These are the Winners of NASA’s Own ‘Photographer of the Year’ Contest


NASA photographers don’t get a lot of love. Since they work for a government agency, their images are released into the public domain and are often only credited as “Photo by NASA.” The agency’s internal Photographer of the Year contest aims to provide some well-deserved recognition.

Created by NASA’s head of mission imagery Maura White, the NASA Photographer of the Year contest was born in 2018 as a combination of “friendly competition, bragging rights, and acknowledgement for being so crucial to NASA’s mission.” The contest pits all of NASA’s photographers (about 70 of them) against one another to see who captured the most engaging photos the previous year. Entries are judged by experts like astronaut Don Petit and the Photo Editor of Smithsonian’s Air & Space magazine Caroline Sheen.

The winners for the 2nd annual contest were shared on Twitter on June 3rd, but didn’t really get any press until two days ago when Air & Space shared them with the world. You can see all four for yourself below. As far as we can tell, no “overall” winner was named, but each of the four categories has a winner, and several “runners up” were included in the Air & Space feature as well.

Winner – Places Category

SSDI Facility | Photo by Chris Gunn

Winner – People Category

Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel | Photo by Harlen Capen

Winner – Portrait Category

Tim Bencic with Tomography System | Photo by Jordan Salkin

Winner – Documentation Category

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope | Photo by Chris Gunn

The winning images and runners up are all exceptional examples of impactful documentary photography. To learn more about each of these images or see the runners up for yourself, check out Air & Space magazine’s coverage of the winner’s announcement.

Our only complaint: we wish NASA would do more to share these winning images with the world. As far as we could find, there’s nowhere on NASA’s own website where you can see these photos or learn more about the contest. The only evidence beyond the Air & Space coverage is the Tweet below:

Fingers crossed that changes for the 3rd Annual contest next year. Until then, kudos to Chris Gunn (twice), Harlen Capen, and Jordan Salkin for taking home the bragging rights this time around.


Image Credits: Photos credited individually, all used courtesy of NASA.





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