Capturing courage, commitment and change

Ashley Johnson

The entries in this year’s Commonwealth Photographic Awards were praised for their quality and creativity, while the sophisticated interpretation of the theme, ‘Women as Agents of Change’, greatly impressed the judging panel. The youngest entrant was only 11 years of age. 

Hundreds of images were submitted from 46 different countries on this year’s Commonwealth theme: ‘Women as Agents of Change’. The range and strength of entries was astounding and the fierce competition made deciding the 2011 winners particularly challenging. “I was surprised and delighted by both the quality and creativity of the photos,” said judge and photojournalist Peter Hayes. 

Michael Hallett, a renowned photographer, photographic historian and chair of the judging panel, added, “The sheer breadth of interpretation of the theme was impressive. The creative potential of the younger photographers was especially encouraging.” The panel of expert judges also included Katharine Stout, Tate Curator and Associate Director at The Drawing Room, and Belgian photographer and artist Thierry Bal. 

Run by the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS), the competition encourages young people to explore issues of international importance in a creative way. It aims to promote common understanding, give young people a forum to express their views and inspire the next generation of photographers. Their images, sent from all regions of the Commonwealth, often display the diversity and remarkable similarities of human experience in the modern Commonwealth. 

Entries could be submitted on digital, analogue, disposable and even mobile phone cameras. Caitlin Montie Greer, judge and Artist in Residence for a women’s refuge, called the competition an “incredibly inclusive way to encourage young people to express themselves”. The competition is open to amateur photographers under the age of 30 who are citizens of or resident in a Commonwealth country. The youngest participant was just 11 years old. 

Two top prizewinners will be flown to Australia in October and will have their work exhibited as part of the Commonwealth Festival Perth. During the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, the RCS will also exhibit winning entries from its writing and film competitions, as well as submissions to the Jubilee Time Capsule which celebrates the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

 The winning entries can be viewed online at:

About the author:

Ashley Johnson is Communications Assistant at the Royal Commonwealth Society


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