Banff Centre Announces Armando Vega as Grand Prize Winner of 2023 Banff Mountain Photo Essay Competition

Image from Armando's essay.

2023 Grand Prize Qoyllur Rit'i - The Snow Star Fades, by Armando Vega

The annual Banff Centre Mountain Photo Essay Competition sponsored by Nikon and Fjällräven represents the best in mountain adventure photography and storytelling from around the world. Each year, we invite photographers to submit curated photo essays to illustrate their mountain-related stories that fall under the sub-categories of culture, adventure, wildlife, sport, environment, or natural history. After reviewing many diverse and evocative entries, the selection committee and jury selected an entry that conveyed a most compelling story with images strong enough to stand on their own.

This year Banff Centre is pleased to announce Armando Vega as the Grand Prize Winner of the 2023 Photo Essay Competition for his stunning contribution on the Quechua pilgrims who trek across the Peruvian Andes annually to pay tribute to a slowly disappearing glacier. Armando’s winning essay, Qoyllur Rit'i - The Snow Star Fades will be displayed as part of the 2023 Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival exhibitions in the fall, in addition to receiving the $3000 CAD Grand Prize.  

The 2023 international photo jury was comprised of Ana Caroline de Lima (Brazil), JoJo Das (Canada) and Divyesh Muni (India). The jury had the difficult task of selecting a winner from more than 300 photo essay submissions this year.

“The jury did a tremendous job in selecting a winner with exceptional technical skill and an eye for capturing the unique times we live in. Vega’s ability to weave traditional practice with the current climate crisis in his photographs is a potent reminder of the fundamental changes humanity faces today.”

Joanna Croston, Director of the Banff Centre Mountain Film Book Festival and World Tour

Armando Vega is a Mexican documentary photographer and National Geographic Explorer. His work focuses on the relationship between indigenous people and their territory, as well as more general themes of the environment, climate change, and migration. “This photo essay tells the story of a 200-year-old pilgrimage through the lens of culture, the environment, and climate change,” shares Armando. “My work exposes a remote world that is hidden from many and an intimate aspect of ourselves we forget in our fast-paced, hectic urban settings. I hope the pilgrims' display of veneration to an element of Mother Earth can change people's perception of nature not only as a resource to be exploited for our communal gains but as a gift that must be preserved as a window to the human spirit.”

"Armando's powerful images of the Qoyllur Rit'i were a unanimous decision, the essay is dynamic yet cohesive and instantly transports the viewer to this important pilgrimage in the Andes mountains, where the community gathers to pay tribute to a glacier that is slowly disappearing due to climate change."

Jury member Ana Caroline de Lima

Armando Vega has photographed everything from remote communities in the Sierra Tarahumara in Mexico to paleontological expeditions searching for dinosaur fossils in the Argentine and Chilean Patagonia. In July 2019, he was selected to photograph the total solar eclipse in Chile from a National Geographic plane. Vega’s work has been exhibited in Australia, Germany, Guatemala, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Italy, and Mexico. In addition, he has worked and/or published with National Geographic, ICRC, Disney, Foreign Policy, The Nation, and Gatopardo. Vega’s photographs have been featured on the covers of two Spanish-language issues of National Geographic Magazine.
The 2023 Banff Mountain Photo Essay Competition is sponsored by Nikon and Fjällräven.

View all images and find out more about the 2023 Grand Prize
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Find out more about the Banff Mountain Photo Essay Competition.