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results « Photo Contest: "Why Afghanistan Matters"

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Contest Winners!

Allied Joint Forces Command Brunssum proudly announces the winners of the “Why Afghanistan Matters” Photo Contest.

The Grand Prize winning “Judge’s Choice” photo, by Nasim Fekrat of Afghanistan, is pictured below.  Mr. Fekrat will receive a Nikon D90 12.3MP digital SLR camera, plus a Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S ED VRII Telephoto Zoom Lens.

B0024 The Shrine of Hazrat Ali is home to thousands of white pigeons considered to be sacred.  The spot is said to be so holy if a gray pigeon should join the flock it will become white in 40 days.  Feeding these birds brings good fortune.

The four “People’s Choice” category winners are shown below.  They have each won a Canon Powershot S90 compact camera.

Winner, “People of Afghanistan” – “History and Smiling Future”, Andreas Zapounidis of Greece

A0048Kabul 2009 – bazaar, smiling carpet trader proud of Great Alexander (Iskender) and the history of Afghanistan.

Winner, “Beautiful Afghanistan” – “Cosmic Landscape”, Gancho Kamenarski of Bulgaria


Taken from C130 hercules on 14.09.2006 on the South of Herat.

Winner, “ANSF in Action” – “Muddy Patrol”, Kenny Holston of the United States of America


The reflection of an Afghan Soldier with the 3-1/205 Afghan National Army appears in a puddle on a village road after a heavy rainfall, Feb.5, 2010, Southern Afghanistan. Canadian Forces of 1/205 Corps and the U.S. Army Charlie Company 2508 Task Force Fury worked together mentoring the 3-1/205 Afghan National Army for a successful execution of Operation Mesmar. The mission objective was to clear several villages and fruit orchards in the southern most half of Terot Kulacha in search of improvised explosive devices, weapons caches and illegal drugs.

Winner, ”ISAF in Action” – “Medevac”, John Scott Rafoss of the United States of America


A helicopter gets ready to land for a medical evacuation (medevac) in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, December of 2008.

About the Contest

In December 2009, Allied Joint Forces Command Brunssum launched a photo contest inviting members of the public to submit photos that captured “Why Afghanistan Matters” in one of the four given categories.  Over the next four months, 57 contestants from 15 countries sent in 451 photos.  The category winners were selected by the public, using a “star” rating system.  While it was only possible to vote once per IP address, contestants were encouraged to publicize their entries by any means possible (barring the use of incentives), resulting in 100,000 views from 130 countries and 30,985 votes.

The top three “people’s choice” entries in each category were then submitted to a panel of military and civilian personnel in our headquarters to select (from these 12) an overall winner.  The panelists were not informed of the photographer’s nationality, the caption, or any other identifying information.  Selection for the winning photo was nearly unanimous.

About the Winners

Grand Prize winner Nasim Fekrat is a prolific Afghan blogger who has been bloging since 2002 in his native language as well as in English.  He has been hailed as “Afghanistan’s Biggest Blogger” by Foreign Policy.  Having taught many of his fellow young Afghans to blog, he currently attends University in the United States, but dreams of returning to his native country and expand his independent blogging service for young Afghans.  He sold his camera to help kick off funding for that initiative.

Andreas Zapounidis is a Greek noncommissioned officer who has served in ISAF.  He is a prize winner in our previous initiative, a video contest, having submitted the entry, “ISAF:  Proud 2 Serve” and has managed to mobilize a passionate and enthusiastic national fan base to express public support for his contributions.  Mr. Zapoudinis’ enthusiasm for the contest was evident in the fact that he downloaded his favorite photos and produced a video to promote this contest.  Sergeant Zapoudinis is currently attending advanced NCO education in the United States.

John Scott Rafoss is a former US Marine Corps corporal who identifies himself as a former Marine combat correspondent.  Also a blogger, he served in Afghanistan’s South, and the many photos he contributed to this contest represent only a small portion of his work available online, both on his Flickr photostream and elsewhere.

Kenny Holston is a US Air Force Senior Airman serving in Kandahar as a photojournalist.  He also boasts an impressive online portfolio at Flickr and enjoys learning from others to improve his photography skills.  Senior Airman Holston’s work continues to be featured in numerous ISAF media and publications.

Retired Bulgarian Colonel Gancho Kamenarski has become something of a national hero in this contest.  His entries outpaced nearly all other photos in their respective categories.  In contrast to the other winning contestants who often used blogs and social media to publicize their entries, Mr. Kamenarski relied primarily on email and word of mouth – but in so doing, managed to garner 1,400 ratings on his winning entry, far more than any other.  In fact, Bulgaria ranked 2nd (behind only the United States) in terms of visits to the afghanistanmatters.com website, despite having only one Bulgarian entrant.

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Finalists Announced!

After a stunning 30,985 votes, the finalists for the “Why Afghanistan Matters” photo contest, determined by the public, are listed below.  To review the rules, to be a finalist, a photo must be in the top three.  The Grand Prize Winner will be chosen by a panel, from these twelve. 

Why have we not identified category winners?  The reason for this is that no single contestant is eligible to win two prizes.  Selection of the Grand Prize Winner will therefore affect category winners, and in addition winning a camera in one category affects eligibility to win a camera for another.  So while the field is still open, if you see your photo in this list, you have a 5 in 12 chance of winning a brand new camera!

Final average ratings were computed by combining ”star” ratings for the photo as it appeared in the blog format (the vast majority) and as a photo (which you see when you click on it).

We very much appreciate all of the excellent photos contributed by our competitors and regret it was not possible to award more prizes.  We intend to leave all the photos on this web site for your continued enjoyment. 

These are currently not listed in any particular order.  Watch this space for the final announcement!

“People of Afghanistan”

“Beautiful Afghanistan”

“ANSF in Action”

“ISAF in Action”

Congratulations to all our finalists!

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