35 Finalists From The Smithsonian Photography Awards That Are An Epitome Of Brilliance

14th edition of The Smithsonian.com Annual Photo Contest has just revealed its finalists. The prestigious competition saw over 48,000 entries across seven categories this year from photographers belonging to 146 nations and territories. Out of the submissions, the judges have finalised 70 unique images. Votings are now open for the readers’ choice awards and results will be announced later this month. Until then, check out some of the finalists here.

Category: The American Experience

1. Last Dance – Amy Sacka

“A couple dances in the backyard of a home in the West Village neighbourhood of Detroit.”


2. To Be Proud Of – Andrei Gorbatiuc

“A big parade in a small town.”


3. This Party’s a Drag – Maxwell Harvey-Sampson

“This photograph shows my experience of the gay community in Rochester, NY.”


4. Prom Night – Trinja Henrickson


5. Singing For Big Mama – Jared Johnson

“Lucretia M. Anderson sings a tribute to legendary blues singer Big Mama Thornton at the Blues Gal Musical hosted by Unity Church in Richmond, Virginia, in honour of the famous Richmond-born blues singer Lady E.”


Category: Natural World

1. Yellow-Flecked Sipo – Claire Waring

“This beautiful yellow-flecked sipo was found at Bosque Protector La Perla near La Concordia, Ecuador. I am always impressed with a snake’s ability to hold itself motionless while sussing out a situation.”


2. Father Calling – Karthik AK

“This night frog, endemic to the Western Ghats of India, exhibits a unique breeding behaviour. The males call for females, the females come and lay the eggs, then the males fertilise them. In this image, the male has successfully fertilised a clutch of eggs from a female. He is calling out for other females to lay eggs.”


3. Swamp Raccoon – Kim Aikawa

“While I was looking for alligators at a swamp in Louisiana, this beautiful little creature wandered out of the murky waters right into the morning light.”


4. Splash – Nayan Behera

“I wanted to capture the break on the rocks during high tide, but as I lost light I had to leave the shutter open longer, and the wave blended in motion.”


5. The Hidden Murder – Swaroop Singha Roy

“A spider with a housefly kill, hiding under the petals of a Madagascar periwinkle flower.”


Category: Travel

1. Munnar – Mustafa AbdulHadi

“Munnar is one of the most beautiful hill stations in Kerala, India. It is a haven during the monsoon season as nature surprises you with amazing clouds and mists!”


2. Morning Call- Gunarto Gunawan

“Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park is a national park in East Java, Indonesia. To shoot this moment, I climbed the hills at the foot of Mount Bromo in the early morning with my horse.”


3. Cádiz Streets – Aya Okawa

“City streets in the Andalusian city of Cádiz. Photo taken at sunset from a small plane.”


4. Take Me Away, Deer! – Kamil Nureev

“Since ancient times, the Nenets have led a nomadic life. Reindeer harnessed to sleds is the most reliable form of transport on the tundra, and the people of the North make use of their navigational abilities. In severe conditions, such as a blinding snow storm, deer are not only loyal companions, but sometimes the only hope for survival.”


5. Beautiful But Fading Light – Yuen Hung Neoh

“The world’s largest Buddhist academy is located in a remote place in Sertar County, China, named Larung Gar. People from all over China come here to learn Buddhism. However, it is a controversial place. Nuns and monks have suffered from demolition and imprisonment. In June 2016, the authorities imposed new rules, which put thousands of residents at risk of removal. These residents have not been given the chance to practice religion peacefully. If the oppression continues, this unique place will eventually fade from history.”


Category: Sustainable Travel 

1. Brown-Eyed Beauty – Lynda Hanwella

“Sustainable travel is travel that does not have a negative impact on the environment and ideally would not only protect the environment, but also provide opportunities for local communities. I see visiting the mountain gorillas in Uganda as sustainable travel because the visits support the local community while protecting the endangered gorillas. Tourists can pay to visit families of these magnificent animals for one hour a day, up to eight trekkers at a time. Over time, the gorillas have habituated to people and are tolerant of their visitors. The rangers dedicate their lives to protecting the gorillas, and you can clearly see that they love their job. Porters are hired from the local community to help the trekkers through the jungle. The porters are rotated on a regular basis so that more people in the community can work. This way, the local community receives a benefit and poaching of the gorillas is less likely. This photo was taken during our one-hour visit with the Mubare Gorilla Family Group in Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest, Uganda. After about one and a half hours of trekking through the forest, we were fortunate to be able to watch these magnificent animals up close. This photo is of a female gorilla enjoying a midday meal. There are less than 1,000 mountain gorillas left on Earth.”


2. Sustainable Future – Ben Hicks

“A green sea turtle rises to the surface for a breath just off the coast of Florida. Sustainable travel is something we all should strive to consider and eventually adopt. As often as I can, I go out and explore the world’s oceans with my cameras. I also strive to document the work of others who are protecting and conserving our environment, specifically in the world of sea turtle conservation. During nesting season I go out with our amazing biologists, scientists and volunteers who help to protect and document sea turtle habitats in South Florida. These turtles face a huge battle of survival on their upcoming “travels,” and every person I can impact with their picture is a win!”


3. Nevada Solar One – Jassen Todorov

“Spread over an area of 400 acres, the Nevada Solar One is a massive project built in the hot and dry desert, just south of Las Vegas. The plant uses 760 parabolic trough concentrators with more than 182,000 mirrors that concentrate the sun’s rays onto more than 18,240 receiver tubes. The projected CO2 emissions avoided is equivalent to taking approximately 20,000 cars off the road annually. It is a refreshing site to look at. I, for one, can’t wait to fly a solar-powered aircraft. This image is a part of a large project documenting our transition to clean and renewable energy.”


4. Jakobshavn Melt – Kerry Koepping

“Jakobshavn Melt” was captured within the Ilulissat Icefjord, Greenland, while on an expedition to document one of the largest calving events in 2016. The objective of the journey was to promote environmental awareness and education about the significant climactic changes occurring in the Arctic. This single calving event produced enough ice to meet the domestic freshwater needs of the United States for six months. The image was captured at 1:00 am during the last sunset before summer’s 24-hour light.

Sustainable travel embodies what it means to be an environmental photographer. I believe that each shot should not just be a moment in time, or a beautiful representation of a place. It should be filled with purpose and meaning, providing viewers a means to understand the evolving world at large. The image “Jakobshavn Melt” is but a small glimpse into the reality of a major environmental event.”


5. Keel-Billed Toucan – Dennis Zaebst

“A wild keel-billed toucan perches on a branch during a rainstorm in Costa Rica. I captured this image during a photography tour of Costa Rica focused on documenting its incredible bird population. Costa Rica comprises less than one percent of the world’s land mass, but five percent of its biodiversity. I am hoping this image, and others that I captured there, will encourage people to travel to this country, inform them of the marvelous wildlife heritage we enjoy there and inspire greater appreciation of what we still have to preserve for future generations.”


Category: People

1. Cormorant Fisherman – Duangmon C

“The traditional cormorant fisherman in China works in the early hours before sunrise. He will sail on his bamboo raft with his trained cormorants to catch some fish.”


2. TV School – Alisson Gontijo

“A couple watches a television literacy program. This photo is part of a series on the impact that media has on the lives of people in rural Brazil.”


3. Step by Step – João Borges

“I was surprised when I saw this old shoemaker shop with two workers, one of them a young woman doing a job usually done by older men. The look in her eyes is as strong and heavy as her work.”


4. Violence in El Salvador – Javier Arcenillas

“There has been an escalation of crime in El Salvador as well as armed confrontation between the state and gangs. Crime can become, dangerously, a demonstration of power.”


5. The Longing of an Opera Artist – Nick Ng

“Mdm Tai, a Chinese opera artist for the past forty odd years, thinks of her children while preparing for her performance. She, like most of the opera artists, is away for months traveling to one place to another, far away from her home. The Chinese opera is a custom that is slowly being diminished, taken over by modern performances. It is worth seeing and it is with hope that, through images, the custom will be sustained for future generations.”


Category: Altered Images

1. Improvisation – Jim Mneymneh

“Dance improvisation in the studio.”


2. Shelter Pets Project – Peggy Sue – Tammy Swarek

“Last year my photography partner, Tammy Michael, and I began volunteering at our local animal shelter, Union County Animal Protection Society (UCAPS). We provide them with fine art/fashion portraits of their pups in hopes of increasing their chances for adoption and the perception of rescue animals. The response to the Shelter Pets Project has been remarkable. So far over 100 have been photographed. Eighty percent of the animals we have photographed have either been adopted, transferred to another shelter or have multiple pending adoption applications. We want to change the way the shelter animals are perceived. The common perception is that these animals are unworthy, discards from others or that they have health issues. It is true that most have been discarded and abused by people, but that has nothing to do with the animal and everything to do with us. We allow that to happen by not creating stricter laws with tougher penalties and insisting they are enforced.

Every animal we have photographed at UCAPS is amazing. Each one has such a different personality and disposition. We wanted to showcase that and did so by dressing them up accordingly. Over the past year, Shelter Pets Project has become a viral campaign. We have had the privilege of photographing these dogs in couture fashion from top designers in New York City. These dogs are regularly featured on Vogue Italia’s website as well as Vanity Fair, NY Post, Good Morning America and countless other media outlets.

Ms. Peggy Sue is a five-year-old papillon that was found wandering the streets of Union County, Arkansas. After a month of multiple attempts through social media to locate an owner, no one came forward. She was then put up for adoption at UCAPS. Peggy Sue soon found her new family and is in a loving home. When we first saw Peggy Sue, we fell head over heels for her. She had a royal appearance, and she held her head high despite everything she had been through in the past. We decided she deserved to be a queen in her photograph.”


3. Winter Metamorphosis – Кровлин Krovlin

“Russia. The coast of the Sea of Japan.”


4. Winter Is Coming – Pedro Jarque Krebs

“The Arctic wolf is a sub-species of the grey wolf and lives in the Arctic regions of North America.”


5. Love Me, Love Me Not – Paul Barson

“I spotted this at LeFurge Woods Nature Preserve on a walk. The falling petals got my attention although they are actually caught in a spider web, which can be seen if you look closely.”


Category: Mobile

1. An Old Man – Kyaw Kyaw Winn

“I visited to central region of my country, Myanmar, last year. When I arrived to Mingun, I found this old man with an oxcart taxi for visitors. He took me around the Mingun area. Finally we arrived at the famous white temple of Mingun. I loved the background so requested to shoot a photo of him in the oxcart. I liked the frame of the oxcart box and lighting on the face.”


2. Rainy Day –  Aung Ko Latt

“The beauty of a rainy day.”


3. Surreal – Alina Rudya

“A man bikes by an octopus statue at the Burning Man festival in Black Rock City, Nevada.”


4. Snowflakes – Rekha Bobade

“Snowflakes on my car windshield.”


5. Into the Woods – Vickson Dasan

“A tree house in the woods. I was traveling to Bangalore for a week to visit some of my friends. There we went to Nandi Hills for a sunrise view.”

Check out the complete list of finalists and their work here.