How to become a constant winner in international photo contests

Yuan Peng was nominated in the 2017 “Sente·Antu Cup” International Photo Contest for his work chronicling the athletic exploits of twins Liu Bingqing and Liu Yujie. The images were taken in a specialist school in Jining, in the predominantly rural Shandong province in China. The twins have loved gymnastics since being tots and are following their dream of representing China on the world stage.

Photo by Yuan Peng

Photo by Yuan Peng

Photo by Yuan Peng

He firstly met up with the girls in 2013 when they were trained for gymnastics, and in 2015, they switched to diving. “The girls returned to Jining to train for three months in 2017, so I continued to shoot them then,” Peng explains.

Photo by Yuan Peng

Photo by Yuan Peng

Q: What do you think of the tough training with little allowance made for the tender age of the trainees?

Yuan Peng: I think all children's gymnastics training methods are similar -they need a lot of training everyday and it is very hard. This is not only in China, but also in other countries. I can understand that some viewers would feel the training is cruel without seeing the actual school. When I was shooting there, I noticed the children worked hard in training, but they were happy, normal kids when they were resting.

Photo by Yuan Peng

Photo by Yuan Peng

Q: What are needed for a Chinese photographer to win in an international photo contest?

Yuan Peng: I have two major ideas about winning in an international photo contest.

One is that the works shall be thought-provoking, that is to dive deep into social issues that are usually ignored or need solving. Think beyond appearance and dig a little deeper for this project to see what you come up with. An example would be the 2017 Sony World Photography Awards grand prize winning work “Whiteout”, which explores how nature is transformed by winter and how humans and animals have to deal with the extreme weather.

Whiteout. Photo by Frederik Buyckx

Whiteout. Photo by Frederik Buyckx

Whiteout. Photo by Frederik Buyckx

The other is that the winning works usually reflect a universal problem and require great efforts in shooting. Fire of Hatred is the powerful portrait project of Iranian photographer Asghar Khamseh, which shows his sensitivity and empathy for victims of acid attacks, mostly women. It allows the viewer to become a witness not just a spectator.

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Fire of Hatred. Photo by Asghar Khamseh

Above are the success tips that Chinese photographers shall be working on in international photo contests.

Q: Do you have any advice for other participants?

Yuan Peng: Get insight into what the judges are looking for. Select a subject and keep taking photos. Enter as many photo contests as you can to obtain experience.

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