Istanbul Photo Awards 'global competition,' says jury member

Talented photojournalists worldwide value competition, respect jury, says Cameron Spencer, Getty Images' chief sports photojournalist

The Istanbul Photo Awards is a "global competition" and continues to grow every year, said one of the jury members on the international competition, organized by Anadolu for the ninth time this year.

Speaking to Anadolu, Getty Images chief sports photojournalist Cameron Spencer said the awards "grow in status and recognition, you just have to look at how many people do submit work, and the quality of the photography that's being submitted."

"And then you look at who is entering. And a lot of very talented photojournalists and sports photographers from around the world value the competition and respect the jury," said Spencer.

Spencer said the competition is also unique due to the diversity of the jury members' skills and their years of experience.

"The fact that we all have different viewpoints, and we're able to have conversations about it and, and come to a decision that we're all happy with," also makes the competition exceptional, he said, adding that next year will mark the Istanbul Photo Awards' first decade, a "very exciting" milestone that will be "great to see."

For his fellow jury members, Spencer said, "We all respect each other's views and respect each other's expertise."

"For me, sport is my expertise. But, you know, we all do value good photography, and I have a passion for all kinds of photojournalism, just like the rest of the jury," he said.

Deciding on winners can take a while but they are always happy with the outcome, said Spencer. "When we get there, we're on the same page, which is really important.”

Photo of the Year

On the winner of 2023's Photo of the Year award, Spencer said the image captured by Sergey Kozlov was "a timeless, powerful shot."

Kozlov’s clinched this year’s title with a poignant image titled "Russia-Ukraine war." The photo shows a dead soldier lying on the ground with a burned-out Russian armored personnel carrier in the backdrop in a chilling, snow-covered scene.

"I think the fact you have the elements of the snow and the winter and the cold, and, you know, this lifeless soldier lying there, and the way he's composed, that's such a powerful, powerful image," said Spencer.

He underlined that the photo captured the tragedy of the war between the two neighboring countries, that has cost over 24,000 civilian lives since it broke out in February last year, according to UN figures.

"I think in the past year, you look at the fact that Ukraine dominated for all the stories, you know, it shows how big a story that was. And I think the commitment that a lot of the world's best photo journalists went to cover that war and really tell that story to the rest of the world, I think that opened people's eyes on how significant it was, and how senseless that was, as well," he added.

Istanbul Photo Awards' new categories

Spencer also touched on new categories that were added to the Istanbul Photo Awards in the past couple of years.

He welcomed the introduction of the Nature and Environment category since issues surrounding environmental crisis have become more widely covered.

On the new Daily Life category, Spencer said: "We see all the major headlines in the big stories that break throughout the year, but it's also nice to sort of see little snippets of humanity around the world that often are a feel-good story, or they're just something that you'd never know about, unless that photographer shared that story."

"It's providing a voice or a platform for someone or a group of people that might not have that," he added.

The Portrait category, meanwhile showed that the Istanbul Photo Awards went beyond rewarding a photograph just because it looks nice.

"I think that's what we've established as a jury that we want to award great portraiture, but also portraiture that has meaning and portraiture that has stories that we think (are) worth sharing and rewarding in terms of the time and effort that's been put in by the photographer to capture those stories."

For instance, Spencer said, winning entry in the Story Portrait category, showing Afghan women athletes barred from playing and competing, was very powerful, Spencer said.

"It was such a powerful series, because they can no longer compete. And I think the way the photographer shot it was creative and really powerful and I think that's why it was worthy of being a winner," said Spencer, adding that the jury "all agreed that that was a really, really important story to share. And the creative way that the photographer did it was very impressive."

Watch the interview video


As a sports photographer, Spencer said that area had its own challenges.

"I think for us, a lot of the time, it's the fact that you're there to document fleeting moments that only happen once. And once they're gone, they're gone. And you need to be in the right place at the right time, you need to know your subject, know the sport, know the rules, know what certain players are going to do, or just be prepared," he said.

"And often, that comes from years of experience to be able to capture that defining moment when it happens."

He said the winners of the Single Sports category were all beautiful and striking images.

The third-place winner, showing cyclists crashing over a barrier with spectators behind, was "just a purely brilliant action photograph," said Spencer.

"And Oliver Scarff's picture of the synchronized diver, basically drowning and getting rescued by a coach like that's captured from a robotic camera underwater. And when they set that camera up that day, they would have never expected that to unfold and it's such a moving powerful shot. And it really captures the spirit of sport," he said.

In the Single Sports category, first prize went to David Ramos for a photo of football superstar Lionel Messi celebrating Argentina's 2022 World Cup triumph on a teammate’s shoulders.

"The way that's captured on a shallow lens, up close with a shallow depth of field just feels like you're part of the scene, you're there cheering Messi on as he gets paraded around with the trophy," said Spencer.

All winners can be seen at 

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