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Photo competition 2023

‘12 Degrees’ by John Robert M. Maraño wins Life at Sea 2023 photography competition!

This World Maritime Day, we’re delighted to announce the winners of Life At Sea 2023.

The first prize of £1,000 goes to John Robert M. Maraño for his photo ’12 Degrees’ – at first glance a clever trick until you notice the pitch of the ship showing on the instrument (an inclinometer) on the wall behind. Paddy Rodgers, judging the competition said “We think of the floor as solid, but seafarers will tell you that aboard a ship the floor is very movable. The pendulum in the background of the image shows the swing of the ship, that it’s not a trick, that the photographer is doing something quite clever with the angle of the camera.” Just imagine carrying out your daily work in an environment that’s constantly rolling that you’re powerless to control.


A graphic showing the Ist Prize photo on a black background with text reading Life At Sea 2023 1st Prize Winner John Robert M. Marano, "12 Degrees", the photo shows a seafarer standing on the ships' bridge apparently at an impossible angle in relation to the floor, however the clinometer on the wall behind shows it is actually the ship that is at a steep angle.

"Michael Jackson? No. This is me trying his moves while balancing myself as the ship’s rolling reaches 12 degrees. This prevents me from getting dizzy with the ship’s heavy rolling. This was taken during our drifting in Fremantle, Australia."  - John Robert M Maraño

Continuing the theme of the forces of nature, the second prize was awarded to Mikael Cesar Bureros for his photo ‘Converging Forces’ a dramatic image of a container ship about to be engulfed by a sandstorm blowing out of Egypt. In this image the viewer can imagine the feeling of seeing great billowing clouds of sand heading inexorably towards the photographer on board. Patrice Terraz, photographer and judge said “Looking through the photos, you realise ‘no-one but a seafarer could take this photo’, so many of the photos put you immediately into the view of the crew.”

A graphic showing the 2nd Prize photo on a black background with text reading Life At Sea 2023 2nd Prize Winner Mikael Cesar Bureros "Converging Forces: A Seafarer's Encounter with Nature's Fury". The picture is of a container ship at sea, dwarfed by the massive sandstorm about to engulf it which fills the whole picture behind the ship.

"In the realm of the seafarer, the unpredictable forces of nature are both familiar and formidable. When a sandstorm sweeps across the land, a mesmerizing battle between land and sea unfolds. The swirling maelstrom of sand mirrors the ceaseless waves that test the prowess of seafarers. Like the turbulent ocean, the sandstorm brings forth a symphony of chaos and challenge, where wind and sand merge in a dance of elemental power. Yet amidst this tempestuous encounter, the seafarer's spirit remains unyielding. Drawing upon their seafaring instincts, they navigate through the chaos, relying on their honed skills and resilient resolve. In this captivating clash of land and sea, the seafarer's indomitable spirit shines through, a testament to their unparalleled courage and unwavering determination to conquer nature's most formidable storms." - Mikael Cesar Bureros

The third prize, awarded to Reza Sajedifar for ‘Serenity’ brings a change of mood with a colourful view shot over the side of a tanker showing a fisherman at prayer on a small boat alongside. Anne Reitsma, photographer and competition judge said, “This photo, with its beautiful colour and composition, really shows the interaction of people’s daily lives and the sea.”

A graphic showing the 3rd Prize photo on a black background with text reading Life At Sea 2023 3rd Prize Reza Sajedifar "Serenity". The image shows a view downwards over the side of a ship to where a small fishing boat floats. In the boat a man is knelt at prayer on a prayer mat while his colleagues continue to fish.

"Hello I took this photo from the deck of an oil tanker. I found the fishing boat, which was about 15 meters below us, very interesting. They were almost clinging to our anchored ship so that they could catch more fish and the most interesting thing in my opinion is the fisherman who prayed in the middle of the ocean with a certain simplicity. Thank God I had my camera in my hand and I was able to take their picture at that moment" - Reza Sajedifar

The judges recognised three further photographs as highly commended: ‘Woman, you belong! [Babae, kabilang ka!]’ by Juven Tupas, ‘Rescue at Sea’ by Elijah Jose C. Barrios, and ‘Tank Inspection’ by Randolph P. de Jesus.

Women are still very under-represented in the maritime sector comprising only 2% of the international workforce. This pensive image titled ‘Woman, you belong!’ suggests an inner strength and determination and reminds us that though small in number women can play a vital role in the industry.

A graphic showing a Highly Commended Prize photo on a black background with text reading Life At Sea 2023 Highly Commended Juven Tupas "Woman You Belong! Babae, kabilang ka!". The photo is a monochrome portrait of a black woman seafarer, sat leaning with her elbow over a rail and looking out towards the right of the photo. She is wearing an overall and has ear defenders around her neck.

"In a world where you are observed by many and your abilities are compared to that of men’s, it is your own identity that drives your valuable contribution to the industry. As you accelerate in numbers, it also proves that the maritime world is not only for men but for everyone. You might feel lonely sometimes but remember that you are not alone. You're a woman, and you belong!" - Juven Tupas

In addition to the day job, seafarers are also confronted by life and death situations such as that reflected in ‘Rescue at Sea’. Whilst governments debate the political implications of migration at sea, seafarers must deal with the immediate humanitarian response. This dramatic image shows the precarity of the craft and the desperation of the people on board and leaves us to imagine the stress and bravery of the seafarers engaged in saving their lives.

A graphic showing a Highly Commended Prize photo on a black background with text reading Life At Sea 2023 Highly Commended Elijah Jose C. Barrios "Rescue At Sea - A Catch For Life". The monochrome photo shows six men and a dog on a makeshift dinghy at sea. The boat appears to be made of polystyrene blocks, wooden planks and rope. Water can be seen in the bottom of the boat. The men are clearly in some distress and are waving and catching ropes thrown towards them.

"The sea is an immensity of inspiring stories. 09 February 2023—Our ship was en route to New Orleans, USA, when our second officer suddenly noticed a makeshift boat seemingly in distress. At that time, I was watching a movie in my cabin. Our captain called me in a rushed voice, instructing me to bring my camera and document what would be a rescue operation. When I got there, all hands were already on deck. We had doubts at the beginning. We initially thought they were pirates, but when we zoomed in the photos, the tears and exhaustion in their faces were enough to prove they were not. The rescue operation was challenging for all of us. The sea swells were not kind, and the current wasn't easing us either. It took us five attempts before we were able to rescue the distressed persons successfully. In this photo, you will see our final attempt at reaching them through a lifeline. It was a catch for life." - Elijah Jose C. Barrios

Tank Inspection’ presents a completely different perspective. This almost abstract photo shows the ship as an inhuman environment, enormous and dizzying but one that must be maintained and kept safe by the crew on board.

A graphic showing a Highly Commended Prize photo on a black background with text reading Life At Sea 2023 Highly Commended Randolph P. De Jesus "Tank Inspection". The photo shows a view into the ballast tank of the ship, within the superstructure of the ship. The curved bracing structures within the tank are in a shape similar to a capital letter D. As you look through the tank the braces make a repetitive pattern, each one smaller than the last, making it almost look like a spiral staircase going down and disguising the actual orientation of the view shown in the photograph.

"Tank inspection is indeed a tiring job." - Randolph P. de Jesus

Life at Sea 2023 is the fourth seafarers’ photography competition organised by the ITF Seafarers Trust. The ITF Seafarers’ Trust photography project, which began in 2020 at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, now boasts a collection of some 8,000 digital images and captions. We are enormously grateful to all the seafarers who have embraced the opportunity to share their experiences with us and help raise the profile of the men and women powering the global movement of goods and people by sea.

Thanks also go to this year’s judges: San Ko Oo, seafarer and winner of Life At Sea 2022, Anne Reitsma, photographer, Patrice Terraz, photographer, and Paddy Rodgers, Director (Chief Executive) of Royal Museums Greenwich who undertook the very difficult task of selection with great care and consideration.

Life at Sea 2023 is the fourth seafarers’ photography competition organised by the ITF Seafarers Trust. 

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