‘Home Sick’ by San Ko Oo wins Life at Sea 2022 photography competition

 On this, World Maritime Day, we’re delighted to announce the winners of the Life at Sea 2022 photography competition, the latest in the ITF Seafarers’ Trust project to capture the experiences of seafarers today and highlight their vital, often unnoticed, role in the global economy. 

The photography project, which began in 2020 at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, now boasts a collection of some 5,000 digital images showing seafarers proudly at work on deck, in the engine room and galley; up ropes, wielding hoses and paint brushes, having solitary moments missing family and enjoying the camaraderie on board. Earlier this month the Trust had the pleasure of presenting the shortlisted photos to the International Congress of Maritime Museums at their 50th anniversary congress in Halifax, Canada. The intention is to create collections and resources for museums around the world and share the perspective of contemporary seafarers with the general public. 

This year the first prize of £1,000 goes to San Ko Oo for his photo ‘Home Sick’. The judges were moved by this striking image of a young seafarer looking at his mobile phone, missing home. The combination of tough tattoos and vulnerability reflect the ambiguity of seafaring – on the one hand a hard, macho profession and on the other hand an environment that can be very lonely and isolated. 

‘I was entranced by the quality and variety of images submitted by seafarers for this year’s competition: covering happiness, loneliness, the hard graft of the job, the wildness of the ocean and the elements, they were a truly mesmerising picture of life spent working at sea, out of sight of much of the world that depends on these men and women.’ said Rose George, one of this year’s judges. 

A total contrast, the second prize was awarded to Harold Papa Melendez for his photo ‘Cheerful Buddies’, an image of infectious laughter and sheer joy. ‘Being at port is the busiest time for a seafarer. Aside from keeping watch, there is the supply of provision, stores, bunkering, inspections and no shore leave. But whatever the circumstances are nothing can dampen the mood of a jolly person.’ Commented Mr Melendez in his caption for the photo. 

The third prize was awarded to Sudhir Shukla for his evocative image ‘The Moon’ depicting a seafarer on deck at night drinking in the moonlit sky with the thought ‘No matter where you are in the world, the moon is never bigger that your thumb’. The judges, especially those with Registered Charity in England and Wales No. 281936 www.seafarerstrust.org | Facebook @ITFtrust | Twitter @Seafarers_Trust 2 

seagoing experience, related to the elemental nature of the photograph and the sense of being alone on the wide ocean with dramatic clouds and moon above. 

In addition, judges recognised three further photographs as highly commended. Christine Melliza’s ‘This Girl is On Fire’; Aldrin Manuel Ulep’s ‘A Gaze Beyond Horizon’; and Buen Ray Orteguia’s ‘Scrub, Scrub, Scrub!’. 

‘I’m hugely impressed by the quality of the submissions this year – they just get better and better” said Katie Higginbottom, Head of ITF Seafarers’ Trust ‘Creating the shortlist of thirty for the judges was a real challenge. Every time we dive into the archive, we find new favourites. We are really looking forward to developing new exhibitions and innovative ways to highlight the creativity of seafarers and share their experiences.’ 

Guy Platten, General Secretary of ICS said ‘It was an honour to be asked to be a judge of the Trust’s photography competition. The calibre of the photography was extraordinarily high and really spoke to me as a former seafarer. All the winning images have great qualities and capture a wide range of emotions – ‘Cheerful Buddies’ brings a smile just by looking at it.’ 

Belal Ahmed, Chairman of IMEC said ‘I was delighted to be asked to be a judge of the seafarers’ photography competition – that was before I realised how hard it would be. The range and expressiveness of the photographs was really impressive. As an ex-seafarer I could relate to almost all photographs shortlisted for the award. We had quite extensive discussions before finally reaching a consensus on the winners. This is a really great initiative designed to showcase the talent of our seafarers and give witness to their great work keeping global trade afloat.’ 

This year’s judges were Rose George, author of the acclaimed book Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, And Food on Your Plate (also published under the title Deep Sea & Foreign Going), Jacqueline Smith, Maritime Coordinator of the International Transport Workers’ Federation, Ahmed Belal, MD of Western Shipping, Singapore and Chairman of the International Maritime Employers’ Council and Guy Platten, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS). 

Life at Sea 2022 is the third seafarers’ photography competition organised by the ITF Seafarers Trust following on from Still at Sea (2020) and Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind (2021). It is the intention to make it an annual event and living archive of seafarers’ conditions, experiences and emotions. The winning photographs can be found here: https://www.seafarerstrust.org/what-we-do/photo-competition-2022 

ENDS For further information please contact: 

Mary Bollan 

Office and Communications Manager 


+44 (0) 20 7940 9315 


NAMMA members receive a print copy of The MARE Report, NAMMA’s annual magazines for seafarer’s welfare professionals