Beguiling, uncanny image wins annual photography prize

Master of Architecture (Professional) student Gujin Chung has been awarded the 2022 Simon Devitt Prize for Photography.

Someone with stubble and yellowing teeth sits in a chair, their face is mostly hidden by a large dental microscope zoomed in on their teeth
Detail of MArch(Prof) student Gujin Chung's winning work ‘1000 Blind Windows’

This year's theme was 'New world order, altered reality, change maker', which invited a wide range of intriguing visual interpretations. Of these, prize sponsor Simon Devitt says Gujin Chung's winning image is left burned into the judges' memories. "It is an image that we, the judges, wish we had or could make. It is at once beguiling, funny and dark. There is an uncanny nature to the image and a significant amount of detail that can be overlooked after the first encounter."

"The image's title, ‘1000 Blind Windows', adds to the 'Lynch/Jeunet and Caro' filmic mood and nuance; the small hammer in the left hand, the running shoes and an assemblage of ties sat with an askew collared shirt, the 'patient' uncomfortably lounged ready for whatever is coming next."

In a time where we command and demand as much information as possible about almost everything, an image like this deserves to be left alone with its ambiguous intent. The photographer leaves us with a sensation, a chance encounter with another world, or at least another time outside of where we find ourselves now.

Simon Devitt Photographer and prize sponsor

"Take a look for yourself and be left with the imprint it leaves on you. No need to ask much of this winning image—Gujin has done it for you."

Someone with stubble and yellowing teeth sits in a chair, their face is mostly hidden by a large dental microscope zoomed in on their teeth
‘1000 Blind Windows’ by Gujin Chung, 2022 Simon Devitt Prize for Photography winner

The Simon Devitt Prize for Photography is an annual competition open to students studying Architecture, Design, Fine Arts, Urban Design or Urban Planning at Waipapa Taumata Rau University of Auckland. Devitt, who established the award in 2008, also noted the high quality of work for this year's entries, commending the finalists for their excellent entries.

"While photography was invented as a 2D printed medium to be displayed as works on paper, this year's winner and finalists will sadly only be seen as pixels on a screen. But how lucky are we that we get to see this array of stunning images at all! I, for one, am thrilled at the successful entries from this year. The gallery of entries handpicked for presentation will very clearly speak for itself. Enjoy!"

Second place: Eiko Olykan

Photo of 4 doves inside a car
‘Natural Disaster’ by Eiko Olykan

Natural Disaster is a photograph I made by renting white doves and putting them inside a car to see what would happen. They are very personable animals and bear a lot of symbology and meaning to us. I was interested in the violence of the invasion of the birds as well as the beauty.

Eiko Olykan Bachelor of Fine Arts student

Third place: John Wong

A lone finger stands in a park at night, with an object hovering in front of them, while red and pink lights glow in the distance above
‘Escaping Surveillance’ by John Wong

The thought behind the image is the idea of a world/dystopian future where robots rule the world. There is a set curfew for humans, and drones are set out to survey surrounding areas, capturing people who disobey the laws. The photo follows the story of a man who decides to go against the norm, becoming the changemaker.

John Wong Bachelor of Architectural Studies student

Highly commended: Cindy Leong

Two people stand together in a park by a lake. There is strange half-circle sculpture in the field, with a translucent rainbow orb of light inside
‘Reflexivity’ by Cindy Leong

When considering the terms of this year's theme, a politically charged and technologically advanced, materialist world filled with propaganda, AI, and gaming headsets initially came to mind. My work, however, counters this and rather represents my hopeful vision of a "New World Utopia" in which, rather than adopting Western notions of happiness through the likes of achievement, capitalism and consumerism, future generations instead seek an introspective shift that intrinsically feels more connected, self-aware, present, and reflexive.

Cindy Leong Postgraduate Certificate in Fine Arts student

Highly commended: Rowan Thomson

a distorted body selfie
‘Transmutation (mylar selfie)’ by Rowan Thomson

Transmutation (mylar selfie) shows my abstracted body, reflected in mylar. In this reflection, I experience an altered form of embodiment; one that is fluid, slippery, and unfixed.

Rowan Thomson Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) student

Media contact

Tamara Rickett | Communications and Marketing Manager
Creative Arts and Industries