Fostering “Image Culture” through the Nikon Photo Contest A Conversation with those Inspired by Photography


For 50 years, Nikon has been hosting a global photo contest for photography lovers in the hope of creating an ever-richer “image culture.”

Contributing to the development of image culture

"The Falling Kiss" Chip Maury
First contest award works
"Wedding At A Home For The Aged" Yao Fang Cai
2000-2001 Grand Prize works
"Ayimpoka" Sara De Antonio Feu
2018-2019 Grand Prize works

Nikon established the Nikon Photo Contest International in 1969 with the aim of providing an opportunity for photographers around the world-both professionals and amateurs-to communicate and enrich image-making culture. In 2012, this long-running contest was adapted to a modern context including modern methods, and renamed the Nikon Photo Contest.

Over the last 50 years, the contest has been open to all, regardless of nationality, age and gender, and all image genres and equipment types have been welcome. Through the contest, Nikon has sought to expand how images can be expressed, enjoyed and made a more familiar part of life. This includes the creation of the Special 1/4000 Second Category, the Underwater Photography Category and a new video category. Over 440,000 people from 170 countries and regions have taken part in the contest to date, and over 1.71 million entries have been submitted. The contest is grounded in Nikon’s philosophy of the image, and widely supported by photography enthusiasts across the globe.

"Nikon Photo Contest 2018-2019"State of exhibition
Nikon Calendar and photo books. These include award-winning works.

Images form a common language that people around the world can use to communicate. They convey an array of stories that include familial relations, social issues and cultural diversity, eclipsing the language barrier to influence the way people think. The development of image culture through the contest allows photographers and videographers to tell their stories, and the contest aims to nurture a community that will create a more sustainable future by involving the audience in those stories.

Questioning the future role of the image

The Nikon Photo Contest features 12 judges from nine countries and regions, and employing this diversity helps us to evaluate the entries from varied perspectives. We asked Neville Brody, lead judge of the Nikon Photo Contest 2018-2019, as well as judges Jill Furmanovsky and Carol Guzy, about the significance of the contest and the future of image culture.

“This contest asks a lot of questions. One of the main ones is, ‘What is the role of the image in the future?’”

“Images change our lives. They’re in all of our phones. They’re everywhere we look. They’re in publishing. Our world obtains more information through images than words these days. Images are an international language and they influence the way we function as a people and as a society. I believe the image will only become more important and more significant.”

Lead Judge Neville Brody

“As digital technology develops further, the role of the image will likely become more diverse."

“The basic role of the image is to speak about the era in which it was created. This role doesn’t change-it allows the people of today to look back on the past, and will give people in the future a chance to understand today’s world.”

Judge Jill Furmanovsky

“All entries submitted are reviewed by judges from different backgrounds and countries. It’s really interesting to see how many different perspectives are possible in viewing a single image.”

"The diversity of people’s life experiences is also reflected in the way they see the world and capture content. I’ve learned a lot myself through viewing submissions to the competition.”

Judge Carol Guzy

Evolving image technology, unchanging philosophy

From the beginning, Nikon’s employees have been deeply involved in planning and managing the Nikon Photo Contest. Some of Nikon’s employees who were involved in running the contest spoke about their experiences.

“It’s an honor for Nikon to have contributed to image culture through this contest for over half a century. Image technology and the image itself change with every era. Moving forward, it is important to respond to the zeitgeist while considering the ideal form of the image.”

“The philosophy of this contest has not changed for 50 years, and I hope we will continue to provide a venue where global participants can interact on a set theme, always remembering that the image is a global lingua franca. Today, more and more people are taking pictures and shooting video. Through this contest, we hope to expand the circle of people who create images.”

Toshinori Shindo, Imaging Business Unit

“The Nikon Photo Contest brings together a diverse collection of entries from across the globe. From those who want to create works of art, to those who simply want to capture moments of daily life. We value the story behind the image, not only the level of skill needed to capture the image or the quality of that image in isolation.”

“In managing this contest, we work together with Nikon staff both inside and outside Japan on everything from selecting judges to convening the panel of judges. The connection between the judges and the winners is important, and they continue to interact even after the contest is over. I believe this is possible only because Nikon hosts the contest. We have received reports from past winners on their current activities, including their exhibition schedules. This contest is a chance for participants to become even more active on the global stage.”

Yuka Ide, Imaging Business Unit
1970 / 1980 / 1990 / 2000 / 2010 / 2020 / 1969 Contest first held as the Nikoon Photo Contest International / 1983 Established the Special 1/4000 Second Category / 1989 Established the Underwater Photography Category / 1994 Established themes for each category / 2008 Established the Yound Photographer Award (Since 2016, category revised to the New Generation Award. The award is given with the aim of discovering new young talent.) / 2012 Renamed “Nikoc Photo Contest” Established the Video Category / 2014 Established the Participants’ Choice Prize
History of Nikon Photo Contest

OutlookFostering a global image community

Through the Nikon Photo Contest, Nikon will continue to support photographers and videographers who tell stories that change the way people see the world. We are also committed to fostering the communities that experience these stories. As part of these efforts, in addition to holding exhibitions both inside and outside Japan, in 2019 we also hosted street exhibitions of past winning works (Japan only). The Nikon Group is contributing to the development of image culture at all of its locations. We hope to expand the community of image culture on a global scale, pushing it to even more diverse perspectives and parameters.

  • *Affiliations and job descriptions are current as of the time of the interview.