Alex Mao Youth Photo Award 2024

In June 2024 the Alex Mao Youth Photo Award invited photographers/artists (under 25 years) to enter their best work. We are delighted to announce the winners of this our 6th annual Youth Photo Awards. Winner of 1st prize is Aileen Chen with 'Rainer & Cat 2023'.

 Aileen Chen; Rainer and Cat 2023

Shortlisting was done by the Festival team and external judge, Tushar Sharma, ImageN8, on behalf of the Alex Mao Foundation,  said of the winning portrait "Its a quirky staged scene, with a odd array of items, and a cat half out of shot, half in, whilst this may be seen as irregular, we feel the artist has created a fictional aurora of the imagination which is like looking into a private world filled with creative tension for the viewer, from a well planned and staged image series that speak to youth culture, leaving many questions of the viewer and strong artistic merit"

She wins $1200NZD cash grant with the Alex Mao trophy. Aileen is a photographer and stylist, working with a multidisciplinary practice based in fashion design in Auckland and said "My pictures are usually improvised and beginning somewhere without knowing how it’s going to turn out. There’s a hint of girlhood or youth culture, mixed with an editorial composition. To me a photograph is aligning the head, eye and heart. Just digging into memories of youth and maybe extracting a poem or a new perspective from it, it comes naturally because you’re just mining what was already emotional in the first place." 

Shafeek Allie; Barn Owl

2nd prize winner is Shafeek Allie, Barn Owl. Judging comments said "This is a great image of an owl looking straight at us. You can feel its sentient gaze on you. The lighting is fabulous and the detail in the face and features is great. The brown colour of the feathers reflects in the blurred brown background". This winning image is one from his series of portraits of nature in rural Rodney district of Auckland, good use of light, framing and colour. He wins a $500NZD print voucher sponsored by Print Art Co Ltd.

Shafeek says "I've always had a love for nature, and photography was a perfect way for me to capture this adoration that I have. I view photography as a way to capture moments in time, and I'm so happy that this picture has gotten the appreciation and praise of the judges!"

These are highly commended by the Festival team and external judge, Tushar Sharma, ImageN8 for our Award supporters at Alex Mao Foundation.

Savannah Leota, Cara Baard, Anna Blake, Hillary Ho, Indie Ford.

Supported by the Alex Mao Photo Foundation, Print Art and presented by Image Auckland [tāmaki makaurau].

Alex Mao Award Trophy 2020

Print Art logoImage Auckland new


See all our wonderful Youth Photo Award winners since 2019. To date over $7800 has been Awarded to support Youth photographers in NZ through this Award.

Youth Photo Award 2023

In June 2023 the Alex Mao Youth Photo Award invited photographers/artists (under 25 years) to enter their best work. We are delighted to announce the winners of this our 5th annual Youth Photo Awards.


Shortlisting was done by the Festival team and external selection of the Alex Mao Foundation, who said of teenager Latamai's winning portrait - "This is one of his entries from a series which shows consistent ability to use ambient light for his portraits and he has captured his winning image of his teenage sister outside their house, showing a rebellious staunch young woman, who's clear engagement with her eyes looking direct at the viewer, creating a question to the viewer too. It is a series that is a worthy 1st place selection, using available light, focus and shadows to good effect" 

Latamai Katoa

He wins $1200NZD cash grant with the trophy. Latamai is a student based in the North Shore said "it was only earlier this year I had turned to photography as my chosen medium after completing the Air NZ/National Geographic summer photo clubs for youth photographers in New Zealand". He is a first time entrant to the Youth Photo Award.


2nd place - Aotea Taylor - Last Light


This winning image is one from her series of portraits of horses in rural New Zealand, good use of light, framing and colour. Aotea wins a $600NZD cash grant with certificate.


"I received an old camera by a friend last month having no experience with DSLR, so I am very delighted to be chosen!" says Waikato based photographer and horse breeder, Aotea. "When I photograph, It makes me feel as if I am immortalising that moment. That for the horses that are in my care, at one time, they existed here and stood upon this land. I would like for their memory to live on, long when they leave me." She is a first time entrant to the Youth Photo Award.

Aotea Taylor
Congratulations to both these photographers.

These are highly commended by the Festival team and our Award supporters at Alex Mao Foundation.
Shafeek Allie - Orange Butterfly
Abby Cullinan - Mushrooms and The Shag
Sophie Hanson - Tangled
Paris Munro - Untitled Interior room

Youth Photo Award 2022

In 2022 the Youth Photo Award took place, we invited photographers/artists (under 25 years) to enter their best work.

We're delighted to announce the 4th annual Youth Photo Award winner of the 2022 Alex Mao Prize, is Sophie Hansen, with her gritty portrait of her Dad's working hands welding a new object in his shed titled Create Something New. "My poppa asked me to take a photo of him welding but I'm not much of a people photographer at all, I prefer animals, so when he asked me this I enterprited it as me taking a photo of the sparks flying and the machine. It wasnt until later when I showed him this photo that he said "did you get any of me?" and I suddenly realised I was supposed to be taking photos with him in it!"

Congratulations to Sophie who wins NZ$1200 cash. Plus a print of her winning photo.

Sophie H

2nd prize winner, Kellie Masiutama, who wins a framed print, of her winning image He Taonga tuku iho, which she created to be part her exhibition in the Festival this year, but it didnt make it in, the show is open at Papakura Art Gallery until 25 June. Kellie stated "The hands with the pounamu is represented as myself being cleansed in my waters. The stunning Wahine represents myself in present time not fully healed. But content."

Kellie M

This year's entries were from around New Zealand, with a variety of subjects and skills, we thank everyone who took part, see all entries here. Our judge was Linda Tyler, Associate Professor, University of Auckland, and currently teaches art writing and curatorial practice at Honours level in the Art History Department.

To date over $4800 in prize money has been Awarded to support Youth photography in NZ through this Award. 

Presented by Image Auckland [tāmaki makaurau]

Youth Photo Award

Alex Mao Youth Award 2021

Congratulations to Francis Cai, winner of the 3rd Alex Mao Youth award, an award for emerging photographers under the age of 25. He wins a $1200 cash prize. Francis’s image is called Moving Out.  He says: I remember that not long ago, I was living with my cousin Untaka in Mount Roskill, he was always busy preparing me a delicious dinner. The day we cleaned up the house together and departed for our own future is still in sight. 

Moving Out was chosen by judge Sanji Karu from over 200 entries as the winning image. Sanji, who is a photographer and Director of Skar Image Lab, a Fine Art Print Studio, said: I would love to print this and have it on my wall. It has good composition and the light is beautiful. The negative space is well balanced with the object in focus. It is a minimalist image but it speaks volumes of the change we have gone through in recent times, leaving one path behind and moving forward along another. 

Francis Cai

Alex Mao Youth Award 2020

Matt Hurley won the 2020 Alex Mao Youth Award, a new photography prize for emerging photographers with his image 'Sunday Treat'. Congratulations Matt. He wins a $1200 cash prize.

Judge Raymond Sagapolutele, said "The image that I chose, Matt Hurley's summer ice cream has so much going for it. It is a portrait but not just of a person but that moment in time and characterised in the melting mess that anyone will recognise and engage with, it's the face of Summer. I may be sentimental in my appreciation of the image but there is so much that this engages with, the sense of a moment in time and recalled memory and with the use of shallow depth of field the hazy feeling that pulls the viewer into the details of what's on offer. The ice cream itself is a caricature of a face melting and smiling and running down the arm of the person we don't know just out of frame."

Matt Hurley; Sunday Treat

Alex Mao Youth Award 2019

Congratulations to our inaugural Award recipient Amie Kaufman from West Auckland, for her sterling image 'Trying to Grow Up', this image won the 2019 award. She wins a $1200 cash prize.

 Amie Kaufman; Trying To Grow Up

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