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Canon Explorer Alessandra Meniconzi wins top travel award

Canon Explorer Alessandra Meniconzi wins top travel award

© Alessandra Meniconzi

December 2012

Canon Explorer Alessandra Meniconzi has finished off her year with success in the 2012 Travel Photographer of the Year contest, winning the ‘New Talent Portfolio - Another World’ category, for her images of the Nenet people of Siberia, and finishing runner-up in the ‘Condé Nast Traveller Award - Celebration’ section for an essay on the holy town of Lalibela in Ethiopia.

Alessandra Meniconzi told CPN: “I am absolutely excited about this victory, as it is important for the public to see these pictures and be aware of the hardships [that] minority people face every day.”

Speaking about her time with the Nenets, Alessandra explained: “These people are also known as Samoyeds, and are an indigenous people native to Siberia. They live beyond the Arctic Circle in a very difficult environment and their main subsistence comes from reindeer. They use the animals for almost all of their everyday needs: from food and clothing to tools and transportation.”

© Alessandra Meniconzi

Herding reindeer in the morning. As the deer are rounded up, their hooves kick up the snow and a fine icy dust lends the scene an ethereal quality. Taken on a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III with an EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens at 200mm. The exposure was 1/800sec at f/8, ISO 100.

“Nenet herders have a nomadic lifestyle,” she recalled. “They migrate seasonally with their reindeer, travelling more than a thousand kilometers across the tundra along ancient migration routes. It was one of my hardest trips, and I was there to photograph them for a book I am producing on the Arctic people.”

“I would travel by sledge or snowmobile through the tundra for up to 12 hours, sometimes, to reach their camps,” Alessandra remembered. “It was very cold, up to minus 30 degrees at times, but I was kept busy and warm by helping the Nenets chop wood and put up tents. Nenet people are hardy workers and never stop and as a photographer you should always be prepared.” Alessandra used EOS-1Ds Mark III and EOS 7D DSLRs, and explained: “My cameras never let me down, I am pleased to say. I kept them warm in my backpack with pocket hand warmers! The friendly hospitality of the people soon helped me to forget all the difficulties I faced, however. This is one of the best trips that I have ever made.”

The 2012 Travel Photographer of the Year judging panel commented: “Alessandra has captured the main elements of life for Siberia's Nenets, a nomadic people whose life is based around the reindeer herds - an often harsh environment - in a portfolio which offers pace, perspective and a personal view into the lives of these people. This portfolio mixes the gritty reality with great beauty.”

Of her trip to the holy town of Lalibela, in northern Ethiopia, Alessandra recalled: “Lalibela is one of Ethiopia's holiest cities and it is a centre of pilgrimage. It is situated in a mountainous region of the country and is famous for its 11 medieval monolithic churches, all carved out of rock.”

© Alessandra Meniconzi

Pilgrims gather at dawn to offer prayers at Lalibela’s sacred Church of St. George. Taken on a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens at 43mm. The exposure was 1/10sec at f/8, ISO 200.

“I was there on holiday and couldn’t wait to get to one particular church, the Church of St. George,” she told CPN. “It is a church made entirely from the surrounding rocks in a cross shape. With these images I wanted to show the sacred nature of this place and the dawn was a perfect time to shoot.”

Using her EOS-1Ds Mark III and EOS 7D, Alessandra took advantage of the abilities of the cameras to shoot in low-light and recorded some extraordinary images. “I felt like I was in a sacred cosmos where everything was charged with religious significance,” she remembered. “The pilgrims were so absorbed in their prayers it gave me a real sense of intimate religious devotion. After their early morning prayers, the pilgrims left the holy place, the sun came out, and so did the thousands of tourists! The magical atmosphere disappeared like the dawn.”

In 2013 you will be able to see Alessandra Meniconzi’s winning work on display, amongst all of the winning images from the 2012 Travel Photographer of the Year exhibition, at the Royal Geographical Society in London, England. The exhibition will run at the venue from 12 July until 18 August 2013.

Biografía: Alessandra Meniconzi

Alessandra Meniconzi

Alessandra Meniconzi is a documentary photographer whose work ‘centres on the ancient heritage, customs, spirituality and daily life of indigenous people.’ She has a fascination and strong respect for native people who live and work in the world’s most isolated regions and for more than a decade she has worked extensively in remote areas of Asia. More recently she has expanded her efforts to encompass Arctic and sub-Arctic regions that are being threatened by climate change, development and resource extraction.


The traditional type of dwelling of the Nenets is the conical tent. The tent consists of a framework built from between 25 and 60 poles, which are carried along in a sledge during migrations over the treeless tundra. Taken on a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III with a EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens at 32mm. The exposure was 1/10sec at f/5, ISO 400.