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The universal language of photography: Rotary Magazine’s Photography Awards 2022


Rotary magazine’s annual photo awards recognize and celebrate the best photography produced and shared by Rotary members around the globe

If Service Above Self is the vision that unites Rotary's 1.4 million members around the globe, photography is the language that expresses that vision without need for translation or interpretation. A great photo — such as one that captures Rotaractors planting trees in Uganda or freezes in time a man bicycling through rainwater near a Taiwanese landmark — transcends geographical and cultural barriers. It narrates a story and depicts a way of life in one part of the vast Rotary world. A language that is universally understood, photography can amuse, educate, and inspire, all in the same instant.

It is for this reason that Rotary magazine devotes much of this issue to the works of Rotary members who have distinguished themselves with the images they submitted for our annual photo awards.

The magazine received more than 600 entries from across the family of Rotary. Bekah Raleigh, who leads the Visual Media team at Rotary International, began by looking at the images and discussing them with other RI photographers. Among other things, they checked each photo's technical specifications — to ensure the pictures would hold up to reproduction on the printed page — and carefully weighed a crucial requirement: consent.

"Beautiful photography requires the subject's consent," says Raleigh. "At Rotary, we manage this issue through a series of releases. I know that not every amateur photographer is walking around with photo releases in their back pocket, but when taking photographs of people that you don't know, it's important to make sure that they're comfortable with it."

Finally, Raleigh and her team evaluated the photos' aesthetics — things such as color, composition, and subject matter — that subtly shape an image's impact. The team then forwarded about 10 percent of the 600-plus submissions to the selection committee, which consisted of the magazine's staff and other members of Rotary's communications team. The committee deliberated for hours before making its final choices.

This year's winning entries represent a wide range of subjects and regions: silhouettes of children playing in Tondo, a poverty-stricken municipal district of Manila, Philippines; a Vietnamese artisan drying magenta-tipped incense sticks near Hue, the country's spiritual capital; a fisherman casting his net into a river in Benin; and the glowing tents of a climbers' base camp in the snowy peaks of Nepal. Collectively, all these photographs endow us with a rich, varied, and humbling view of our planet and its people.

Each photo also contains a powerful visual narrative that sparks our curiosity. In some instances, we marvel at the photographer's ability to find beauty in our everyday lives and, through their lens, to capture things that we might otherwise have overlooked. In other cases, while the color and composition move us emotionally, the exotic landscapes evoke a spirit of adventure and exploration.

These photos are our eyes on the world.


Photographer: Heinz-Gerd Dreehsen
Rotary Club of Oberhausen, Germany

Sunset in Manila, Philippines. Judges say: The playful, organic shapes of the kids’ bodies make a stark contrast with the hard lines of the electric poles and wires. Despite the photo’s limited color palette, you feel like there is an explosion of color.

Winner: People of action

Photographer: Derrick Kabuye
Rotaract Club of Kampala South and Rotary Club of Chicago Citywide Service

Members of the Rotaract Club of Kampala South, Uganda, plant trees in Nyakijumba. Judges say: This photo is all about capturing the moment. The photographer had great timing to perfectly frame the sapling in the air between their hands.

Honorable mentions

  1. An artisan displays incense near Hue, Vietnam. Judges say: What caught our eyes about this image is the angle, the way it was taken slightly off-kilter. It really works. That and the contrast between the bright red color and the neutral tan color really make for a beautiful image.

    Photographer: Hansruedi Frutiger - Rotary Club of Gombak, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

  2. Magnolia flowers bloom at the Daereungwon royal tombs in Gyeongju, Korea. Judges say: The striking warm-versus-cool palette makes a very pleasing color combination. The lighting creates nice depth and separation with beautiful symmetry.

    Photographer: InHyuk Song - Rotary Club of Daegu-Dongshin, Korea

  3. Men fish in the Ouémé River in Benin. Judges say: The photo has such great movement. The shape that the net is making guides your eye into the rest of the frame.

    Photographer: Luc Warreyn - Rotary Club of Nieuwpoort-Westhoek, Belgium

  4. Hotel skylight in Milan. Judges say: The photographer made a nice choice putting the photo in black and white, allowing the viewer to focus on shapes and forms rather than being distracted by colors.

    Photographer: Luke Stango - Rotary Club of Jackson, New Jersey

  5. A child at home in the rural Amazon rainforest in Amapá state, Brazil. Judges say: This one is all about the light, the way it shines on the child and passes through the boards and onto the floor. It feels so intimate.

    Photographer: Bri Erger - Rotary Club of Denver Lodo

  6. Tourists pose above Lake Bled in northwestern Slovenia. Judges say: It’s a beautiful landscape with the trees changing colors. The water mirroring the sky is a nice component, too.

    Photographer: Snezana Suput Gulin - Rotary Club of Ljubljana Julija, Slovenia

  7. Ayodeji Ezekiel Sobowale, the 2021-22 Rotaract representative of District 9110, reaches out in a conversation at a changeover ceremony in Lagos, Nigeria. Judges say: The choice of a black-and-white photo makes your eyes go straight to the people. You really focus on the emotion. It’s a great moment.

    Photographer: Edward Uhalla - Rotary Club of Ikate, Nigeria

  8. A cyclist rides in Liberty Square in Taipei, Taiwan. Judges say: This photo is striking because of the mirror imaging. Having the two red shapes lead your eye back into the horizon line is really successful.

    Photographer: Wang Chiende-te - Spouse of Su-Chen Lin, Rotary E-Club of New Taipei Inter-Industry

  9. Tents glow at the Mount Everest base camp in Nepal. Judges say: This photo feels intimate and warm even though it features a stark landscape. The warm, comforting color of the yellow light brings you in.

    Photographer: Josh Gates - Rotary Club of Jasper, Alabama

Get ready for your close-up

The next edition of Rotary’s photo awards will open on 1 October and close on 15 December.