2023 Open Award Finalists

Entries open to all AOP Member and Non-Members.

Championing exquisite imagery. 

© Todd Antony 

Discover the 2023 AOP Open Award Finalists

”The Open Award is open to everyone – both professional and amateur – and are about championing exquisite imagery. There are no categories or restrictions in the Open Award, the image is the star, and exciting and innovative work is encouraged.”

Judged by:

  • Michelle Marshall, Photographer

  • Nic Renn, Creative Director and Art Director

  • Levon Biss, Photographer

  • Olivia Hingley, Staff Writer, It’s Nice That

Featured Image © Julia Bostock, 

The AOP Open Award is  is an exciting opportunity for professionals and amateurs to compete on equal terms during what is our prestigious Annual Awards season.

Not to be confused with our AOP Projects Programme which features a rolling calendar of partnered projects, the AOP Open Award aims to bring together professional and amateurs in a high profile way.

“Once again, the judges and the AOP team have been blown away by the quality of the Open Award finalist entries. Captivating and considered work, with a range of entries that have compelling human stories to share. Plus, lots of new names to discover, making this another exciting year for photography indeed.”
Isabelle Doran
“…a really compelling set of entries I thought. It was quite a tricky challenge judging single images, series of images and also the film entries, as obviously it’s not like for like, so that was a challenge. But I think between all of us there were some obviously clear standouts… Overall great work from everyone”
Nic Renn
Creative Director and Art Director
“It was a real pleasure the judge the AOP Open Awards this year. I think the diversity in the work across lots of different genres was excellent and the quality throughout was high. The winners themselves were certainly deserving of their places and I certainly look forward to seeing more of their photography in the future, so congratulations to all.”
Levon Biss

Congratulations to:

Dunja Opalko

Creative Mothers – On running businesses and raising children.

I had my daughter in June 2020 and being a self employed photographer I suddenly felt that it’s quite hard to balance work and motherhood. With Covid of course things slowed down naturally but after a year or so I felt that everyone went more or less back to normal while I was still trying to figure out how to find a balance. The feeling of not being a mother to 100% and not being a photographer to 100% was quite hard to accept. I love what I do but I also want to be present for my daughter, so this created a conflict within me as I couldn’t give my all to any of those. I realised that you really have to love what you do as a creative person to keep on doing it with a toddler by your side. Late 2021 I was thinking about all the other women who run their own business or are self employed and how they must feel. So I started reaching out to women I admired such as photographer Ola O. Smit and artist Laxmi Hussain. I started working with writer Tessa Pearson who runs interviews alongside the photographs. It’s a busy world we live in and there are a lot of day to day challenges we’re presented with, even more so it was important to me that the portraits depict moments of calm in the busy lives of self-employed creative women emphasising a sense of strength, love and connection between mother and child. The overall aim of this series is to produce an honest, touching and inclusive tribute to creative mothers. Everyone’s story is different but what they all have in common is the unconditional love towards their children as well as their profession.

© Dunja Opalko


Alex Macro

Camargue camouflage.

The ancient white horses of the Camargue are as wild as their surroundings. Catching one, literally and photographically, can be challenging. This one very graciously and coyly paused in the reeds for a second while I caught this shot. 

© Alex Macro

Jack Margerison

This photo project is a continuation of our first with Floris the knife maker, delving deeper into his relationship with his sibling Oliver, a painter. The brothers live in the small town of Hoogcruts in The Netherlands, where not many people their age reside. This intimate understanding of each other is reflected in their shared passion for the arts, as Floris crafts knives and Oliver paints. In addition to their shared passion for the arts, Floris and Oliver are also both building tiny houses on carts on land where an old monastery stands. They aim to build a small community of people who can come and go, creating an environment where different disciplines can support each other and a natural flow of creating can occur. Floris describes the location as a place “where multiple small spaces, each supporting the full spectrum but dedicated to their own fundamental term, are brought together.” The goal is not to create a set community where these disciplines are practiced by a non-changing group of people, but rather to allow people to come and go, to “let interested, possibly receptive, taste all of this so they can be put back into the ‘normal’ world with now another perspective.” The brothers hope to introduce an important conversation and make people wonder how they can start changing and molding their own reality. Through a series of portraits and candid shots, we will capture the dynamic between the two brothers as they work in their respective mediums, as well as their shared creative process and the unique bond between the brothers and the ways in which their art is intertwined with their relationship.


© Jack Margerison

Mandy Simpson


Brook House Calling is a collection of colour images and a short cyanotype animation film, made collaboratively with my father investigating our collective strata of memories.
I haven’t lived with him for over 30 years, but I feel at home when I am sat in his kitchen in the warmth of the Aga and I don’t want to risk forgetting what that feels and sounds like. Dad and I have spent months together filming, creating the memories as one, walking around the farm and spending time in the house, which remains the same now as it did when we lived there as a family when my mother was alive.
Recollections are like layers, some vivid, others a misty idea of what once was, some feel almost imagined. This haziness has led me to create an animation film using alternative techniques.
The original film footage has been pieced together, then broken down frame by frame and reproduced using the cyanotype process to create an animation of over 8000 individual images. The uniqueness of the brushstrokes and natural imperfections give the film an antiquated feel which cannot be replicated. The cyanotype process is a time leveller, the blue and grey hues muddle the years giving a sense of undefined nostalgia.
Although photographs trigger memory, it is the sound of someone voice which immediately makes an unmistakeable connection. I have been keeping Dad’s voicemails for several years and have used them to create the audio for the animation, collaborating with my son, Archie, who has designed the soundtrack for the film.
Frames from the film have been combined with a collection of colour images taken at the farm to create a book, showing the house and farm as it is today.
Brook House Calling has brought together three generations to create a new legacy for the future, always remembering the wonderful man that is Dad.

Brook House Calling Animation – https://youtu.be/q_5GQTsr7z4
Brook House Calling Book – https://online.flippingbook.com/view/360215058/

© Mandy Simpson

Wycliff Alabi


Based on drawings by J0rdanna, the Òrìsà series explores the Yoruba deities, Osun, Obatala, Yemoja, Esu, and Oya. In expressionist fashion.
It is believed that the Yorubas are direct descendants of these spiritual figureheads.

Upholding a belief system that is widely perceived as supreme and sovereign, often encourages the disregard for other religious practices.

“I personally find it ridiculous that we disregard other belief systems and practices.
The realness of spirituality and religion cuts across every belief system on the planet.
This series was inspired by my late grandfather who was a diviner of Ifa from a young age. I might not fully understand or relate to the belief system but I no longer disregard it” – J0rdanna.

© Wycliff Alabi

Cat Gundry-Beck

The Ice Climber

On a cold, windy morning in Iceland, he embarks across a frozen lake: crampons on his feet and ice axes & ropes on his back. In the distance, he sees an iceberg jutting out of the frozen lake, like a castle wall looming before him.

He tells the tale that this will be the hardest ice wall he’s ever climbed. As he approaches the intimidating sheet of ice, he takes a deep breath, sets up, and climbs. Gasps and moans of pain arise as he hammers his axe into the hard ice. Sweat and shards of ice fall far below him as he ascends higher.

He reaches the top with tears of joy and holds up his axes in triumph. His body tingles with achievement. He descends again to the sound of applause from his spectators, reaching the bottom. He’s safely back on the solid ground of the frozen lake. Relief floods his body as he smiles broadly.

Among the applause, the voice of his photographer friend rings out: ‘Hey Mike, could you do it again, but in a dress?’

© Cat Gundry-Beck

Matt Bramston

Los Luchadores

‘Los Luchadores’ is a series that follows a community of lucha libre wrestlers – known as luchadores – in Mexico City. It explores how this culture of wrestling is as much (if not more so) about family, tradition, and legacy, as it is athleticism and dedication to training. The subjects captured are the next generation being trained by the highly-regarded and admired professional wrestler, Dr. Karonte Jr, son of Dr. Karonte at his gym in Aquiles Serdán.


 © Matt Bramston

Owen Harvey

The Matadors.

Bullfighting is a huge part of the Spanish identity and history, with origins as early as 711 AD.
With growing division in the opinion of whether the killing of an animal should continue for entertainment, I went to Spain in search of the next generation of young hopeful matadors.
I found young men who felt they’d learnt respect, courage and discipline from the teachings of bullfighting. Some were from generations of bullfighters and the culture around this performance of strength, movement and machoism was their life in and outside of the arena.

© Owen Harvey

Ioana Marinca

Yellow Wallpaper

When I was 14 I was picking up my sister’s last Bacalaureat exam results. My best friend came with me, it was a short walk from home. I was on my period and already in pain, but nothing I wasn’t used to. On the way home I remember blacking out; not through pain, my vision just completely went black. I grabbed my friend’s arm and asked for help to sit down. I remember throwing up in a flower bed and my vision returning after a few minutes. That was my only blackout, but for the next 25 years I have lived in constant fear of my period, accepting that mine came with pain. Despite regular visits to different doctors and specialists I never knew why.

Around the age of 35, after nearly passing out in the office I decided to investigate my periods again. During a scan the nurse pointed to my womb on the monitor and said “Look, it lights up like a Christmas tree!”. I finally had a diagnosis: it was adenomyosis. I asked the doctor what treatment options I had, she said none but suggested inducing me into menopause. Anger bubbled up inside of me, I wanted to scream.
I decided to ask questions: why is there no treatment? How many other women are in a similar situation, and how do they live with womb related conditions that science has yet to fully understand? Why are we treated as guinea-pigs, switching from one hormonal treatment to another, sometimes with long term side effects?

Through personal experiences of the women I’ve met and photographed, Yellow Wallpaper examines how women have been excluded from medical research, have not been listened to – especially when experiencing pain, causing women’s bodies to become medically, scientifically and socially invisible.

Paul Wenham-Clarke

There is no grief without love.

This series of images is derived from the exhibition ‘When Lives Collide 2023’ that was created for Roadpeace a charity dedicated to making our roads safer and for the improved treatment of victims. The work was shown at The Gallery@OXO in Jan/Feb 2023 and was featured on BBC London Television and GB News and had 4000 visitors. This is a series is portraits of bereaved people who have experienced the heart-wrenching loss of a son, daughter or partner. Each person is photographed as they recall their story and a roller-coaster of emotions are recorded in front of the lens. Some cry intensely as emotions of grief and anger flow uncontrollably. Whilst others smile as they choke the back tears, remembering a beautiful moment with their lost loved one. Each person has bravely volunteered to taken part in this challenging photographic work to encourage the public to engage with this topic and recognise the devastating impact of these crashes.

© Paul Wenham-Clarke

Julia Bostock


After many visits to the Outer Hebrides this series was based around Allan and her community on the island of Barra.

Shot on the island of Barra in the Outer Hebrides in the middle of winter as part of an ongoing series about island kids. Everyone said we were mad to try.


© Julia Bostock

Christian Sinibaldi

Cheerleading – Passion for Cheer – Lagos, Nigeria.

Cheerleading is normally associated with the US and as a discipline supporting other sports, mainly by chanting and dancing. If this was the origin of the sport, which started in 1898 at the University of Minnesota, this sport came long way and, in our days, developed into a unique practice, a mix of gymnastic, dancing and acrobatics that will make you jump on your chair.
On July 2021, the International Olympic Committee voted in favour of granting full recognition to the International Cheer Union and cheerleading.
The new status means that an Olympic host nation is now able to select Cheerleading for inclusion at its games.
The International Cheer Union Association, which was established on 26 April 2004 and is the recognized world governing body of Cheerleading and comprises of 117 members National Cheer Federations / 7.5 million athletes on all 7 continents.
The interesting fact is that between the 117 members are some unexpected countries like Burundi, Ivory Coast, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Zambia and also unexpected countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Kyrgyzstan, Viet Nam and UAE and many more.
In January 2023 I started the project, travelled to Viet Nam and spent a few days around Ho Chi Minh City photographing the training sessions but mainly creating a series of single and group portraits of the Saigon Beast, which are the first cheerleading squad in Viet Nam. They are the only that have travelled internationally and participated to a few international competitions.
They only formed 10 years ago and Hung, founder and now coach, spent his last 10 years trying to learn technics, initially via Youtube and mainly spreading his passion for the sport to younger generations.
In June 2023 I went to Lagos, Nigeria were I meet Nigeria Cheers and once again I created a series of portraits of the young athlete during the training session and in the middle of an area called Yaba, in downtown Lagos.

© Christian Sinibaldi

Credit: Christian Sinibaldi for Saturday Magazine/the Guardian


Frederic Aranda

Mother Goose.

Ian McKellen backstage in his dressing room at the Duke of York’s Theatre (London) before his performance as the title role in the Mother Goose Pantomime, January 2023.


Vogue House

A family portrait of the House of Gorgeous Gucci. A ‘Vogue House’ is a group of people united in family-style support networks under a ‘mother’ or a ‘father’. Houses compete together at Voguing events as part of the Ballroom Scene, an African-American and Latino underground subculture originating in New York City that celebrates and prioritises LGBTQIA+ people of colour. This Vogue House was photographed in Paris, the night before a grand Ball, in October 2021.


In total silence

Quick change behind the curtain. Ian McKellen being fitted with a giant wig in total silence and near total darkness in the wings, save for a single flash light. Mother Goose, Duke of York’s Theatre, London, January 2023.


© Frederic Aranda

Shane Hynan

‘Beneath | Beofhód’, Volume 2 – Turf Cutting

‘Beneath | Beofhód’ is an ongoing photographic series (2018-present) exploring the bogs of the Irish midlands and the culture around them. The work reflects on Ireland’s changing relationship with bogs and draws upon themes of nostalgia, change, fragility and time. It contemplates social and environmental justice alongside a topographical mapping of peatlands and a metaphorical exploration of Ireland, society and self.

The work explores the tension and conflict that arises through change on a personal, communal and societal level. It also draws upon the many dualities that exist in our perception and interaction with peatlands including; extraction and conservation, tradition and modernity, urban and rural, man and environment etc. The work is deeply personal and explores the complexities of the human condition and our relationship with the land. It also seeks to subvert the media’s overemphasis on conflict and recent greenwashing by industry relating to peatlands.

The project has separate volumes exploring different aspects of bogs including the de-industrialisation of the landscape, turf cutting, communities connected to peatlands and the idea of a ‘Just Transition’. All volumes meditate on our place within the environment, our relationship with bogs and how we perceive them.

The submitted images are all from Vol 2 and most were taken on our local bog, where our community has harvested turf for generations. This bog has been held in Trust by our community since 1906 and is currently managed by a committee which I joined in 2022. Although we are still cutting turf we are exploring future options for our bog including a conservation project, a renewable energy project and some form of amenity to encourage tourism. Recently the committee had initial discussions about possibly reducing turf cutting and implementing a hybrid model of turf cutting alongside a conservation project. Although there is significant resistance many also realise that change is coming regardless.

© Shane Hynan


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