next time you host a competition (all props to you for that btw) you either stick to your own rules or you just don’t write any and then you can be as subjective as you wish.

          • I did stick to my own rules. I explained this 4 times and here I am again. Megan FOLLOWED THE RULES. Go back and read the rules. She did not break any of them. She took her photos within the time frame. She even took the pictures of the old pictures and used them for her photo. Photoshop was allowed. She shot them in the time frame. ALL images in her photo were shot by here within the time frame.

            So yea, all rules were followed.

          • Thank you, good to know that the pictures were taken in the same time frame. Still don’t understand your comment to which Will referred though.better to stop this now. I disagree with you. IMHO you messed up. Your opinion is probably that I do not get it.
            In both cases though it is clear that more clarification is needed in stating the rules for the next time.

            From there, please do note that I am pointing out just a single problem. If I have an issue with one paragraph in a book, it certainly doesn’t mean I don’t like the book. So, yes, I do appreciate the effort you have done for this competition and I would like to thank you for that.

    • In a way, since we’ve had 13 already and 10 tomorrow.. 23 made the cut 😀

      I think you’ve done a good job, there will always be those complaining.

      I’m not sure how the last day’s vote will go.. as a career IT guy, I cant help but see a lot of mybookerspace requests to come vote as mentioned, an online popularity contest.. and of course no online poll is foolproof.

      That said, I respect that you chose to involve everyone here, especially since all of us, no matter how vocal, are armchair critics.. and human..which means complaints! I do think in the end it will bring a lot of discussion, perhaps make this more of a community… and while people in communities argue about who’s speeding and whether billy really saw tommy’s mom naked.. fundamentally they like each other enough to coexist beyond the gossip and some minor bickering.

      Whomever wins the contest is lucky on several fronts.. the camera, a bit of recognition for their progression, and the excitement factor (which many of us share). I’m really looking forward to the final round and seeing who wins.

      Good luck all!

  34. Steve, ones again – thanks for a your time and effort!

    I wote for the Andy Allaway, Crystal Lake, IL USA – “Accomplishment”.
    I see that many of readers didn’t realize that the kid is holding prosthetic devices! Means he cannot walk without. It is sad, but that is an accomplishment and result – he is so happy to make it to enjoy his harmonica.

    Spacial thanks for making me to take a new look at photography! I just understood I’ve shot and uploaded much better complying narrative on my flickr on 2.6.11 😀

  35. Steve,

    Please forgive the little bit of bitching I’m about to do, but it’s intended as honest criticism.

    This contest had no aesthetic restrictions and the basic rules that two photos that tell a story be shot between Jan. 5 and Feb. 5. In terms of the story-telling capability of these photos, I feel that time frame is a context that can’t be ignored.

    The one-month requirement lends power to Andy Allaway’s uplifting photos of a boy taking monumental steps (both figuratively and literally). And it emphasizes the haunting qualities of Brian Wytcherley’s images of a sick child’s preventable death.

    But it also exposes Amy Medina’s work as a manufactured exploitation of the real tragedies that have befallen countless families of military personnel, unless we are to believe that the young man pictured in her first photograph entered the recruitment office Jan. 5 and was buried in the undisturbed earth of a veterans cemetery within a month.

    Every one of these photos could be faked to a certain extent, but choosing to include such a transparently false set of images in the final selections is a major disappointment.

    Matt Buedel

    • Matt,
      Thanks for your comment – please elaborate for me. Out of all the photos, I thought Amy’s had the clearest “story” with a beginning, (suggested) middle, and end.

      How is it exploitative? According to Steve’s analysis of the homeless picture, the homeless guy died as well. Many of these photos include “sensitive” populations and tragedies- such as disabled persons, rural and under-supplied chinese peasants, and drug addicts. War and death for the country and/or the empire is part of life in the United States, just as homelessness and the exploitation of the poor is necessary to keep the Wall Street going. This is part of life here. It is all sad.

      I don’t see how anyone could consider Amy’s any more exploitative than some of the others of say the homeless or a drug addict, unless they were on some patriotic high-horse where veterans, as some exempt population (and not nearly as “sensitive” as the unrepresented homeless or drug addicts), are uniquely off-limits. Apparently, this was her friend / husband / etc. I think she can make that call well for herself- no other veteran is involved and I can’t make out any headstones. Great entry.

      • Amy’s entry “manufactured exploitation”? Are you serious? No where in the rules did it say the photos could not be planned or staged. of course they can. READ THE CONTEST DESCRIPTION. Id guess that 80% of the entries were staged…

        But in no way do I feel Amy’s work is exploitive at all. It tells a clear story, which was the objective of this contest. Geez…

        • Good idea for an m-shooter, to stage “storytelling” photos.

          But thats the new generation youre feeding – ” i wanna be famous. And dont care about how to get there….”

      • I think the objection Matt has is that it doesn’t represent a real story. That wasn’t a real soldier arriving at the recruiting center departing for wherever and it wasn’t a real soldier buried. If it was, it wasn’t the one in the picture. If it was the one in the picture than this is outside of the rules of the competition. Personally, I don’t agree with Matt as there are countless ‘unknown’ soldiers buried in cemeteries across the world and this story could represent any of them. It’s unfortunate but I think the point is for the photo to be a little confronting if not offensive. War is confronting and offensive. Death is confronting and offensive.

        I suspect many are fishing for reasons to dislike the photos here. War, death and all kinds of tragedy are routinely re-enacted. Just turn on the TV. If you were personally offended every time you wouldn’t be leading much of a life. There were no requirements in the rules that all photos are to be documentary. All photos are constructed and subjective anyways…


        • Sebastian,

          In regards to that, I took the entry’s first photo as the soldier photoshopped in like the ghost children from when she sent him off, and the second photo as 100% real.

          If I’m wrong in that assumption, I still don’t think it’s exploitative. What if she really did lose her husband/friend to a war? Her call to utilize that story of loss.

          But even if she didn’t lose anyone personally- it’s still a story. We don’t have to personally know the subjects we shoot be them homeless, bleeding, amputated, disabled, veterans, dead, even when a vulture is approaching them from behind.

          Ridiculous! If her entry exploits veterans then children, the sick, the elderly, the Chinese peasants, the homeless, boxers, dachshunds and octopi are also being exploited in this contest and all entries from here on out must have an accompanying signed model-release form and Institutional Review Board approval to be considered!

          • Bradley… no photoshopping. I took the photo of the young man, who is my brother, in front of a local recruitment center. Second was taken at one of the largest military cemeteries in the country, which happens to be 25 minutes from my house. My father has a memorial stone there. My uncle and grandfather are buried there.

            It isn’t “real” because my brother did not go off to war and die. It is only real in how I feel about the taking the photos and the appreciation I have for all our young men and woman who put themselves in harms way to protect us, our country and our freedoms. My father served during vietnam and was very proud of his years in the service. He had friend die in the war. He had friend come home that were never the same. I have a cousin now who just finished a tour in Afghanistan and am intimately aware of the sacrifices he has made, though luckily, not with his life.

            I have nothing but respect and admiration for what soldiers and their families gives to us. Personally, my photos and story were meant to say “I remember you”. How it is interpretted by the audience is up to them, but I hope it reminds them too.

            It isn’t the first time I’ve photographed there, and it won’t be the last. I took my daughter there on Veterans Day. It means something to me to remember them… and not just my family members, but all of them.

          • Amy-

            Thanks for your amazing comment. I hope those others read it. Both of my grandfathers served- one in Korea and one in WWII – both went through horrors they wouldn’t talk about and both were drafted to do so – and your method of honoring all of them is touching!

            Besides all that – as a photo story like I said – I think yours is the best entry. Congratulations on your selection and good luck!

    • Thanks all for the feedback. My criticism is not actually of Amy Medina’s work or of exploitative photography in general. I agree that a whole canon of powerful work out there can be seen as exploitative of its subject (and some of my far less powerful personal work could fit in the same genre).

      I actually think that “Saying Goodbye” tells the most clear narrative of any of the entries posted so far. You look at those two images for half a second, and you know exactly what happened.

      But with only one real rule in this contest – that the photographs be recorded between Jan. 5 and Feb. 5 – the story told reveals itself as a lie. The narrative, to me, then becomes less about what is depicted in the images and more about what I am being asked to believe.

      The stories told by the other photos are at least plausible (they could have happened in a month) and don’t require me to suspend common sense.

      Matt Buedel

  36. Andy .S noticed the spelling that I did not correct ‘sentances’ I did not notice it until I had submitted.

    Barie. Barree. Barrie 😉

  37. I can’t believe some of the comments. If they are so plain why didn’t the couch critics enter…sheesh.

    Cmon people it’s an ‘amateur photographer’s ‘ contest with a really nice camera going to the winner.

    Even if people understand fibbonacci, and trust me, there’s a lot more to it in math than photography, or hcb, or anyone else…it doesn’t mean they are going to mimic or be influenced.

    In fact one entry, which I won’t name, was actually made much more amateurish than the flickr stream shows..this photographer does a lot of studio work..

    Ayway, if you don’t like the entries, so be it…if you didn’t even enter, well…frankly, put up or shut up.

    • You know, because if I KNEW i had mastered an art.. and there was a guaranteed $7k + prize up.. why wouldn’t I enter.. I’d be a lock!

    • {Sigh} , Sadly I always thought it would end up like this and why I’ve only looked at the photos the last few days and not read the comments as soon as I saw the whiners & moaners had turned up. Agree with everything you have said here AzX1.

      Who gives a rat about HCB for goodness sake?!? Good photography comes from the heart and not from buying books from the greats and trying to copy/emulate them. Sure, there’s plenty that can be learned from them and only a fool would disagree but just copying them is frankly CRASS. Go out, shoot some picture & have fun because that’s what photography *should* be all about after all. Personally I find much of Robert Frank or HCB’s work boring anyways as great as so much of their work was – give me a cheeky Robert Dosineau any day but he *can’t* be a great as he set some of his masterpieces up, love it! LOL 😀

      As regards the final judging, well I’ve followed Rankin’s work for some time now and there will be plenty I’m sure that will not agree to his or Heidi’s final decision I’m sure but there will not be 1 single critic who can hold a candle to his work I wager so I hope such ones either learn humility and be happy for others or simply just walk away and take their moaning some place else. It’s no wonder ~6 got so fed up of some here yet he still was gracious to give away his camera to what will be a worthy winner here, here’s to them and certainly not the back biters & well done Steve for putting up with this uncalled for rubbish. 🙂

    • You mean, if youre not with me, then shut up?

      Thats the way hugo chavez would see it. Or hosni mubarak.

      By the way, if you dont run for president yourself, then shut up?

      Your right, when youre living in russia….

  38. Just wondering (purely out of interest, and assuming that others might be interested too) – how many people thought out their entries and planned a specific series of shots, and how many just chose from shots that they had taken just for normal life?

    I did the latter, with one being taken waist-deep in water in the middle of a lagoon while playing with family (camera was NOT waterproof, and had a 3 yr old and 7 yr old trying to splash me at the time). And the second was on a small boat doing 10 knots. I was happy it was even semi-sharp when I got back from the trip. They seemed to work as a series, so I submitted them.

    How about you?

    • I found my son chewing on the camera, which gave me the idea (I had been trying to think of something for days) and I sat on the floor and shot away as he played with my wifes camera. She was a bit concerned he would destroy it or electrocute himself, but we let him play for a moment and kept an eye on him. Worked so well I submitted it. As mentioned before I have a broken foot so couldn’t leave the house and so I was constrained by shootig indoors and I was really worried I wouldnt be able to find anything to shoot indoors! (I’m a street/wilderness/travel shooter really). Very pleased to have made the final 15, and my wife is pleased I took some family photos for once 🙂
      -Dan Hartwright

      • I planned it out. Though I ended up going with a vastly different idea than my first one, which I couldn’t get the right permissions for. I’m normally a seascape/still life photographer, so I really wanted to challenge myself with this one… and it was important to me the story say something – have some meaning. So yup, I planned it out.

      • i really really like your story. i like that it involves a camera and the different perspectives from each camera used in the story. and it’s humorous, which i love.

    • Good question thepowersthatbe. Here’s my answer- a bit of both

      I spent almost the entire month researching what a photo narrative was online and in the library and thinking about a project within the framework and guidelines I read about. All the while I was taking daily photos as usual. On the last day I finally came up with an idea, inspired by a girl I just recently started seeing. She’s amazing, brilliant in her scientific field, and also a closet artist and photographer! We’ve fallen completely in love in a short time frame and so I decided I would try to capture the story of a date with her for the contest.

      Before I had chosen my topic I took her to see the Vivian Maier exhibit here in Chicago and used the pun with her before the date that I had a “date with a photographer” (punning both my lady and Vivian Maier). I took some photos of my girl shooting photos of Chicago that night outside of the exhibit. On the final night of the contest we went on a date, came back to my place, and at some point she was working on one of those photos on my computer. I also noticed a snow mound heart looking out the window of my highrise in the park below. That’s when the idea of capturing a date with her hit me. I told her, she said to try some shots to see if it worked, she let me take a bunch of photos of her editing the photo (so yeah one shot was posed), and it was great! (I liked it anyway, clearly form this thread not everyone’s opinion is the same which is why the world is so beautiful). So I submitted the photo she was working on (which was of our date at the photography exhibit) and the photo I took of her working on it.

      I know it’s hyper-metaphotographic, but I thought it captured the beginning and end of a date with her like I understood narrative- and what she’s wearing suggests how the middle of the date went, completing the story ;-). You can see the two photos as the most recent additions to my flickr stream by clicking on my name at the beginning of this comment.

      • It’s interesting to read about how everyone approached the contest.

        I find I enjoy practicing photography and my final images most when they’re not pre-planned and I don’t have an influence on the scene. There is some distinction in that I like to think I do plan “in the moment” when I stumble on something which was not planned. It’s perhaps why I enjoy shooting street with my cell phone so much but to answer the question my entry was two photos from the iphone planned in the moment lol

        Having said that, perhaps constructing a photo is not my strength also, I love to stumble upon things! I definitely appreciate photos and the creativity from those who can construct a scene and capture their vision

    • Good question, thepowersthatbe! Like Bradley i first started thinking about what makes up narrative photography. Usually i´m on the streets, looking for little gestures, expressions, anything you will associate with candid photography. I like shooting people in everyday life situations, their little quirks, these telling moments when our guards are down and something unexpected happens. Well, most of the times I miss them, of course, I wouldn´t even be fast enough with a camera glued to my head. But sometimes one gets lucky and these are the moments every photographer lives for. So when I was whacking my brain about a possible story or topic, I realised, that it was much more challenging to tell it in two pictures, especially when you try to do it with a streetshot. it´s comparatively easy (not for me, mind you!) to get one good, dramatic shot, that is telling a story. but it´s pretty tough to get a second one out of the same scene. A second shot, that actually complements the first one in a way, that both put together make up a little drama or story, that is.
      Well, I was lucky, in that the story found me. So out went all preplanned ideas. the photos came first, the title immediately followed.
      Even though I didn´t make it to the finals, I enjoyed taking these two shots and for some weeks I was allowed to dream about the Big One! This competition has been an enormously rewarding and exciting experience for me.
      Congratulations to the finalists! to have made it that far is an accomplishment in itself.
      If there are more “streetshooters” in this community (i´m sure there are!), maybe we could meet up on flickr and share our streams addresses?! I would very much like to see your work!

  39. Some people are using the word awesome to describe the images, not my favourite word along with fantastic. I just found this definition of awsome along with many others, I may offend!


    A ‘sticking plaster’ word used by Americans to cover over the huge gaps in their vocabulary. It is one the three words which make up most American sentances.

  40. Lots of staged pics, so no pj approach, no truth
    Artistically not very ambitious, never heard of fibonacci, hcb or else

    No peak moments
    Not much emotion, some snapshots, oh how cute is this dog, baby and so on

    Aah, cementary, streetpeople begging, dachshund looking outnofmthe window. Million times seen on flickr, no eyes for the never seen. Beginners level.

    Shure, the less knowledgable will applaud loudly, great awesome.

    In american webforums nearly every crappy pic is awesome. As are american cars.

    Dream on

    • As Steve has so eloquently posted, this contest was open to everyone of every level. He states that he chose the best of the entries. Thus, couldn’t we assume that that if these were the best, then no entries of “professional” level were entered? I cannot figure out why everyone that is so knowledgeable of “good” photography didn’t submit just that. And, no, I don’t want to see all 1,300 entries to doublecheck Steve.

      Seal donated the M9 to this site; he has visited for a while, and he knows the readership and their level. If he had wanted to, he could have arranged the contest through Magnum or some other “professional” organization.

      I’ve studied HCB, follow Magnum photogs, know about the “rules” etc. BUT I still “applaud” these entries because they are the best of THIS contest.

      Sorry, it’s probably best to ignore comments like these, but this is being repeatedly posted – it only takes a few minutes to read through the prior comments.

    • Wow, how ridiculous do you sound to yourself when you read back what you wrote after some time went by?

      You have a very narrow-minded approach to photography that is apparently fueled by your closed minded approach to people. Photography encompusses every genre, not just an outdated ideal of what photojounalism is.

  41. All entries are nice, I personally like the series shot in Yunan.

    It’s disappointing to see how people have no regards for rules and will try means to get around them. I saw Michael’s 2nd shot on Flickr last night through my Flickr contact’s, and well not just Flickr, his shot was seen in other ‘coolhunting’ sites like ffffound which means that second shot was actually quite ‘famous’ for awhile. Luckily the world is ‘small enough’ with the Internet, so that dishonest entries can be easily identified. It was indeed a nice shot but it’s just plain stupid for him to do that, it left him with a bad name now.

    That being said, with this incident, I wonder how many entries out there were truly shot in the last month. Especially with technology, one can easily alter the EXIF data of the shots, unless there’s a request to get people to submit the unprocessed RAW files.

    • RAW files can be edited and made to look like unprocessed RAW files, sometimes you have to rely on people being honest

    • Michael made a very classy and heartfelt apology on comment #162. If that is the case that he didn’t simply read the rules closely enough, then I don’t think it leaves him with a bad name (at least in my mind). We all make mistakes, and he could have simply disappeared without posting a followup.

      • Was able to read about registering on sites as part of entry……. Lame excuse to have not read the rules properly

        • Without personally knowing Michael, I can’t say whether or not it’s an excuse manufactured to save face or an honest mistake. Either way he was disqualified, wrote an apology, and more than likely embarrassed in front of thousand of readers who will question whether or not it’s an excuse or the truth. I suppose I just don’t see the sense in calling him stupid or denigrating him further after he’s been disqualified, and he posted an apology.

          It would be nice to focus on the positive of what’s happening in this contest instead of continuously magnifying the negative. I have quit visiting so many forums because of the vitriolic posts; that’s one reason I love this site is that, for the most part, it tends to be positive and constructive.

      • Quoting from @Photomonkey, since he was able to follow through the registration on the sites, no way he could have missed the most important rule of the contest.

        Yeah it was a heartfelt apology but I’m not convinced because when submitting the shots, one would have to provide the details for the shot, like when they were taken especially they were shot on film. Read #149 where Steve mentioned “…so I have take his word for it and I did.”, so it was communicated to Steve about the ‘fake’ dates, and Steve believed him.

        Sorry to be brutally frank, but for me it was a clear indication he had deliberately wanted to cheat on the dates. Sorry to sound unforgiving, it will certainly leave a bad name for him because he knew what he was doing.

        • As i’ve stated earlier, i was scrambling to submit 2 photos and submitted them literally like a couple hours before the deadline. I resized them and the “date” of the files imprinted as the time i saved them. I did not lie to Steve saying these were shot on this date when they weren’t. Again i want to apologize for misleading everyone, when you’re in a rush sometimes you miss important details. Lesson learned. I don’t consider myself a brilliant genius or anything but i know how small the internet world can be and if i was truly conniving i could have just deleted my pictures on flickr and no one would be the wiser. Though i am sure this will not convince the majority of you it is indeed the case.

    • Part of the rules is to accept Steve’ s decision. Period.

      You know how they photograph a newspaper to verify time ? I had an expiration date on a perishable product in my image to not have anybody second guess the time frame. Then added a second folder with the original images and data to my entry.

  42. The Hungarian-born American photographer, Robert Capa said:


    “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”

    I think, that was everybody so close with the theme.
    Because EVERY artist created the images of his/her heart.

    Capa also said it:
    “The pictures are there, you just have to capture them. The best picture of the truth …”

    These images, which can be seen above, tell me the truth.

    And the last quote from him, what I chose:
    “It’s not enough to have talent, you also have to be Hungarian.”

    I’m Hungarian. 🙂

  43. Fantastic, I should have entered this but found out about it too late, some great photos, big fan of Dan’s as it seems a bit more natural, or less staged than some (though they are all great). I hadn’t realized where he was from at first but, I’m also from West Sussex in the UK so maybe I’m bias, although I do not have the faintest clue who Dan Hartwright is, so I’m not just voting for a friend, his photos just stood out, perhaps a slightly different more creative approach.

    Great competition, hope you can do something else similar in the future and maybe I will actually enter, I shall probably joint the forum too, great site Steve.

    • Thanks Nick – sorry i didn’t notice your comment until now.

      Although I’m from West Sussex originally I haven’t lived there in years. Currently I’m living in Thailand (as getting my wife a UK visa is miserably hard – shes Zambian) with our son and not a lot to do. Due to my broken foot (run over in Malaysia while taking a photo would you believe!) I had to come up with something to shoot indoors and my sons actions were what inspired me. Normally I shoot in the street or out in the bush, very little indoors.

      Thanks for the vote of confidence, I’m hoping I win as I don’t see myself affording an M9 anytime soon and it would sure make shooting in the street easier (I’m 6’4″, big and hairy, with a big 5 month old baby boy strapped to my chest – hardly blending in in Asia!) 🙂

  44. NO complaints!! Only thoughts. All finalists are GREAT!! well chosen! Looking forward to see the last ones!!

  45. As a professional photographer, and Leica m9 owner enjoy it whoever wins it is an awesome camera, I have thoroughly enjoyed looking at the entries. To much has been made of titles etc. Let the pictures do the talking. By far and away the best so far is Chalid Mawardi Nasution, Indonesia – “Octopus Hunter” it is fantastic and so far should be a worthy winner. Though obviously there are more to come.

  46. I love this dialogue- a lot is getting shaken out.

    I love Amy’s based on the way I understood this contest’s criteria (see my earlier elaboration). I interpreted a “photo narrative” or “photo story” of having a clear beginning, middle, and end. Add the necessity to convey over two images and a title, and I thought a beginning and an end through the photos, and an effective title that allows us to imagine the “middle” would be an effective “story.” She achieves this. We know what happened to him based on a combination of both images and the title. We can fill in the blanks and can imagine the middle based on the narrative.

    I agree with some comments that it’s a little personally disappointing that the majority of these entries are “significant” “sad” or “intense.” It’s as though just because it’s a great photo and it’s intense / significant, it’s a “good entry.” I don’t think a lot of those tell a “story” like Amy’s, although they are still well done and brilliantly capture what the photographer set out to capture. I think the two that actually tell the strongest “stories” or “narratives” are “Saying Goodbye” and “Just Living.” Beyond a simple narrative of B/M/E, I think Steve’s comment about the onion layers of meaning that emerge is important too if they add to a story. Getting the initial narrative from a combination of the three components is the point, but then being able to dive into deeper levels of both the story and the emotions through “marinating” in the photos a while will definitely be what I look for in choosing a personal favorite.

    • Half of the entries are happy and up-lifting! Just went through and checked so Im not sure I understand the complaint. They ALL tell a great story, at least they did to me, more so than 1300 others did. The ten that will be presented tomorrow are ALL worthy of being in the top 15 so it will be a very tough vote!

      • Thanks- It definitely wasn’t meant as a complaint! The only reason I’d have to complain about this contest is if your site goes down! They are all great for sure and “worthy” as you say- and are all better than my best photos IMO. Comments elaborating on what people thought a “good” criteria were was encouraged so I was adding my opinion to that dialogue.

        My comment was an attempt to state that my opinion of a narrative is a more bounded event and not as abstractly temporal as many of these appear, to me, to be.

        On the issue of intensity, I thought a wider majority would be on lighter topics, regardless of whether they are uplifting or not. I feel as though it’s difficult for photographic representations of intensity not to be pretentious (generally- I’m not making that claim on any particular ones here), and that’s one reason why I didn’t just go out photographing people’s sufferings in Chicago.

        On the issue of a story, I’m elaborating on how I interpreted “narrative” as beginning middle and end as in a previous comment. I feel that in that narrow definition I interpreted “narrative” as, while all of these convey an emotion, person, or essence extremely well (among other things), the narrative aspect the way I understood it was strongest in Amy’s and António’s because the beginning, middle, and end are most evident.

        Many, including the amazing Norwegian for example, entry seem to have a different definition of story. I don’t see a beginning middle and an end. I see the conveyance of an emotion in some or an essence in others absent of time. If I was to think of what temporal part the photographer intended in the Norwegian entry I would say I see a continuing struggle, a timeless issue and in that sense yes it is a “story” of those indefinite notions, or the recurring nature of addiction fulfillment and it’s anticipation. That’s awesome and it’s done well, I’m just saying it’s not how I interpret “narrative” or “story.” It’s been interesting to read/see how others define it.

        • The norwegian story is the only one that i dont get… Whats the hope for the future in this pictures? please someone explain it to me.

          • Hi Rob, and thanks for asking. To be completely honest, I probably should have put more effort into the title seeing you’re not the only one commenting on it. I don’t really like naming pictures, and it was a long night.. but excuses aside, I meant it as sort of a “next generation” sort of thing. This is the generation that we rely on to change things around. Don’t wanna say to much as I don’t wanna steer anyone in a direction, but hopefully you like the pictures more than the text.

  47. All I have to say is… congratulations AMY! A poignant sequence, simple, understandable, very emotional. When I saw the entry, it gave me the chills and that is a sign of something special for me. Amy’s signature color treatment works beautifully here, with those grays/greens that help to convey a sense of cold and sadness, weight and struggle. It all just works. Great job, Amy!
    The weakest, sorry to say, Megan Baker. I know Photoshop is allowed but it should not be allowed to this extent by giving a “photographer” an unfair advantage by allowing this type of manipulation The guys/girls who went out there to battle the cold, get creative with the simple tools at hand and their eyes, should not be overlooked because someone else is sitting comfortably at a computer and stuffing gimmicks into an image that didn’t exist in reality. That’s a cop out in my book but that’s just me.

    • Thanks Max, always value your opinion. I KNEW I would get crap for putting Megans in the top 15 but Photoshop WAS allowed, it was mentioned a few times. This was not a purists contest, nor a Magnum contest nor a film contest. It was a contest about a narrative, a story…a contest where two photos when put together spark our imagination, make us think and tell us what the meaning is behind the images. There were quite a few photoshopped images but none got to me like Megans. Truth be told, she was in and out of my top 15 folder on a daily basis so in reality she just squeezed in and that was mainly due to her creativity and story. I found it…”Haunting” 🙂

      But again, it this were a purist, film, or flat out amazing photography contest she would not have been in the finals. I think many here are not understanding what the contest was all about.

      Hope all is well with you and hope that you are still shooting film!


      • Hey Steve,

        I do get, it really 🙂 I just think that a non-Photoshop heavy image is a more valiant effort and I also worry that non-photoshop heavy photography, being a little less “flashier” to say the least gets put at a disadvantage. Not a purist standpoint or anything but just as a matter of fairness. After all, a story can be created in Photoshop from stock photography.. but then what stops everyone here from doing the same and barely pick up a camera, use their brain and eyes and at least get an A for effort? 🙂

        Everything is cool here..still shooting plenty and finally back in the darkroom doing prints. Photography life is good indeed! You can always check out my site or flickr for updates. Do have a couple articles in mind, if I ever get the time to finish them up. One is about darkroom printing and I’m sure some would find it interesting.



      • I think it’s a great set of images, well executed and deserves to be there, but with Michael’s getting kicked for not being in the set dates … were the children that were added photographed in the set dates and an “aged” look added, or were they actually old photographs? (Either way, Steve’s contest, Steve’s rules, happy he evened looked at my entry :P)

        • Of course the children were not photographed in the dates but her photos were. Her EXIF was clean and clear and shot with a Leica M8. Her entry is valid and one of the finalists. Period. Her entry was a photo, not digital art and it was shot in the time frame according to the EXIF data. The entry that was disqualified was entered but it came to light that the images, both of them, were shot a year ago. THAT was not fair and did not follow the rules so it was taken down. MEgan shot her two images on Jan 30th 2011. She used photoshop which was allowed.

          Not sure why the one or two guys have to keep “beating the dead horse” 🙂 Nothing is changing and her entry is in the top 15. It’s valid, and followed the rules listed on the contest page.

          It seems some of you did not read what I wrote at the top of the page…

          “One more thing before I start presenting the finalists. The decisions made here are final and as with every contest I have held or participated in,not everyone will agree with MY choices. BUT, I have gone over each and every one of these submissions to make sure I did not miss anything. I did this three times and every time I came back to the 15 that you will see on this page. These submissions are the creme of the crop and all of them completed the objective which was to create a photo narrative with TWO photos..basically, to tell a story. Yea, it was tough to do with only two shots but these finalists all did it! So please, no rude comments, none of the “my entry was better” comments and no bitterness! Besides, we may be planning a few more contests to keep everyone motivated and full of passion!”

          Also, I am not a fan of people who did not even enter complaining about the entries.

          • Steve, apologies if it came across as a complaint, or that I was saying it was a bad choice – I wasn’t saying that at all. Great job Megan!

        • Of course, once you start looking at it that way … Just Living also contains photographs from many decades ago to help tell the story. So I think it best just ignored. 🙂

  48. I was really hoping to see more “happy” entries. Everyone seems to went with some kind of drama or sadness. “Dachshund Through the Snow”is my favorite by far 🙂

    • It’s a lot harder to come up with humor, than it is drama-sadness. Ask any actor which is harder to play, drama or comedy. Comedy is a lot more difficult.

    • I also would have liked to see more “funny stories”. Most stories show quite a bit of social criticism…

      I feared that the tendency would go towards the emotional pictures/ stories. I was also tempted to “use” my handicapped daughter for some emotional pictures and an emotional story, but did not find it appropriate.

      However – aside what we like or don´t like – Steve made the effort to make this great contest. And Steve has all the right to choose the stories he liked most. The stories are nevertheless great! The pictures are great! Its incredible and encouraging to see what amateurs are able to do nowadays!!!

      • Hi. Personally I feel like my entry was hilarious. I wanted to do something that I know no one else would do. I didn’t use animals or people, just because I knew that 99% of the entries would involve that subject matter. I’m positive it won’t make the top 15, but I just did it because it made me laugh. Am I allowed to post a link to it?

      • I agree, Rob. Humor is so much harder to create. Sad sap stuff is easy. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Elliott Erwitt’s work, but he’s done some of those two picture stories. Some of them are quite creative, odd and humorous. He’s a very clever man. But if it’s a choice between what Steve described as cat pictures and before and after shots of a kid frowning and then smiling, I’m sure that what we are seeing here is the cream of the crop. Still, I would have liked to see more humor.

  49. I think it’s ok that we can all contribute to the choice of the final 3 entries. I find it more ‘democratic’. Not that i don’t trust your taste Steve,but i think it’s nice to let us all participate on the final choice. I think it would be nice for the next contest to let us all vote for at least half of the total finalists.
    best regards and good luck to everyone !! 🙂

  50. These last four entries to me were weird, except for Amy’s. The others had nice looking pictures, but the story I got and the titles the author placed don’t convey in the pictures to me. Megan Baker’s title and the odd pictures don’t even make sense. Nice photos though. The first one with Photoshop was kind of creepy. LOL! I didn’t get the story conveyed at all, except for it being a dilapidated building with creepy old photos photoshopped into it.
    Amy Medina’s story is understandable immediately. Dan Skjæveland’s story which he conveys finally in his title, is not what I came up with at all. Kind of confusing, but a very graphic story. Still, the title is the final touch in giving us a look at what the author is trying to say, (and we should all be on the same page as to its theme), I felt it missed the mark. Confusing. All in all the pictures were beautiful, graphic and such, but the stories were vague, and then when I finally looked at the titles, totally not what I was thinking. Amy’s hit it though, totally understood it.

    • Thanks Elaine. Yea, Amy’s is very obvious. It tells a clear story and is one of the reasons it was picked, Its also very poignant.

      Megan Bakers story is about an old abandoned school house. In the 2nd image you can see the name of school. Inside the room we see ghosts of students past still attending class. These stories do not have to all be about reality – fantasy is good also. I enjoyed her entry and to me it was a stand out, photoshop or not.

      The homeless man many of you may misinterpret. It took me a few views to see what it was saying and to ME I see a near death homeless man in image #1. His leg is swollen and he is wearing a brace on his leg. His eye looks horrible and he looks like he is near the end of his life. In image #2 it is a different man going through a dumpster. What do we see inside? The mans brace which tells me he probably died and his brace was thrown out. This is how I read the story.

      Our future hope is self explanatory just like Amys.

      • Hi Steve, Yeah, I understood the school house story, but the title makes no sense to me. I thought the homeless guy was peeing behind the dumpster, as did my sister, so I came up with quite a few stories. LOL! Seriously though out of those 4, Amy’s was the most obvious story. Not saying it was the best story, but it was obvious as to what was being stated. Everyone is going to have different understandings of these pictures though. Also, everyone will have their favorites. I just hope that the winner is someone who had all the elements in place and did it with originality.

      • The homeless man story title I came up with in my mind immediately was “Squalor”. Oh, and Megan’s photos placed in the school were distracting to me, and made the story not obvious. What I did was exclude the figures and focused on the school’s structural decay and sort of got a story in my mind from that, but then her title didn’t match what I was thinking at all, so to me it was rather confusing.

  51. The last four are awesome! Saying goodbye, I can relate. I love how she holds his jacket in her arms. Very very nicely done!!!
    The homeless men, oh wow….gut wrenching, and so many details in the first photo. I so love tiny details that you dont see at first glance. Well done!
    The Solitary Game……I didnt get it at first. Until I looked closer and read the sign above the door. Great work! I do like the photo shop touch! The story is very creative in my opinion.
    And the guy with the needle. Its an uncomfortable scene for me. But one people should take a good look at. Again, awesome work!
    I wont vote for any, cause I wouldnt be able to make up my mind. But I would love to see every one of them. Maybe with a little explanation to why they chose these photos for there stories.
    I know that I learned a lot from this contest. Mostly, my photos aint worth……lol.
    Good luck to all!

  52. Shame about the disqualification, as they were truly beautiful photos.

    I think the problem is that it’s extremely difficult to validate any date information – anyone can alter exif data in 2 minutes. (For one of the entries my first thought was “A Christams tree in January – I wonder what date the EXIF says?” Man, I am cynical, aren’t I!)

    Personally, I think in order to stop problems like this arising, there simply shouldn’t be a time limit on any entries.

    • I live in France and I’ve known Christmas trees to hang around here until the end of… February. Mine is still outside the house today. Maybe I’ll take it down around Easter-ish time 😉

    • SkaterGuy,
      I am glad you are looking so carefully at all the details…the Christmas tree is mine. Much to my husband’s disappointment, the “tradition” here at our house is to have our Christmas tree taken down by Valentines’ day. Over the years my husband has learned to live with my quirkiness. One summer day when my girls were really small, they sat wishing at breakfast that Christmas would come a little sooner. Wishes can come true, so I made it happen. We spent the day decorating and cooking and wrapping up our favorite possessions to put under the tree for each other. All this was done by the time my husband arrived home from work to a smell of turkey and the sounds of carols ringing throughout the house, and you guessed it…a decorated tree. If he could have fallen over from surprise I think he would have, but instead he carved the turkey without missing a beat.

      Ann-Marie Hensley

      • LOL… I’m with ya Ann… My tree stays up at least until my birthday which is around MLK day (endish of January). I actually just took it down a week ago. I love Christmas too much to put it away so quickly after!

        • Well a lof of work goes into decorating and if the tree is real, that makes it more worthwhile to keep it as long as possible. Why waste the tree? My sister doesn’t take her tree down until after the new year. She puts so much work into the tree and decorating the house. Why not enjoy it?

      • KEJE, Ann-Marie – thanks for your replies.

        Ann-Marie – I was simply using you as an example to illustrate my point – that there will always be ‘doubt’ about the date of any of the entries. So in order to remove that doubt, or so Steve doesn’t get ‘caught out’ again, simply remove it as one of the qualification criteria. It would be a real shame for the winner’s photos to turn up on Flickr or DPReview in a few months time with a date of 2010 on them, and would cause no end of trouble – trouble that can easily be avoided.

        I hope you weren’t offended – I do like your photos a lot. I hope you don’t mind if I say that they’re not my very favourites, but they’re definitely up there.

        • SkaterGuy,
          I completely understand viewers relating to one style of art more than another. As an artist I know that we bring a little piece of ourselves to everything we create. As people viewing art, I think the same holds true. For each of us, when a piece of art speaks to that emotion that runs strongly through our veins, we prefer it. For me, that emotion is “joy”. When I create something with my pen or my camera, my hope is that the viewer will feel a little better after they have seen it. I know many other artist who choose a different emotion, and I can really appreciate that.

          When I spoke to my sister about some of the praises and critiques I found here on my work, she texted me a simple quote by Elbert Hubbard…

          “To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.”

          Ann-Marie Hensley

        • I personally think it is ok with criteria that can open up to cheating. Otherwise we would also have to say: “you can use anyone’s picture.”

          • That’s true – but I’d imagine it is easier to spot a stolen photo than an altered private one, as the photo would have to be in the public domain in order to have been stolen, and the risk of the owner coming across it is also very real.

            You’re probably right though – and it seems that the disqualified entry was an innocent mistake, anyway.

    • Haha, funny with Christmas trees and January. In Sweden the official “rule” (since it is biblical, it is probably based on when Moses finally threw out the tree he stole on the holy mountain) is to throw them out in early January.

      I always get annoyed with people in the UK throwing out their perfectly ok trees between xmas and NY, and they just put it on the street…

      • Kragom, You may have something here. For those of us who put up trees, the calendar date you throw it out on after the holidays could be used to tell something about your personality, much like a horoscope. Maybe it should be a question asked on a quiz when you find the person you would like to marry:).

  53. Really liked the last entries, all of them. It does not matter if something is posed or photoshopped if it conveys a story in a good way, and I like them. The photoshop maybe the most, but I am a nostalgic (I am sure the photographer saw the children when she took the photo, her imagination was just not captured by the sensor).

    Maybe “Saying goodbye” is controversial if you have very strong opinions about what it portrays, but many of us have no direct link to it, then it is easier to be objective about it.

  54. Dear all,

    I want to apologize to everyone for obviously not reading the rules very thoroughly. Actually neither of shots fall in the assigned time frame as they were taken at the same time. Though it is an excuse, when i head about the contest the deadline was coming up and i scrambled to find 2 shots i thought would be worthy and did not read the regulations carefully. It was my mistake and honestly did not try to cheat my way through. I wish the rest of the entries the best of luck and i look forward to seeing the winning shots and future articles and reviews.


    Michael Nguyen

    • Thanks for writing this Michael. It shows character to come to this forum after the giant Disqualified headline! I would assume that if you were trying to cheat you would have removed the flickr images. Your story holds up for me.

    • You are a great photographer! Timeless pictures and a lovely told story. Too bad you made a mistake – but it does not make your pictures less worthy of beeing seen;-)


  55. got to say that I found “Saying Goodbye” to be in very bad taste and I’m suprised it was selected, also found “A Solitary Game” relied upon photoshop in the first shot to give it any interest at all and the second photo…well

    I do think the others selected are good and a couple are excellent

    • As the photographer for “Saying Goodbye” I’m not sure why you found it in bad taste. My father has a memorial marker in that same cemetery, and my uncle and grandfather are both buried there. I think our soldiers sacrifice a lot to protect our freedoms, and that’s often forgotten. It was not meant to be “in bad taste” at all, but as a thank-you to them.

      • I’m aware of what soldiers have sacrificed and this is why I found the photo to be in bad taste, if the gravestone in the second shot was that of the person in the first shot then that would have been different but it isn’t it’s someone elses.

        that’s what I found in bad taste

        I didn’t read the name of the person who took the photo and I have to say that having followed your work for quite some time I’m really suprised that it was yours.

          • Will. It appears to me that you seem to have a somewhat politically correct stance here. That is you make yourself spokesperson for other people and condemn things because someone else may feel bad about it.
            There is a lot of controversial art out there, and art would never advance if it wasn’t. Such art is also often catalyst to discussions about what is right or wrong.
            This picture instead showed what has happened many times, and it showed affection. If she would have titled it “Stupid boy”, I would have understood that some people would react, but for her actual entry I do not understand how you think, unless you lost someone yourself like that and therefore you react like you do.

          • It won’t let me reply to you Will, but in response to your comment “sometimes you have to think of more than just yourself”… I was. I said that already. And I WAS thinking of every soldier that has sacrificed their life serving the country I live in, which you obviously missed. I’m not going to reply to you anymore because I honestly think comments like yours aren’t at all in the spirit of this contest. People who got picked as finalists shouldn’t have to defend themselves just because you didn’t like their photos/story. You weren’t the judge.

    • Thats what makes this world unique. EVERYONE will have different opinions. If 10 people were chosen to pick the top 15 out of the images sent in, each person would pick different sets of photos. The saying is true, Can’t please everyone all of the time. As for “Saying Goodbye” to be in bad taste..why do you feel that way exactly? Also, Photoshop was allowed and I enjoyed her story. Thanks for the comment.

      • Photoshop was allowed? Because there wasn’t a rule disallowing it? Interesting.
        I really don’t see how mixing photos to make 2 photos that tell a story is working for you. Maybe next time it should just be called graphic design contest?
        As a judge you should be more professional than that. Saying that PS was allowed and you enjoyed her story is not an argument. And I would expect from a judge to have one, rather than being completely subjective.

      • I’m just saying that I feel it’s in bad taste but that not the same as saying it shouldn’t have been selected.

        Yes I read that you allowed photoshopping but I didn’t think that this include adding an object to the photo to give it a reason would be allowed, I’m just suprised that you would have picked something like this.

      • Steve, remember this reply you made to some asking about manipulation

        Steve Huff says:
        January 11, 2011 at 10:08 am

        Photoshop is fine for processing – as heavy as you want. But when things are added to a photo then its manipulation and more digital art IMO. Im all for photoshop but not adding things to an image that were not there. Thx

        • Of course I remember saying that but Megan took a part of an old photo and added to her composition. What I was referring to when I made the comment was “digital art”. For example, one set of images submitted had an old car as the main subject but behind it was all sorts of nuclear bombs going off and the sky was changed, the bombs were added, stars were added and it appears even the driver was added. Digital art to me is totally different than what Megan did and she did email and ask me ahead of time if what she planned was OK. I said YES as she was using one photo to add to another.

          Why do you seem to want to beat a dead horse here? She is a finalist, I chose it, I like it and it is what it is. Time to move on…

          • Steve, I think what people want, me included, is to hear an argument as to where do you draw the line between digital art and photography. This talk about how you chose it, because you like it and you aren’t accepting complaints sounds more like you’re hiding behind your subjectivity. It is perfectly ok to be subjective, but as I said before, as the judge you do have some responsibility. I am sure most, if not all, of the people here made a serious effort and in that light this competition has some importance to them. Saying “I like it, so shut up.” to perfectly reasonable questions doesn’t seem to be a good approach.
            I am certainly not saying you should reconsider, this would be ridiculous at that stage.
            This is your website, of course, and all I said is nothing more than my opinion, so you can just plain ignore it. But I think it would be a pity.

          • One more thing. No matter how you twist it, your comment was against adding something to the photo and it is pretty darn clear. I find you at fault here.
            But the issue of digital art is not the only one. What about this “old” photo that was used? Was it shot between the 5th of January and the 5th of February?

          • Hey steve, don’t the rules state that the photo used must have been taken during a set time period? but as you said above Megan used part of an old photo in her first shot, so tell me how come thats allowed?

            you disqualified someone else for doing just that so why are you allowing Megan’s ?

            is that horse I’m trying to beat dead yet?

          • Haha, there are other old photos in some of the photos… 😉
            I am glad Steve is such a good sport. This would drive many people mad. Steve arranged a contest with a price donated by Seal. Steve came up with the rules, and is the one who can clarify what he meant with them. He was also available for questions during all this time if anyone was uncertain what was allowed.

            If you have a strong vision of something you will try to do that. I had that but not the resources at the time, so I chose to skip sending an entry. I think the photo in question was a clever way of overcoming the obstacle of not being able to use old pictures or others pictures. She could instead have blown up the children to life-size and put them in the room, but it would have been a bit silly, even though it would mean no PS was used… 😉
            And I am sorry Atkins, but your comments are pretty subjective too 😉

    • So wait a minute… in the finalists we have..

      Shots of the homeless
      A guy shooting smack in a warehouse
      and a record of an old man’s life implying his coming death..

      And you have a problem with a depiction of loss due to war?


      makes zero sense to be ‘offended’ by any of them.. least of all that one.

      • There is a difference between being offended and finding something to be in bad taste,
        the two are not the same and I never said I found it offensive.

          • No, I did spend some time planning a shot and then taking it but I wasn’t happy with the end result.

            I’m no good at planning shots, the image in my head of what I want to get never pans out, I’m more of a grab the moment photographer and every now and then I get lucky

        • It wasn’t either.. fwiw.

          There’s nothing in bad taste about depicting loss due to war.. are you happy semantically now?

          I’m not sure what button it pushes for you.. but, there are photos here in the top 15 that depict something that JUST affected me.. and I don’t find them to be in bad taste..

          In fairness, I don’t care for the way they were shot, but I don’t begrudge someone an attempt to portray the situation in any way.

  56. Well as far as the disqualification, shame that had to occur. I sorta liked that story. Here’s to hoping I’m in the final ten that get voted on.

  57. I like the diversity of the chosen subjects. It’ll be interesting to see what else will come tomorrow. I for one hope that the winner will be the one with the most original idea! Sometimes the hardest things look the easiest but its in the subtleties that lies the true talent.

    • Thanks so much Johan… that’s the best compliment ever since I really wracked my brain to come up with an idea that told a coherent story! I found this contest very challenging!
      I am SO honored to be included as a finalist and it has completely made my day!
      Congrats to everyone who has made it so far… and to everyone that’s entered, be proud! This contest was an accomplishment to be in because telling a story with photos isn’t easy!
      (to many exclamation points… I’m just excited… LOL)

  58. The entry from Megan Baker, Brooklyn NY – “A Solitary Game”
    The 1st photo was the kid added to the photo? I think the photo manipulation was not allowed?

      • it is to easy to manipulate the EXIF data. next time there should be evidence shoot. like a poster that have downloaded from your site and then printed then must be inlucded in the shoot after or before just like the colour pasport does.

  59. Ahhh damit. That’s my entry out the window then! My story is pretty much bang on the same as one of the new winners. Oh well. Maybe next time…

  60. I am sure their are people out there who can change the Exif data on the file, I may be right, I may be wrong.

    Sounds like a song.

    I may be right, I may be wrong
    Is Exif data really that strong
    Is it a way of telling a lie
    Just for a camera for which to die
    How many people can do this trick
    Just with a few finger flicks
    Exif changed until the next time
    They want to do a digital crime.


  61. Oopsie, naughty Michael!
    Unfortunately, I don’t think it could have been a mistake, maybe the criteria have to be digital only for such a contest, but even exif can be manipulated, but it’s harder…

  62. Ok guys…have to chime in here. First of all, today we had a disqualification with the Michael Nguyen images. It was brought to my attention that Michael shot the 2nd picture almost a year ago as can be seen on Flickr with comments on it nearly a year ago. This rule is set and strict. The photos had to be taken between Jan 5th and Feb 5th 2011. Period.

    So today there will be FOUR new finalists!

    Also, wanted to say that those of you who oppose me making tomorrows pick by you guys voting, well, I find this to make this contest ultra fair. No matter what I do, what I day or who I pick to be in the finals there will be haters and there will be critics. This contest would not even be here if it were not for Seal who generously donated his M9 and the contest is not some sort of National Geographic masters contest. Rather it is an AMATEUR contest. An ANYONE contest. ANYONE could win, that is what is so cool about it.

    As for letting you guys pick the final three out of is not to gain more traffic to my site as that probably would not happen anyway. I decided to do this to make this contest even more fun for everyone. There will not be cheating, and there will not be issues. The voting will last only through the weekend and only one vote per person will be registered. You guys are not voting for the winner here, just the final TOP 3. Sure, the rules stated I would pick the top 10. It then turned to the top 15 because I liked so many of the entries. Now I am letting you guys choose the final three and the three who deserve it will get in.

    The prizes are great here and I have been up for days trying to make sure that the entries that I have picked deserve to be on this page. For Friday I am making it a bit more fun for everyone who visits here and it will be fun. Once the top 15 are up (on Monday) then the winner selection will begin by Heidi and Rankin.

    Others were worried about the comments affecting the judges decision and let me assure you that THIS IS NOT GOING TO BE AN ISSUE. Do you think Heidi Klum will let what others say affect who she picks? NO! She will pick the entry that she feels is the best of the best and that is the person who will win.

    So everyone relax…in less than an hour I am posting four more finalists. Finalists that I FEEL all told a story, and believe me, I have stared at these shots for days now interpreting these stories and they are there 🙂

    Thanks and good luck to all!


    • Steve, don’t take all the fun away! LOL! We want to hate and critique. Kidding. I think everyone is entitled to their opinion. Even if I don’t agree, I love reading opposing viewpoints. But the fact remains, you will be picking the winners, as will Heidi and Rankin. It’s your choice. Even if I hate what you choose and critique it, I respect your decision as being final. I’m having a blast debating here. I love the photos that people have entered. I may not come to the same conclusions as the author’s did in their stories, but it’s fun to try and guess. I do have opinions about what works and what doesn’t, but that’s just me, and no one has to agree. You choose who you think best tells the story. You, Heidi and Rankin. We don’t have to like it. You can’t please everyone. Look at Simon on American Idol. They all hated him. I loved him. He was honest about what he thought, and I totally respect that. Plus, he was right, and thr truth can hurt sometimes. Steve, rock on!

      • Simon was a putz….. Elaine, I’ve never quite met anyone like yourself that could expound on a topic and turn it into a book. However long it is, or will become in the end, your persistance and dedication, however misdirected it is, I think, has earned a little notch in my book. I give you that. You remind me of my ex !

  63. That is a big shame for Michael..I did the same and submitted images taken before the dates as i forgot those rules, I would think this is an error too, bad luck.

  64. i vote for the octopus hunter..congrats to chalid mawardi nasution from indonesia…

    • Agreed! I haven’t seen anyone else say that. I think it conveys emotion and story without hitting you over the head with it. And it’s beautiful.

  65. i think thats the problem. some people have a lot of friend from blogs, fb, twitter… and other people don’t have.

    toby, i and 495 other hope too 😉

    • I know;-) Good Luck to you too – and all the others. But in the end – there can only be six more entries on the top list…all of us can not win;-)

      One way to prevent facebook friends etc. is to let only those who entered the contest vote. We can verify it with our e-mail address.


  66. The whole thing began with a generous deed and should be seen in that light. From the beginning, the rules attempted to include as many people as possible. Even the changes simply bring more people into the finals. I can find no fault with the spirit of this contest, it’s meant to be fun, and that’s what it is. Quite frankly I have bigger problems, they just dumped YTV from basic cable…my kids are going to kill me!

  67. Hehe. I’m liking that people’s passions are starting to boil over. Good fun. My favourite comment so far is Jim’s wholesale dismissal of the finalists/book recommendation post. Classic. I hope everyone keeps their sense of humour!

  68. Some stories i get, others I dont. The one with the fighter is difficult for me to understand. But, stunning photos for sure!
    I believed the title had to elude to the story being told. And I wrecked my brain for days. Even finding a story to tell was difficult. I never thought it would be as difficult as it was. What I chose for my story really relates to the country where I am from. And some of my friends said, do you think they will get it? So I had to chose a clever title. Just in case. Now I read here…its not really that important. Oh the confusion.
    My personal favorite one is Accomplishment. The little boys face tells so much, in the second shot. Its really touching. And I am excited for him, that someone turned this moment into digital memories. Cause I am sure, he will never forget the feeling of this accomplishment.
    The old man on the bed, wow. It reminds me of my grandfather. That story actually sort of haunts me in a good way.
    I couldnt be a good judge, cause those photos with fantastic quality stand out to me. And I am just drawn to look at them over and over again. Because I want to be a better photographer eventually, when I see a ‘dusty’ photo, thats what I notice first. Silly, I know. Once the contest is over, wouldnt it be great if everyone posted their entry somewhere and provided a link for all others to view the photos? I am very curious to see what others have done.

    And since Steve is austrian, oh my, didnt know that……Gruess Gott aus Deutschland! Tolle Seite, toller Wettbewerb!

    • The title is important. After looking at the pictures we get an impression of what the story is about. Now, if the title doesn’t match at all, then the author of the photos told a different story than what others see. It’s the final validation that what we see is what the author wanted us to see. If we don’t even come close matching as to what the author was trying to say, then the story is a failure. That’s why I wish the titles weren’t given at first, that we had to guess, because then the story most understood by everyone would be finally validated by the author’s title which authenticates it.

  69. Steve – respectfully I have to disagree with your idea of ending the selection process with a communal poll for the final three. This was never part of the original rules and guidelines of the contest. Many participants undoubtedly submitted images knowing that you would be the initial judge, and perhaps they took that into account with their stories.

    Changing the dynamics of the contest “on the fly” does a disservice to the contestants and their submissions, and creates the illusion that the contest is amateurish in its approach – which certainly isn’t my impression to date. Your choices thus far has been exemplary and I see no reason to change what has already been a fantastic process.

    I have full confidence in your ability to select all the finalists on your own…

    • The idea to have the last 3 (out of 10) being polled makes the whole contest much more exciting. Now everybody can participate and be an active part of it. Even those not joining the contest with a narrative, have now the chance to find themselves in a grandiose idea.

    • This was my first reaction too, but thinking about it I can’t see that it does any harm. Originally, there was only supposed to be 10 finalists. Now it’s 15. Allowing everyone help pick the final 3 (bonus) finalists can only be a good thing. It’s been a fun week so far!

    • I agree too.

      for the last 10 (for 3 to be selected) it now becomes a race to see who has got more supporters.

      And should we see this as your intentions to drive more traffic to your site?

      No harm for sure, fair marketing strategy. But if that had been the intention, wouldn’t mind just spelling it out.

    • Jeff is right. Although it would be cool and interesting to get everyone’s viewpoint, the original rules should apply. However, if you wanted to do it to see how close to the mark we get, that would be fun. But, it should only be done after you’ve chosen the top 3 and sent them to Rankin & Heidi.

    • I have to say that I agree with you. It can really be harsh when people are fishing for votes for their own favorite picture – maybe even their own. Will there be a way to prevent people to vote for their own pictures? Or is it okay to vote for yourself? Is it okay to ask others to vote for a certain set of pictures?

      Either way, the decision has already been made, and I am not sure it would be wise to decide to change it again. But I think you must have a set of rules that everybody agree to follow as gentlemen/women to prevent accusations, bitterness et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

      I`m still hoping to be in the next group…;-)


    • Come on, Steve has my full confidence in running the contest too, including his decision to allow seven more people into the finals for selection by us. In the end, I don’t think this does anything negative to the contest. It’s fun! Let’s just have fun with it. This also allows Steve to see what works best and doesn’t work for future contests 😉

      And yes it IS an amateur contest. Amateur, in only it’s positive meanings and none of the negative ones, is part of the whole appeal of Steve’s site for us. It’s why winning this camera seems so possible to 1300 people who likely didn’t submit to win the Oscar Barnack award of equal value. It makes the site and this contest accessible. I think the poll is in line with that accessibility.

  70. “On Friday, instead of posting the final three selections I will be posting 10 selections and YOU, THE READERS will choose your favorite three in a poll that will determine the remaining finalists.”

    Will those ones be anonymous Steve?

  71. Ann Marie Hensley’s set is lovely – makes me smile! You could make up your own story about it, too.

  72. I think all the photos look great. I myself am looking forward to see the rest. I feel that what was noticed and chosen in this contest was not so much what camera was used, lighting or compositional technique but the idea and emotion and story behind the shots.

    I think it was ~6 who said it best earlier in the contest..that the “The mind is the most powerful imager of all. Don’t say too much with the camera, let the two images make the suggestion and leave the final image…the narrative to the imagination. ”

    So I feel that the people who entered kept this in mind and did just that. There is a certain FREESTYLE feel to these photos and I like it. I think it gave the audience a private peek in a day in their life that was certainly spontaneous. Kinda like buying a rough penciled sketch of a Leonardo.

  73. I think Brian Wytcherley’s photos are great, the rest are really weak and very surprised they even made this cut. The rest lack any substance of good composition, interest and honestly hardly award winning photos by any stretch. I have no idea what to even say here. Has anybody above even seen the book “The Decisive Moment” or understand the basics of good composition, the golden section or a root rectangle? My suggestion is to pick up a few books on composition, maybe some HCB books, “Europeans”, “About Russia” or C. Manos book “The Greek Portfolio”. I hope Brian wins from what i can see, he is the only one that has an idea of what a good photo truly is. Im absolutely floored here.

    • Studied them all, Walker Evans, Bruce Davidson, Doisneau, Kertesz, Salgado and more. I discussed with Costa Manos his early book on the Boston Symphony when I met him last year. They are all great and worth emulating.

    • Hey Jim, thanks for your comment and thoughts. Unfortunately you have it all wrong here. This contest was not about the best composition or photography, it was a contest that anyone of any skill level could enter and yes, even win. This was to motivate EVERYONE, not just the Magnum pros. The finalists, IMO, are fantastic. I wish you would have entered because by the sound of it, you would have won! Thanks again!


    • Why does everything always have to be about The Golden Ratio?

      First and foremost as a Hard Science professional I understand the nature of leading the eye..however that surely is mitigated with selective focus, subject isolation, color rendition and contrast?

      Could you expand on why you think Brian’s photos rise above? I see several entries I believe are as strong technically, and I’d say a good third that are all in very solid contest for the story aspect. Obviously everyone has a different taste, but a story by Ansel is not the same story by Joel Peter Witkin (who most people seem to find offensive), David Hamilton (highly controversial as well), or HCB? HCB is a type.. need everything mimic one style? Rules are great.. but often stepping outside what other people perfected leads to a unique style.. surely otherwise we would have nothing but puddle jumping children?

      ************** WARNING WARNING WARNING WARNING **********************


      • At some point it just comes down to what an individual likes or doesn’t like. One way to look at it is this: which photographs would you be willing to put a frame around and hang on your living room wall for the next ten years. I can think of a number of HCB’s that I could live with and look at everyday.

        The process of studying the master photographers is not to copy, but rather, just as writers read many authors, to stuff you brain with great examples. I also study great paintings, and occasionally try to rough sketch them to absorb their form more deeply. After enough time, study and practice an amazing thing happens when it mixes all together and you start thinking that your own photographs are looking pretty good. Maybe it’s just confidence, or maybe it’s arrogance, there’s a fine line between the two, but it’s definitely something.

    • I know where you are coming from Jim, but to me this competition was about having some fun, expressing my passion for photography through an interesting (and difficult) challenge, within my own personal constraints (broken foot). I’m no Adams, HCB, (or Huff!) and I expect I never will be – I’ve never really shot much indoors until this competition (I’m a wander the streets or in the wild kinda guy), but this challenge made me think about taking a different type of photo and for that alone I appreciate the competition and know I have grown as a photographer.

      I have looked at some of those books you mention (in book shops!) but, to be honest, I’m not a student of photography, I’m the guy who has a grasp of the basics and likes to get out and about and take photos. Its why an M9 would be great as I can look more where I’m shooting and less at menu number 47, setting number 9 etc. 🙂 When I have the free time to take photos I go out and take photos, I enjoy what I do and I hope others enjoy it too.

      I think Steve’s guidelines/rules and judging really opened this up to a wide audience, and I’m glad it did or I doubt I would have made the cut! I’m all for constructive criticism BTW, its not just a ‘love in’ but its gotta be constructive.

      I think the selection so far has been great, the photos all very good, but most interesting to see what other peoples take on the challenge directions were – that’s whats most interesting for me anyway. Great variety people!

      -Dan Hartwright

  74. Thank you, Steve and Seal for making this exciting contest happen. We always hear “Save the best until last” and we believe the best is yet to come. In a true inspirational way Steve said to “shoot with confidence” and Seal added “The best camera is the one on your side” providing a superb canvas for all entries and making photography the universe of storytelling. All images so far show peoples stories and the most beautiful story is how confident the people behind the lenses have been.

  75. Just got out of bed (no small feat with a broken foot) and – WOW!!
    I made the top 15? Just – WOW!!
    Sitting here in shock. (Best go get a coffee). I will be smililing a lot today I expect!
    -Dan Hartwright

  76. Dear Steve,
    A tiny request: you could make 35 people happier if you could show the remaining shortlist participants:
    – list 1: no 50 until no 39
    – list 2: no 38 until no 16, the ones you said that title fit photo narrative
    Just name and country would be enough.

    (Not because I hope to be in that list, but) just to make another 35 people happier.
    Sometimes being in the shortlist makes people go out and shoot more.

    Thanks in advance,

    Nice contest and nice pictures.

    • It would make 35 people happier and 1250 unhappy. Leaving it open would make everybody else think that they might be in the top 50 bucket. That would be a good way to end it. 😉

  77. If someone was complaining about the stories/photos not having enough eroticism or “kick to them,” complain no more! Love that last set of “keeping warm.” Well done!

  78. Hi,

    I’m not quite sure how to say this, but I can’t help but find most of the comments rather saccherine. While I think that some of the entries are truly excellent, I find the gushing praise (as much for Steve’s judging skills as for the photos themselves), without any considered citiquing of the entries, more than a little disappointing. I can’t help but feel that people are unwilling to say that they do not like the composition, color, or even subject of entry X because it features, say, a disabled person, as they fear that they will come across as objectionable. It’s a photo competition, and passing judgement on a photo is not the same as passing judgement on the people featured in that photo.

    Taking my previous paragraph into account, I have to say that many of these photos are rather predictable, and dare I say it, trite. I was, in all honesty, hoping to see more photos where unexpected stories were made from more mundane, everyday situations. As it is, the impression that these entries give is that those with access to far away locations, traumatic situations and inspiring individuals also have the ability to tell a better story through photography, and I doubt that is truly the case.

    I hope I don’t come across as cynical or bitter – as I said, I am truly impressed by many of the entries – I just was hoping to be surprised just a bit more than I have been so far.

    Let the blamming begin….

    • @ SkaterGuy Since this is such a feel-good contest I have kept anything other than positive comments to myself. I have a sense others are doing the same. It’s enjoyable. I wouldn’t want to read through criticism in this contest, no matter how constructive it is. I’m just happy for those who were selected and the creativity it brought out in me! Besides, until the final 10, we aren’t the judges anyway!

      For that reason I won’t get into whether I agree or not with your general critique of the entries. Although I will say that the definition of “capturing a narrative” or “telling a story” is broader than I thought of it as and includes what I considered to be capturing or showing a sense, feeling, concept, person, or fact (ie. “sense” of accomplishment, what an octopus hunter does / is, “taste,” “warmth,” “shortage”). I took a narrative / story to be a story of an event. A to B. I did a lot of research on telling a story or narrative with photos when this contest came out and the common theme seemed to be that a great photo story had to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. With 2 photos to use I took the beginning and the end to be a good part to show visually, and the all-encompassing title to suggest the middle story the viewer must create in their mind through the indexical nature of the other photos (black eye means he got punched for example). By that definition though only perhaps “just living” tells a story since the story is his life, the middle of his life is on the wall and the end is the second photo. Interestingly “accomplishment” may also tell a story by this definition through the black and white / color transition!

      Maybe it’s just the way people titled though. For example, If it was “the time he caught an octopus” it would be more of a “story” by that definition. “The Dashound’s day in the snow,” “before and after the fight” etc. (not that these are great titles). The reason these entries are fantastic isn’t necessarily for any story they tell. For example the great part about the child with the camera is that it captures cuteness and an essence of the child! To make it match this narrative definition, the beginning, middle, and / or end of “the time he put the camera in his mouth” wouldn’t be as great.

      But to your comment, while I may not think some tell a sequential story, all these entries are fantastic for what they capture, in so many ways, and each photographer brilliantly achieves what they set out to do (as I interpret their intentions through their titles). What I gathered to be a photo narrative in my research is, in the end, irrelevant since I’m not the judge.

    • I agree. I could make critical comments, and ‘critical’ doesn’t always mean negative, but few seem to want that. And, as you said, anyone doing so would be labeled as bitter.

      The other factor is credibility. Who truly has the credentials to be a critic, if it’s everyone we will be here reading for months. In my professional training, it’s common to criticize your fellow student’s photographs, buts it’s both difficult to take sometimes, and for me at least, difficult to give. I don’t want to hurt anyones feelings. But I’m told I would be doing them a favor. It’s not as bad when the critic is someone you respect, but how do we establish that here? Steve has the keys, it’s his site. I don’t know him, since I’m new here, but I accept the general consensus. If Steve says no critical comments then I guess that’s that. Other than that, again I don’t know.

    • You’ve raised a valid point. Hopefully, we’re all here to learn and become better at what we do. I’d love to see some more constructive criticism.

    • Unfortunately, my concerns expressed earlier:

      “I have to say that many of these photos are rather predictable, and dare I say it, trite….As it is, the impression that these entries give is that those with access to far away locations, traumatic situations and inspiring individuals also have the ability to tell a better story through photography, and I doubt that is truly the case.”

      have only been confirmed by the latest entries. I can’t help but find some of them almost painfully contrived.

      I guess that’s just me – ruining the ‘energy’.

      • I guess i should have posted some of the chicken and egg sets I received (over 40 of them) or one of the hundreds of snapshots of a child not smiling and then smiling, or maybe a few of the images of toys on the floor or one of the over 150 cat pictures. There will always be complainers and would be impossible not to have those who feel they could do better or those who do not agree with my choices. The fact is that the ones chosen are the ones that spoke to me the most and believe me, I scanned all 1300+ and scanned them several times.

        Me, Im just excited and happy for the finalists and am confident the best man or woman will win!

        Thanks for your thoughts though 🙂

        • “There will always be complainers and haters…”

          This is exactly why I was hesitant to express a point of view that doesn’t exactly correspond with everyone else’s stated views.

          • No need to be hesitant. Like I said, there will ALWAYS be those who disagree in situations like this and those who don’t like the outcome. Just human nature. Feel free to speak your mind! No problems or issues at all 🙂

          • Thanks, Steve. Don;t gte me wrong, I don’t dislike the outcome – I just hoped for something a little different to how it’s turned out. I guess everyone’s different.

    • I agree with your general sentiment. I have come to the conclusion that Steve’s photographic style is vastly different than mine, and that my story was not selected based on that. I thought i would see more creativity in the entries, but I think now that creativity and excellent storytelling is in the eye of the beholder. it is interesting to read about others’ perspectives even if i don’t share them.

  79. Steve wrote on the top:
    “These submissions are the creme of the crop and all of them completed the objective which was to create a photo narrative with TWO photos..basically, to tell a story. Yea, it was tough to do with only two shots but these finalists all did it! So please, no rude comments, none of the “my entry was better” comments and no bitterness! Besides, we may be planning a few more contests to keep everyone motivated and full of passion!”

    I thought this description was clear to everyone. But as I saw, it isn’t was.
    I must admit, my English is not perfect. But I knew, what Steve wrote down, without I read anything of his description. Just because I want to enjoy the work of the others. Just because I don’t need any knowledge of foreign languages to do this. Just because these things are universal. Wherever you go everywhere in the world, everyone can understand this.
    Of course, this implies that you can able to be seen.
    Of course there are some people who are exceptions…

    However, everyone want to sent one of the best of his/her photos for this competition. But we should not forget that this, like all of creation is subjective. Maybe your photos just you like, because you created it. Otherwise you can find many people who loves what you created – and also have some people, who do not enjoy this.

    This competition was a game. Thank you Seal, and also thank’s to you, Steve, both of this opportunity. I am honored that I could attend this.

    I hope what I thought was understandable to everyone.

    • But then without opposing or negative comments, there would be no freedom.

      Here’s what the original Steps/Rules said: […there will be no text explaining the photos, just your topic. For example your topic could be called “People in the Park”.]

      Maybe it should have been restricted to one word or no words at all. I don’t know. Doesn’t matter now.

      Best I think, for me anyway, to keep silently working and not enter contests.

      • It has nothing to do with freedom. It has everything to do with respecting another’s
        opinion, direction, view, what have you. There is a time and place for so called critiques by those who think they know what’s what (which isn’t that much in the first place). This was not that time or place….. go back to your forums.

  80. @Toby: I think we’re on the same appreciation-level:
    although the stories are conceptually very different, these stories do best in their diptych format (side by side, next to each other). I think all stories in this contest should be viewed in that way.
    – “Just living”: a very associative story. Also very suggestive, but the important thing is that there are many more images that form this man’s story (images which we can only imagine). Very strong!
    – “Octopus hunter”: the two images go very well together in the diptych. This is totally different. It tells a linear, sequential story. It could be a story in National Geographic or so. Equally strong!
    – “Keeping warm in winter in Japan”: this is very poetic. It makes you wonder what, and why. Impressive.
    also “Shortage of rural doctors in China’s Yunnan province”: the two images go very well together. And it tells a story, like in a good old picture story magazine.
    Stories can be sequential or associative, it doesn’t matter. But for some, it can’t be clear enough. That’s a pity. One should try to read the images, not the titles.

  81. Hey Steve, thanks for making this engrossing and fun while allowing others to learn from your bouquet of finalists. It would be kinda cool if you could eventually keep a post of some of the quirky/interesting/funny submissions.

  82. What an amazing shots. If all 1300 come close to these selected ones, I would like to publish all of them in a book! Superb!

  83. I am truly astonished that my entry got selected, this is already a total win for me as it’s an honor to be compared with these brilliant shots.


  84. The comments here are interesting and just show how different we all are. I find myself disagreeing completely with some people voicing the most self-assured opinions on what is following the rules of the competition best. Sure, some titles may have been done differently. The best a title can do is to guide the imagination in a picture to a level previously not thought of. Other times it may serve as a confirmation. Personally, if I don’t like the title but like the pictures, I just disregard the former, as a picture can really have so many meanings on different levels. A story that moves me is usually recognised before I even have much time to think about it, thus if it tells a story and I like what I see, any criteria in the rules has been fulfilled. If the gut feeling does not react, then I will not spend more time analysing it.

    I am sure the judges will come to a conclusion that is not agreed on by every one, but it matter as little as if some of us should think we are much better portrait photographers than Rankin. We all have different experiences which will influence how we react to pictures, so in the end there is a big subjective component in a competition like this which cannot be removed and should not be removed, as this would make photography and any other art form boring.

  85. Wow, Keeping Warm in Japan is by far the best so far IMO. Still hoping to see some shots done with off camera strobes nominated just to mix the style up though.

  86. Okay, now that I’m an expert on why, how, who and if we need a title at all to a photo, can we dispense with the getting no where comments on titles and concentrate on the photos at hand. I’m more interested into how the shot was constructed, it’s thought process behind it.

    Maybe we should have a contest where Steve gives the title and we all submit 2 photos representing that given title……

    Cheers all,

  87. In my opinion “Just living” is telling the best story. You can read all about the old mans life in the first picture – married, being a soldier – probably in a war too, religious, no children on the wall, etc. etc. Probably he is all by himself now and can barely make it through the day – hence “just living”…hoping to die? Maybe, maybe not but he certainly seems ready to go.

    Second is “Keeping warm in Winter in Japan”. Timeless pictures and a story well told.

    Third best storytelling is “Octopus Hunter”. Nicely done.

    Many of the other pictures/stories are also good. But right now my guess is that one of the three above is getting the Leica M9…darn! I really wanted it;-)

  88. Steve, for the friday poll – are you going to limit the voters to those with previously registered accounts? Seems like it would be the only way to prevent chicanery.

    • Im not sure that the poll plug in allows for that but the poll would only allow one vote per person and would not count multiple votes. All of the polls I have run in the past have been fair and without issues. Just thought it would be a good idea for the last three 🙂

      • Steve good way to mix in the popular component. Your diversification of the decision making between experts, non-experts, and the “public” of this site is both effective (no one person for anyone who’s upset to blame), unique (as far as I’ve seen), and in my opinion, true to the uniqueness and spirit of your site. Not entirely technical/expert driven nor entirely public forum driven like the other sites.

      • Yes, It can be a good idea. I was just curious as to how you were ‘keeping it fair’ given the prize!

        On the other hand, I have enjoyed looking at your top selection, and to a degree personally (not that it matters!) would prefer it along the original guidelines, because your readers come here for your knowledge and expertise.

        However, given the conversation that’s breaking out in the comments, it is probably the way to go! I certainly don’t qualify as any kind of expert to contest running or photography 🙂

          • Per the update –

            “On Friday, instead of posting the final three selections I will be posting 10 selections and YOU, THE READERS will choose your favorite three in a poll that will determine the remaining finalists”

  89. Steve, its really great that you have chosen to post three a day, it truly increases the suspense for each following entry! I have read many comments here and although I do believe that people are entitled to their own opinion, I think everyone has to remember that you have all agreed to enter a contest which had certain rules and one of them was that Steve would pick the top 15.

    I have my personal opinion on what stories the pictures may have told without the titles and I’m sure it would be different from one individual to another. We could probably debate the top fifteen pics for weeks to come but when we really get down to it, we are in the hands of a judge and its the same for every contest. I believe that Steve has really done his best to pick the top 15 and I’m sure he didn’t make any decisions lightly. Thank you!

    • I never thought of that Robert! Does this mean that if I won I would have to share the M9 with my son? It would be painful to watch him chewing on it! 🙂

  90. Daniele “Faith in Yourself” (brilliant use of B&W) and Michael “Keeping Warm in Winter in Japan” (just stunning imaginative shots) – both breathtaking stories, beautiful photos……… again I take my hat off to you and to all the entries chosen so far….truly amazing!

    I vow to keep learning trying and capturing those elusive moments and one day I hope I can produce shots like this even if it takes me the next 50 years to achieve that on my Leica ! (I calculate that will be on a Leica M26! Or maybe I will just stick to an M8 which will be a grand antique…)

    Please Steve run the competition once a year – and Leica I hope you are watching and listening otherwise we will all donate our Leica’s to make it possible!

    best wishes Richard

    • I would LOVE To do a huge contest like this once a year, for the latest and greatest Leica camera and a lens. If Leica donated it would be a no brainer. I’ll do my best 🙂

        • Richard- excellent idea! Everyone donates a bit and in total it’s enough for a Leica camera and lens (1300 entries x $10 each = $13,000) and you can submit to win the contest! Steve takes the leftover for the site and going through the photos. Let’s do one a week LOL!

          • In fact I meant our Leica’s(!)* but your idea is easier and less painful! Brilliant! I think once a year is more than enough – can you imagine the work Steve has had to do? … Mindboggling!

      • That would be excellent!! I guess more and more people would be attracted to this site every year and it would become worldwide popular (even more than now). I’m a Canon guy, but after doing some research about contests I found this page, then started visiting other postings and discovered the magic of Leica cameras. After reading the reviews and watching the photos I wanted a Leica.
        I guess if Leica donated just one camera per year, the Leica brand would be even more known among photographers, without converting them in a “product for the masses”. I mean, even more people would admire Leicas, and the market would certainly grow, because a thousands of people would come to this site and they would found the magic of Leica just like me.

        Please continue with this. It is so inspiring to be in a constest with all those great phhotographers! Great site!!

  91. Very beautiful photos with amazing stories! My entry was no match. I give-up 🙁 Congratulations to the ones who got selected and to the future winner 🙂

  92. Congrats to yet another round of finalists.. the first camera shot is clever!

    I’m afraid the MMA fighter shots are lost on me. I’m not connecting the images with the title..

    Was he in a fight, is that why he has a black eye? but no crowd before or after? Maybe someone can help me understand that one a bit more.

    The third one for today, Wednesday sure has a great deal of beaty and is more of a slice of life set.

    Well done everyone (and I would appreciate some help on the interpreting of the mma shots as I’m missing something)

    • Fair notice, this one above is from me.. I wasn’t logged in and made a mistake.

      I think the images are nice, but I am lost on the story.. anyone care to help guide me>

  93. These are fantastic! I really would like to know how Michael Nguyen captured so much snow in that picture (if he’s reading)

    By the way I think the format of this contest was a stroke of genius! An expert/vetran contest maker couldn’t have done better.

    First, the guidelines demand creativity in a way that actually makes any participant a better photographer. In fact, I might do two-photo narratives to tell stories on a daily basis from now on.

    Second, what Seal, Steve, and Leica are doing with donating their stuff is as feel-good as a donation box on a table of grapefruits at the end of someone’s Arizona driveway. And all three have earned spotless brand images and loyal followings over the years- it would have been difficult for this to have been done so cleanly by others! In this internet age, this much unchallenged goodwill online notably absent of anonymous trolls is unprecedented and I think it’s a direct result of these factors.

    Third, having Heidi as one of the judges is brilliant- since all subjectivities can be questioned why not have the decisive one be too graceful and charming for anyone to get upset over?

    Forth Steve putting these up 3 at a time is so great. It upholds the suspense, allows us all to enjoy the contest much longer, and it’s amazing to slowly watch the diversity of topics, styles, narratives, and emotional invocations unfold.

    All around genius!

  94. Okay, Steve just added three more entries. Pictures are gorgeous. No cell phone shots here. Daniele Zedda’s title to the photos don’t immediately come to my mind. I have a different title in my head from these photos. Again, the picture story should immediately jog your brain to the title. If you look at the pictures, the title given doesn’t jump into my mind. Does it for you? Absolutely gorgeous photos though.

    Dan Hartwright’s photos are adorable, but I wouldn’t have guessed that title either. I wouldn’t have guess that the baby is eating the phone, because it doesn’t look like that to me. I think it looks more like a title of “Curiosity” to me. Beautiful photos, but the story and title should be obvious.

    The last photo story by Michael Nguyen is beautiful Again, I would have never guessed that title. Would you? What title pops into your mind immediately as you look at these last 3 entries? Do they meet the criteria of the rules? Do the story titles pop into your head match the titles even remotely close to the author’s title? I don’t think so. So far, only Amy-Marie Hensley has it the nail on the head with the title and story.

    • Keep in mind elaine that the titles were not even supposed to be included in the final posting. When looking at the photos you can create you own title. When judging them I purposely avoided looking at the titles. I judged them based on the photos. When I had my top 50 I then looked over the titles to see if the photographer was telling the story that I thought I saw. 38 out of 50 were so I once again narrowed them down.

      But originally the titles were not even going to be used on this page at all. I decided to put them up anyway to show what the photographer had in mind when shooting them AND to me, all of the titles fit perfectly. Not sure how you can’t see that.

      Accomplishment by Andy Allaway – This one matches perfectly. In #1 we see the boy getting his new braces which appear to be in a rehabilitation center. It is black and white as this is a moment of uncertainty for him. In #2 we see him with the braces on, happy as can be with that huge smile on his face that just screams “Accomplishment”.

      Octopus Hunter – Self explanatory and matches the photos perfectly. Boys hunting for Octopus.

      Just Living – Again, matches perfectly. Sure other titles can be given here but to me I see in #1 the photos of the man when he was young and truly alive. In #2 he is laying in bed getting through the day by “just living”. Laying there and ready for the end to come. Just living until that day comes.

      Free as a bird in my own world – Again, fits perfectly. In the outside world she is sitting there as everyone zooms by her. All of the chaos surrounds her but she is still there, happy. When she is in her own world she is truly free as a bird, very happy and loving what she does. Just so happens she is working on a painting of a bird. Yea, she is free as a bird in her own world.

      I can go on and on but you get my point. The titles fit the stories but you just have to interpret the stories in the right way.Some of us read them another way which is also fine but the cool thing is they all make you think. Some are fun, some may be silly, some are dark and some are even erotic. I think all are worthy of the top spots so far. Six more to go!

      • Too bad you didn’t leave the titles out so we could have guessed to see if we’d all come up with similar results in a theme. That would have helped resolve any doubt. My sis looked at these and she came close to some of the themes without looking at the titles, but the only one that she nailed was the dog running through the snow. Though she did get a close theme to the Boxer photo story. The “Just Living” story, we both thought the guy in the bed had died. The titles are close but, not quite spot-on to me or my sister who looked at the photos without the titles. (I hid them). So, getting close to the theme is cool, but the title should also be quite clever in the story telling. That’s where the real contest begins, I think.

        • I disagree. I don’t think the contest begins at cleverly titling. I think it begins and ends with the story told in the photos.

          You prefer the daschund through the snow set.. great, we get it.

          I think that’s a great set, whimsical, fantastically shot, and happens to have a cute title. However to me, it’s not in the strong lead because, despite all of the fantastic aspects of it, there is some stronger story telling in other submissions

          In the case of that one set, do you think it would be worse for a title like ‘new friendship’ or ‘Christmas day’ or ‘Home Again?”

          The title aids the lighthearted feel, however that would have come through in many different ways.

          Personally I think you are getting way too hung up on such a pedantic issue.

          • AzX1- although I’m not aligning myself with Elaine’s comments overall I did consider the title to be a crucial component- the third element so to say. We were only given three blank canvases after all (2 photos and a title) to work with.

            It could connect the photos or parallel a connection between them, focus their context or broaden it, or a number of other effective implementations. I’m disappointed if I feel a title was taken as a trivial matter. I spent as much time thinking of a title as I did my photos. The context can be everything. I think it’s great Steve decided to include the titles.

          • Well, I guess I have always been drawn to simple obvious titles if they are even present.

            If anything I feel that a long title is a little bit of a gimme when it’s included.. to me most of the titles take away from looking for the story, or interpretation, which is why overall I don’t think it matters much in this context.

            To be clear, I think all of the entries are very strong on a photographic front.. but I’d say there are, for me, about three or four that REALLY stand out as a story..

            I also think the idea of story is different for everyone. For example the last shot posted (wednesday) or ‘octopus hunter’ are a small slice of daily life, vs ‘just living’ which is a story of an entire life.. so there are obviously going to be personal preferences there.

            To be honest I would rather no titles, but I don’t think it detracts, or really adds, it just.. is.

            I can’t have any complaints about this contest, the results presented have been fantastic, and the results I personally achieved while conceiving and shooting were outright cathartic, regardless of whether my results can stand up to the other fantastic submissions or not.

            It’s definitely prompted me to find other avenues or contests in which to participate – because as a non-professional it’s great motivation.

          • But the contest is to tell a story that we can all guess to its theme, which is why the title is included. If the title doesn’t resonate with the viewer after seeing the photo story, or match the story, as seen in some cases, then the story with author’s title (their theme) didn’t come across. The title should be clever and tell the story, but the story comes first. It’s only after reading the title should the viewer & author be on the same page. But I understand the reason for the title. Without the title, the rules of what the author is trying to convey could be read differently by viewers, but not authenticated. So, the 3 elements if the 2 pictures that tell the story and the title are all important.

      • Steve,
        Your jobs is excellent as your comments. I wish smart person like you become judge on World Press Photo. 🙂

        Why you keep trying to defend and lead us to follow your “empty” argumentation?
        Please… be wise and fair.. you not judge at all.. and stop guide us to like Ann-Marie Hensley’s story as the best one.. 9 story here are best.. not only Ann-Marie Hensley’s.

      • Oh, and may I add, the viewer/reader decides on the story or the pictures.
        With only two pictures, the purpose would be to let the viewer write the story in their mind, which is the beautiful thing about this.
        Give them the start, and let them interpret the middle or the end.
        It’s not a documentary, it’s two pictures.
        So yeah, the title gives us the creator’s view, but who cares if it doesn’t match the viewers’?

      • Steve, I don’t think that you should explain with a stroppy woman…
        You wrote in your – and Seal competition -, you selected the pictures, I don’t understand her…

    • I’m not sure I entirely agree with your rationale, Elaine.

      “we should be able to tell what is going on from the pictures…there is no explanatory text, only the topic/title”.

      Given this, I agree that the topic/title is a vital part of the submission, but it does not follow that the topic/title should be what immediately comes to mind from viewing the pictures. In fact I would be inclined to argue that the rules as stated suggest the topic/title when done properly should add to one’s understanding of the pictures, or provide contextual information that completes the narrative, in much the same way that a caption would for one picture. On that basis one might think that the title for the Dachshund submission fails the test, although personally I think it doesn’t because it wins with humour and clever allusions instead.

      My own feeling is that some of the topic/titles work better with their pictures than others, but that is exactly what you expect in any competition.

      • I agree, but the title must add to the story that you yourself interpret when you see the photos. Some of the titles do not do this. Some of the titles don’t quite make it.

        • Make what Elaine; is it in the rule somewhere?
          LOL, I think you’re making this up as you go.
          Agree with Michael by the way.
          Steve’s rule says that there can only be a title, he didn’t specify what rules you have to follow in titling your pictures. I would have thought common sense would suffice, and some of the titles so far are quite clever, good on them, if not, just enjoy the pictures.

    • What’s wrong with cell phone shots? The camera doesn’t matter. Personally, I have more gear than most people can imagine, but I still submitted two cell phone photos. Why? Because picture is everything. I may not be in the top 15 (there’s still hope!), but it’s definitely not the camera’s fault.

      Regarding titles, I actually consider it a strength that it doesn’t “jump into mind”. There’s no reason to tell the viewer what she’s looking at, is there? Dog in the snow? No doubt about it. It’s a photo. We can all see that.

      All the top photos so far are good, but some are better than the others. Will be interesting to see who wins. Good luck to all the finalists!

    • Totally agree with you. The title should preferably be clever and “follow from” or be “congruent with” the set of images.

  95. A totally agree with Elaine conclusion.
    Given the rules, the best entry till now is Ann-Marie´s.
    But, wow, all these is very, very good stuff.
    From the third set i would choose Michael Ngueyn

  96. Although the photos are beautiful, some of the titles are lacking. I don’t see any cell phone pictures here, so I’m guessing more stock is placed in the photo than the meaning which should come across without a title. (The title should be obvious by the pictures.) So, although I like all of the pictures here, I’m a bit confused by the rules versus what’s displayed here. I guess by reading the rules the picture story should have been easily and cleverly titled. The last entry by Brian Wytcherley, although beautiful, doesn’t convey the title given IMHO. Ann-Marie Hensley gave the most clever title, and it’s pretty dang close to what was requested by the rules. Andy Allaway’s pictures, although adorable, was a bit confusing and not immediately apparent to what was being told in the story. I think the confusion lies in the child holding the toy. It distracted me from the accomplishment of putting on the braces.
    Bram Platel’s photo series is amazing, but I’m not quite sure the title is the best clever choice. Maybe just a “No Boundaries” title would have been closer to what is conveyed in the picture. again, it’s my opinion. I love the photos though. But that being said, the contest is more about the story telling which includes an matching title which would be obvious to all. The wording really matters.
    António Miranda’s photo series are beautiful, but I don’t think the title quite matches the story. What I mean to say is that, I would have guessed another title. The story must be universally understood.
    Chalid Mawardi Nasution’s picture story is easy to figure out, although the title isn’t the best. If you combine all the elements from the rules given, only Ann-Marie Hensley’s story and title fits the criteria perfectly. Do I like her photos the best? Not necessarily, but the combination of picture story and title fit the rules the best.

    Again, my opinion. Now, if this were a matter of who took the best photo and with the best camera or whatever, the results would be different in my eyes. But one thing sticks out in the rules, the fact that any camera, even a cell phone photo could be used. This tells me that the picture isn’t the most important element in the contest. It’s only part of the whole. The whole story and matching title is the key to winning this contest.

    • Hey Elaine, thanks for your thoughts. The 15 photos that will end up being the final 15 will be the ones who followed all the rules, and created the best stories using two images. Overall, out of 1300+ submissions I think there were 5 or 6 cel phone sets. It is possible an Iphone set may be in the top 15 as so far there have been only 9 posted. It is and never was about the gear which is why the gear used is not listed. Its about the photos and the story, which is what the contest was about. Thanks for your submission, made me smile 🙂

      • Steve, It’s not so much the pictures as it is the titles to match the pictures that should be obvious to everyone who looks at them. I agree that is shouldn’t be about the gear at all. It’s all about making a story and matching a title that fits like a glove. So far, I haven’t seen that done to where everyone would come to the same conclusion by looking at the photo stories. So, the pictures are all absolutely gorgeous, but the titles don’t fit the stories being told. All except Ann-Marie Hensley’s. It was spot-on. The others although beautiful didn’t write titles that fit perfectly or were as clever. But, that’s my opinion.

        • Oh, no problem Steve. I knew that would make you laugh. It made me laugh too. Now, who knows if others would come up with the same title? That’s the key thing. 🙂

      • Steve, this is kinda hard contest. I no doubt about your independent vision to choose.
        But I hope Heidi and Rankin don’t see all the comments here especially for comments which try to lead to some name.


    • Dear Elaine,
      after reading your comments I would like to say, that it may not be so easy to find the right meaning of words chosen by a non native English speaking person.
      As an Austrian, I understand what Antonio means, but I also know that he have chosen the wrong words.
      I am sure if he would use his native portuguese words for the title, it would be a perfect match.
      Regards, Gernot

      • Yes, but the theme should be apparent, and the wording should be matching the story as close as possible. With the “Just Living”, I found, as did my sister, that the title didn’t match the story, because we both though that old man was dead in that picture. So, we came up with a different title. But it has to be a lot harder fo those in other countries to come up with a title that will be understood, especially if English isn’t the first language. I can totally empathize with you.

      • “Just living”, within the “proper” framework of interpretation, is a very cleverly chosen title. I’m sure Antonio has carefully weighed the words.

        • Agree Johan.
          “Just living” is a very clever title, I like it.
          Just on the brink of living – not dead.
          Reliving his memories.
          But just.
          It’s an amazing title.

    • Dear Elaine,
      You describe a smart opinion for each photos but at last words you mention one name who “should win” the contest, Ann-Marrie Hensley. You were trying to explain all the viewers here about how photos should match to to the story. But you forget one thing. You should “stand” where and how those photographers made their story. Its starts from idea, execution, and result. and there’s also Handicap Factor. Imagine how all the photographer made their story. All comments here are positive, but over all, a story from Chalid Mawardi Nasution is the best one, the simple one, and the hardest one to create. From Nasution’s story I totally understand all without thinking at all. At this phase, the tittle is not necessary. because everyone, I’m sure simply understand what Nasution’s photos trying to tell. And also Octopus Hunter give as complete story only with two photo.


      • I didn’t say Ann-Marie should win. I said her story is the one I understood immediately and the title verified it. Others will either agree or disagree. I like the Octopus story, and agree with you that the story is there, but everyone in this forum will have a view on which story was obvious first to them, coupled with the title which compliments. I just feel that Ann-Marie nailed all of it. But you think Chalid nailed it.Which should win? That’s up to the judges, but I’m certainly going to express what to me made the best story with complimenting, matching title.

        • I thought a “picture was worth a thousand words”… who needs a title?–there wasn’t a submission presented here that I did not know what was going on immediately–and most hit the viewer like a ton of bricks.

  97. Steve, you should offer the winners/finallist a chance to tell more about their photos. (After the judging of course)

    Yes a image is worth a thousand words, but I feel that some of these entrances are so powerful, and there are so much behind the story, they need to be elaborated

  98. Great selections and I can tell these folks were inspired to tell a story. It would be hard to pick a favorite, but as a dachshund owner I’m partial to the Ann-Marie’s so far. 🙂

  99. So far it looks REALLY GOOD.

    BTW, it must have been quite some job to pick BEST_15 out of 1.300+ entries, wow!

  100. Guys.. all photos Steve has been choose is superb..
    Why suddenly you all become judges or jurors….



    • we aren’t judging, we are just voicing our opinions and giving constructive criticism. Your right all the shots so far are great pictures.

      feedback is what makes open forums like this interesting … if all everyone posted was “great pictures wow” it wouldnt be very interesting… instead if we all put in our two cents it makes for a richer community :).

  101. These are really simple and straight forward, but yet conveys a strong message (“says a thousand words”). I can totally see how hard it was for you to choose!

  102. wow, even though I’m not in the 15, I’ve learned and been inspired a ton from the first selections!

  103. The shots so far are all great, but to be honest I was expecting more in the story department. …. Its like guy serves glass of water…. what will he do next? could he possibly drink it? yes! he does woo!..

    So far i think the best one is “just living” The first picture has you thinking “ok some wall with pictures” … then you see the next one and “its a dead old man”… at first it went over my head… but then I went back to the first picture, paid attention to the detail re read the title and it hit me this is the story of this man’s entire life, possibly the longest story you can tell in 2 pictures. Now if you look at the pictures they aren’t amazing pictures by themselves… the whole package the tile, and the way the two images work together really has what I thought this contest was all about.

    It does however seem that all the entries are “mushy” i would love to see some comedy even erotism or even action to add a little variety to what we’ve seen so far.

    Again this is just MY OPINION, and let me restate so far i think all the shots are excellent pictures. I just think the best stories are the ones where when you see the first picture you have no idea what the next one will be. Every good piece of literature has to have a beginning a plot twist a climax and resolution and thats what i am hoping to see.

    • I totally agree. That’s the essence of this contest. Telling a story that’s obvious to everyone who looks at it. It’s so important to be able to name the title and be pretty darn close if not accurate to what the author named the picture story as well. I don’t think the “Just Lliving” title matches the picture story. I got a different title from it, something like “A Full Life” or “Life Cycle”or something similar. That’s why I didn’t think it quite made the cut in my eyes, although it was a compelling photo story.

      I agree, more comedy would be cool but the title better match the picture story or it’s not going to measure up either.

      I think all of these shots are wonderful too, but that isn’t the contest, just like you state.

      • I kinda disagree on the title thing…. I think the title should compliment the pictures and only hint at what the narrative is.

        I think the best way to get the effect on this type of narrative is a vague title wich you should read first and without even looking at the pictures just think a little about the title, let it marinate in ur mind for a few seconds.

        next look at the first picture, a long hard look and at this point you should have an idea but still not be 100% sure what your looking at, and finally you see the last picture and then it should all click and make sense, the title the images, everything… and if it goes like that you should be left with some sort of reaction like “ooohhhh” or something along those lines.

        I think if the title tell you “man serving a cup of water and drinking it” then it really doesn’t matter what the pictures show cause your already conditioned to get the story from the title.

        In my opinion the best titles are the short ones that just set the tone for the shots… i think the ones that did this best were “accomplishment” and “faith in yourself”

        • It’s getting really (good) interesting, through both the photos and the comments, to see how other people interpreted everything.

  104. More brilliant photos here. Can’t wait for the next three today. The results here are a testament to the challenge that was set. So thought provoking and challenging!!!

    Really well done guys 🙂

    • Totally agree with the comments on the excellence of these entries..

      So hard to judge – some breathtaking pictures of harrowing subjects, juxtaposed with pictures of the sheer joy of life. Love the Dachshund !

      How can one choose between such extremes of joy and sadness? One type of picture is not more “worthy” of winning than the other, both reflect the human condition. Both are valid.

      Steve – you’ve gotta find a way to run this contest on an annual basis. It could become huge ! I’m sure there are many, many people ( me for example ! ) who would love to take part in the future.

      Problem is, where to find a source of Leica M9’s to give away !!

      • I think if Leica’s marketing have their heads screwed on they should sponsor the competition. I don’t think I’ve seen a competition that has been this inspiring before, truly an excellent idea. I enjoyed doing my entry and I’ve enjoyed seeing the other entries. Steve really should put them all up on a website, I’d be keen to see what others have done.


  105. I’m impressed by the power of the sequence called “Shortage of rural doctors in China’s Yunnan province”.

  106. This is such a great competition. So much better than “best landscape” or “best street shot”. I always think every picture should tell a story, so giving a narrative with two is a fantastic idea, as it actually inspired me to have a go. I don’t think I’ll win having seen the others but I’m still pretty pleased with my effort. Perhaps Steve has invented a new branch of photography. Rather than one picture we should all look to do more two-picture stories. I know I will try it again. I love the Yunnan Province one, my favourite so far.


  107. Would like to echo Ashwin’s comment: Everyone’s a winner here! What a competition.. Excellent photographs, definitely makes me want to see all submission!

  108. Images like these are what I want to see when I’m out looking at photography, both published and actual prints. I am glad I am not the judge. With just two sets or six submissions posted, it is easy to see that judging will be tough.

    Good luck judges! Nicely done photographers!


  109. Bram Platel’s “Free as a bird in my own world” is terrific! An uplifting story with an almost constant stream of visual echoes between the two images. I love how the main subject is set so still on the street in the first shot – comfortable in the outer world – and then expresses her inner vision to canvas in the second. Goodness…Bram has even aped the model’s painterly style in the initial image!

    Excellent technique, well married images, poetic and brilliant…very well done. Congratulations on making it to the finals, Bram.

    • Thank you so much! I was so happy to see that I made it to the finals! I am glad that my images conveyed the message I intended. The ‘model’ is my mother, who despite her progressing muscle disease still is able to make the very best of her life.

  110. These are very strong entries, all of them! Great work on Steve’s part to mobilize such an amazing array of photographers. Everyone’s a winner here!

      • Thanks! It’s an honor to be part of the process! Sometimes, its the journey that’s as rewarding as the destination. That’s how I feel about this contest. Getting to see all of this marvelous work benefits us all as photographers, enthusiasts and those who appreciate great images and art. Only one will be able to win the prize, but we all win in the end.

        As for me, I am happy that Steve asks me to help out now and again, and it’s great to be able to contribute to the site!

        • The photos are all so beautiful. I would love for this to become a weekly inspiration theme. Maybe win photo books or something. I would be willing to donate a few pristine photo books as prizes.

  111. Great entries!! I love most of them, my favorite is probably “Dachshund Through the Snow” right now. Congrats to all the finalist. Looking forward for tomorrow’s entries 🙂

  112. In regard to the Yunnan province, the photos are great, interesting, visually appealing, etc., but I think I am missing what is linking them together. I don’t see “shortage of doctors” in the second shot or how it relates to the first one.

    • From my view, the first picture shows family members moaning a death and the second picture carrying the casket,so I’d say I see the link.

      • Agreed.. it is somewhat subtle, it’s not necessarily clear to those who have not seen a field carry that they may be removing a small I think it takes a bit more looking.

        • Thanks for the clarification. It makes more sense with more context. I guess I am used to having captions to refer to, didn’t quite catch it.

      • You know what.. I keep going back to this shot.. and I think Steven is right. What I initially thought is not necessarily what I think now.

        The foot by the fire without a shoe and the axe in the second shot.. so is this a story of a kid who had to have his foot amputated. I actually don’t think this is very clear at all, and after studying the shots for a while now.. I’m not convinced they are carrying anything other than a small sling for supplies, etc.

        So while I may have hit the proper story at one time, I don’t know that it’s clear enough.. and the title is just.. unhelpful.. which is where others talking about confirmation have a point.

  113. There all great! Well done, Part of the reasons that we like one set of images is very subjective. No 1 pulls at my heart strings and really tells a very coherent story. WE need to see MORE!
    Thanks for all your efforts ..

  114. Very nice! This is so much fun! thank you very much for posting these, those are some great narratives!

  115. So fun! I had a great time submitting my entry, and as others have said, I won’t be bothered losing to entries such as these. Participating in and of itself has been very engaging for me and spurred me on to have more fun yet with my own photography. Thank you Steve, ~6, Heidi, and Rankin for all that you are doing for this community (especially Steve, who gets the fun and the fatigue related to sifting through 1300 entries).

  116. Gorgeous photos so far… so much emotion and story behind each shot. Look forward to seeing the rest!

  117. Wow… These are really really amazing and inspiring. Cheers to those listed so far, and thank you.

  118. Aaaand… third world poverty! And disabled people! Only tragedies and those who rise above need apply…

    • Word, Emily. There are one or two images I like, but quite a few so far are disappointing. So straightforward and not much depth to many of them. A lot of those daily inspirational images have a huge yawn-factor too.

      I didnt submit anything but hopefully we get some better ones coming up in the next few days.

    • I think your comments more or less speak for themselves…disturbing….Regardless, the images that I have seen, rather than disturbing, are almost uniformly inspiring, not only in terms of theme, but also in terms of style, composition, cohesion, and the thought put into them. There is no way to trivialize this work as such.

      Bravo to all of the contestants. I am looking forward to the finalists as much as everyone ese

  119. To all that have their pictures here on the site up to now – all very well done! This is a wide range of stories told, some that make you smile and some that make you think … some that are short stories and some that are novels. It is amazing how you can put it down to two pictures. I have some favorites so far but I’m very keen on seeing how this proceeds! @ Steve: well-selected – it is for sure not easy going to narrow this all down to a shortlist.

  120. Oh yes! Three beautiful entries again! So happy I am not the judge! Bram, ADORE you execution of the task! The movement, the colors, her smile!!! Can I have her number??? 😉
    The dachshund is another entry that makes me think of freedom, and best mates! 🙂
    The chinese one is a lovely time document reminding is how different life can be in separate parts of this vast country. Well framed!

  121. Really a show of amazing photographs! I wish I can have the same experience as you, Ann-Marie, but seeing the photos here and knowing what I submited myself I doubt it. I really liked the story in your two pics. A feel-good experience;-) However, the competition is strong – really strong!

    So far six very strong stories – they remind me of why I started out as a photographer in the first place! António Miranda`s photos reminds me of Sebastian Salgado in a way…nice job, well done!

    Best Regards,


  122. Wow! I take my hat off to the contestants…..Brian Wytcherleys “Shortage of rural doctors in China’s Yunnan province” is just breathtaking … my shots pale into insignificance against such competition. I guess some are just born with this talent and some strive thier whole lives to learn …. but I love that …. My moment came when Cambridge sank in front of me in 1978 in the Oxford Cambridge boat race in London ++ two photographers ,caught the moment, but the other guys shots were better or more exactly closer and syndicated w-w in every conceivable publication…. next time I know what to do!….. Just waiting for that moment….. knowing that you create that opportunity too…. good luck to the top 15 its a great competition! Richard

    • Ya, I have a hard time picking between Wytcherley’s and Miranda’s… two totally seperate photo sets (in terms of subject and style), both are perfect. I hope one of these two win.

  123. Man, these are really good, some very powerful imagery so far, I mist say that the person that wins the M9 definitely deserves it!

  124. Screaming and crying all at the same time–overwhelming tears of joy!

    Two wonderful photographs would have been me scrolling down the page with a look of anxiety and expectation, and then me jumping three feet off the ground screaming like a fool. I am here alone in the house with Ruby the dog in the photos, who is equally pleased and freaked out, most likely due to of my screaming.

    Thank you Steve for the joy, and most of all thank you for getting my brain moving in a direction it never should have left!

    Ann-Marie Hensley

    Ann-Marie Hensley

  125. number 3 is great! Made me wanna zoom in to see more of this man’s room, his expression and the pictures. fantastic.

  126. Congrats Steve.. I love all the top entries so far.. Congrats too for the photographers.. 😉

  127. Wow, some brilliant pictures. I don’t think my entry was much cop, but I’m definitely motivated to take more of these stories, it’s a great idea. Whoever wins, given the standard above, deserves it!

  128. Great entries… from from an editorial standpoint, isn’t b&w paired with color generally frowned upon? ‘Just Living’ is a gorgeous/striking pair of images.

    • I’ll respond to my own comment just to clear up any comments that might have come my way. It definitely fits the bill of the contest and tells a great story. I didn’t mean any harm, just mostly looking at it from a critical standpoint.

      • (I tried posting this earlier but it didn’t take- so if it shows up apologies) – Regardless, in the context of this photographer’s narrative, the color emphasizes the boy’s sense of accomplishment for me. I feel as though I can see through his eyes as the world opens up to him in a “new light” of possibility when he puts them on.

  129. Looks like no M9 for me 🙂 Goddem, don’t stand a chance against this kind of competition.. I guess it was a long shot to start with. Oh well, back to practising!

  130. I don’t envy you, Steve! I couldn’t choose from these works, because each of these story the artists have worked a lot…

  131. All are great.. but OCTOPUS HUNTER is truthful narrative and strong images…
    Number 1 and number 3 seems a bit set up and impose the subject but have a good technique..

    well.. I hope Heidi and Rankin choose the best one.. not influenced with all comments here.. which impartial to some name..

    Good job Steve…

  132. These are fantastic, gut wrenching stories, great! all three are winners, if someone put a gun to my head and i had to decide for one of these masterpieces i would pick Antonio Mirandas set. It´s gritty, raw, a direct hit!

  133. Really good sets there, really good especially No3 which is emotionally extremely powerful. Well done to ALL the Top 15 and look forward to seeing the rest over the next few day’s.

    Hey, ONE of YOU is going to win an M9 – How great is that? 🙂

    • I just realise another reason why I like this so far- NO mention on ANY of the pictures what camera, lens, digital/film they were taken with. Great, I like that! No silly talk about camera X or lens Y takes better shots – nobody knows and the pictures get the credit as they rightly should of course in such a contest.

  134. Powerful stuff you got there Steve, very nice! First and third series took my breath away, while the second one is unique, fun and original!

  135. I like the new layout steve. it was a good suggestion and well implemented.. a bit easier to get the first impression then move forward.

  136. Wow!, number 1 is very good. I think it tells a clear story. Number 3 is also very good because it makes yourself complete the story and think about it, which is a very powerful tool to make a narrative better. I hope mine in the top 15!!! Can’t wait to see!!!

  137. WOW. That third set by Mr. Miranda … powerful. Really evoked an emotional reaction from me. Truly a lifetime of stories on those two photos. It’s got my (non existent) vote. Great job on all three sets though. That third set was just the most powerful to me.

    • I’m glad I submitted my entries! And agree with you Andy, I won’t feel bad losing it to these ones! Can’t wait to see the rest of top 15.

  138. Gulp, I hope portrait format images aren’t at a disadvantage. 😛

    (not that I think mine will be anywhere near the top 15, after these)

  139. It is interesting that all of the photographs that have been shown regarding this contest are horizontals.
    The two preliminary random groups of three and the first group above (9 sets of images total) of the top 15 are ALL horizontal.
    The layout of the sit and scrolling down to see the story is GREATLY enhanced if the photographer shot in a horizontal format. The verticals…(if there are any chosen) simply do not lend themselves to this type of presentation… It would appear that they are at a distinct disadvantage…no?

    • Interesting thoughts, though I think the experience in judging will understand the changes in layout.. but I agree.. it would be nice to side by side when they are mixed or all in portrait.

  140. these are all great. for me, the 1st and 3rd can easily make top 2.

    oh, and steve, posting them three at a time is making it even more exciting! can’t wait to see the rest of them!

  141. LOVE everything with Miranda’s shot. Makes you want to cry over the beauty of our frail lives… It can even motivate…

  142. What incredible entries and what a wonderful energy from this contest!

    Even though it would be incredible to have Seal’s M9, I sat this one out since I have mine; but, just to participate would have been cool – looking forward to the upcoming contests!

    It’s the fun the way you’re posting 3 at a time, also.

  143. Those are all very good!

    Again, I have a suggestion (although it may not be possible due to the layout of your site)… Is there any chance you can display the two images as a diptych? This way, the story will be better represented as your eyes scan the frames from side to side (instead of going up and down). Even if you have a large monitor where you can see both frames without scrolling, the experience and story-telling is not the same… Again, just a humble suggestion, if possible at all.

    Looking forward to seeing the rest.


  144. Wow great entries! I have to say though the one from Antonio Miranda is really great!!! Of course every story has a different purpose but I think this one has conjured some very strong emotions. Can’t wait to see the rest of them!

  145. Great to see these! Can’t wait for more. I’ve been checking the site every 30 mins or so, all day long!

  146. All are great and tell a story but Just Living is my favourite, telling a mans life story in just two images, wonderful, that already looks like a winner to me.


  147. Wow. The competition sure was stiff.. Not hard to see why these were chosen.

    Good job first three finalists!

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