This Photo Won the National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest 2012

The photo above is the winning photograph in this year’s National Geographic 2012 Traveler Photo Contest. It’s a photo by Brooklyn-based photographer Cédric Houin titled “Butterfly”, which shows a Kyrgyz mother and daughter using a sewing machine in their dwelling. His caption reads,

This image was shot in the Kyrgyz lands of the Wakhan Corridor. The intimacy of this everyday life moment, shot inside of a family yurt, is in total contrast with the harsh environment these nomadic tribes live in. On the right we notice a television and a sound console. These tribes live weeks away from any village by foot. In spite of being located at an altitude of 4,300 meters in one of the most remote areas of Afghanistan they are equipped with solar panels, satellite dishes and cellphones. Ancestral ways of living, with touches of modernity.

The image was submitted into the category Sense of Place (the other categories were: Travel Portraits, Outdoor Scenes, and Spontaneous Moments).

Photographer Alexandra Avakian, one of this year’s judges, had this to say about the image:

The light and texture captured in this portrait are painterly, and the predominance of red is rich. The content of the photo is striking because the photographer captured both the nomads’ traditional way of life and some of their modern accouterments—the viewer gets the visual satisfaction of something that goes against cliché. Triangle shapes tend to add dynamism to photos. In this picture they appear in several places, including the main subject’s knee, elbow, and white scarf.

I’ve slept in the guest yurt of Kyrgyz nomads in remote mountains while on assignment for Elle magazine; the location is hard to reach and off the beaten path for most travelers, and therefore of educational as well as aesthetic value.

Competition for this year’s prize was fierce: the contest received over 12,000 photo entries from 6,615 photographers based in 152 countries around the world.

Here’s what Houin received with his First Prize award: a 10-day photo expedition to the Galápagos Islands, being featured in National Geographic Traveler (both in print and online), and a one-year subscription to National Geographic Traveler magazine. Altogether, the prize is worth an estimated $11,000.

Be sure to head over to the contest website to see the entire list of winning entries!

Image credit: Photograph by Cedric Houin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

  • Zohar

    Looks like Cédric had a heavy hand on the vignetting in this photo.

  • fuzzywuzzy

    I love these idiots who can’t tell the difference between cheap vignetting and good lighting.

  • MikeAlgar42

    Are you sure this is a vignette and not just a thin ray of light in a well captured photo that makes it look like the edges are vignette? Not saying it isn’t, but I’m sure there are rules against such post processing.

  • Nathan Blaney

    Nat Geo “contests” are nothing more than image harvesting rights-grabs. Read this bit from the rules. By simply ENTERING – not winning – entering, you hand over usage rights to Nat Geo and anyone else they’d like to extend that to. No compensation, nothing. Only a fool would agree to these terms. Or, someone who doesn’t bother to read and understand the terms – which is exactly what they count on.


    By entering the Contest, all entrants grant an irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide non-exclusive license to Authorized Parties, to reproduce, distribute, display and create derivative works of the entries (along with a name credit) in connection with the Contest and promotion of the Contest, in any media now or hereafter known, including, but not limited to: Display at a potential exhibition of winners; publication of a book featuring select entries in the Contest; publication in National Geographic Traveler Magazine or online highlighting entries or winners of the Contest. Entrants consent to the Sponsor doing or omitting to do any act that would otherwise infringe the entrant’s “moral rights” in their entries. Display or publication of any entry on an Authorized Party’s website does not indicate the entrant will be selected as a winner. Authorized Parties will not be required to pay any additional consideration or seek any additional approval in connection with such use. Additionally, by entering, each entrant grants to Authorized Parties the unrestricted right to use all statements made in connection with the Contest, and pictures or likenesses of Contest entrants, or choose not to do so, at their sole discretion. Authorized Parties will not be required to pay any additional consideration or seek any additional approval in connection with such use.”

  • Michael

    Just another image of forlorn figures sitting in a 3rd world country.
    The Big Picture and Nat Geo thrive on these types of images. I’m not sure why

  • Michal Rosa

    Good picture but is it really a great one deserving the picture of the year award? I have’t seen the other ones but as good as this one is, it doesn’t seem to be a “classic” picture, timeless, unforgettable. It’s not a picture that burns in your memory so you never forget it.

  • Eziz

    Well, look at this way. There will always be people who disagree with the judges’ decision. A winning picture (or anything in fact) doesn’t have to be universally agreed upon.

  • Jonathan Maniago

    Fools, those who don’t read, or people who care more about sharing their images rather than keeping rights. Name credit from Nat Geo isn’t exactly a bad thing (free promotion?), though I’m aware that it’s not good enough for some people.

  • Andrew

    I’m sorry, but when I look at that photo I see the pole just messing up the whole photo. A different composition of this scene should look heaps better (like just sliding a little more to the right). Plus, their faces looking different ways clashes to me, and makes it unclear what the central theme of the photo is.

  • Andrew

    So many contests today are the same, it’s a real pity. I could see just the winner giving up their rights, I suppose, or I can see all entries being allowed to be used specifically for purposes of promotion of the competition, but anything further is rude. Yet people go into them. I usually post something on their site pointing out the terms and complaining.

    The worst ones here in Australia actually say that for ALL entries the promoter demands 1) an EXCLUSIVE right to the photo, or that the copyright now belongs to them (which is the same thing); and that 2) the winning person is required to have their personal image or voice used for any promotional work the promoter requires, without compensation, indefinitely!

    So imagine! By running a competition with some trivial prize worth perhaps a couple of hundred dollars, technically they own the copyright to several thousand of people’s images (they usually recommend you give your BEST images, in high resolution of course), and if the winning person happens to be a celebrity or good looking, they now have the legal right to use that person to make ads for them – in video, posters, audio etc. Then some competitions say you can enter up to 5 photos, so they get even more that way. I challenged a major competition which had the T&C above, and they posted a response saying that they don’t intend to enforce or make use of them. Then why put them there in the first place?! I would like to see this get more coverage on photography sites, and get a lot more complaints happening until these practices change.