Photography is the only major art in which professional training and years of experience do not confer an insuperable advantage over the untrained and inexperienced – this is for many reasons, among them the large role that chance (or luck) plays in the taking of pictures, and the bias toward the spontaneous, the rough, the imperfect.

– Susan Sontag 

The Travel Photographer of the Year (TPOTY) awards without a doubt resonates with the thoughts of Susan Sontag.  

TPOTY is a competition that aims to increase the value given to travel photography. The vibrant selection gives a glimpse into the magnificence and beauty of this planet and its inhabitants. Giving everyone – regardless of age or experience – the opportunity to submit his or her works, with the winners being exhibited at the Royal Geographical Society in London during the summer. 

The winners of the TPOTY Awards 2013 were announced on 13th December 2013, and are currently being exhibited in the gardens of the building until 17th August.


The exhibition space is beautiful -– especially on a proper summer day. So we strolled through to see the 2013 winners of every category. To my amazement, the youngest winner in the exhibition is just 10 years old! Another competitor was only fourteen: Jonathan Rystrøm from Denmark, winner of the Young Travel Photographer category. Jonathan’s exploration of photography is unique; he manages to capture the hectic, busy life of big cities by experimenting with movement and playing with the exposure of his photographs. In doing so, he successfully rouses a sense of wonder in the viewer -– a consciousness of madness and peace at the same time.


An example of Jonathan Rystrøm’s work. Image source.

The runner up for the category of New Talent Portfolio - Metropolis was Sheng Hong Tan from Malaysia. He captures the precise moment where the gaze of the busy New Yorker interlocks with that of the photographer, before they continue on to the hustle and bustle of city life. Seeing these photographs (which were taken in Grand Central Station) I couldn’t help but relate to these strangers that were pushing through the turnstiles. New York City is similar to London as they are big cities known for their eclectic diversity and brutal honesty. Cities where you have to be constantly going, moving, changing. They are difficult. I was completely captivated by these photographs as they freeze a moment of complete rush and chaos and capture – only for that instance – the stranger’s innocent, purely human gaze.


TPOTY is a truly captivating show. It will take you around the world, from the biggest metropolises to the most secluded places inhabited on this earth. It’s incredible to see such great art that triggers your sense of curiosity, wonder and care for this planet. This show proves what Sontag states: not everyone needs years of experience to take great photographs – you simply need to be in the right place at the right time, and of course, have a camera.

If you think you have photographs that should be considered for the TPOTY Awards 2014 make sure to enter before the deadline, 1st October 2014! And head to the Royal Geographic Society before the show ends on Sunday!