The 10 Best Historic Photographs of 2020 | History Hit

The 10 Best Historic Photographs of 2020

Amy Irvine

26 Nov 2020
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Poulnabrone Dolmen, by Todor Tilev

Historic Photographer of the Year calls on photographers from around the globe to explore and capture the very best historic places and cultural sites that the world has to offer. Whether it’s a ruined English castle, an underground Roman villa or the haunting beauty of a long-forgotten battlefield, historical sites are among the most picturesque places to photograph on Earth.

With varying restrictions in place across the globe due to the coronavirus pandemic, rather than asking entrants to head out and explore, this year the judges (including our very own Dan Snow!) were keen to discover the very best images of fascinating historic locations that reside in photographer’s archives.

Here are the winning images from each of the 3 categories: Main, English History and Where History Happened, along with a few of the stunning shortlisted snaps from each category that all help tell the story of the world’s ancient landmarks through sensational photography.

Overall Winner:

Entries were judged on originality, composition and technical proficiency alongside the story behind the image and its historical impact.

The Brighton Palace Pier, by Michael Marsh

The Brighton Palace Pier, by Michael Marsh

Photographer’s comment: Standing in the full force of weather and time: The Brighton Palace Pier, my wife and I have been visiting Brighton for a few years now and I always strive to capture this lovely historic seaside town with a sense of the atmosphere and cinematic interpretation that it instills in me.

Some of the shortlisted photographs from this category:

Notodden, Norway, by Bjørn Andre Hagen

Notodden, Norway, by Bjørn Andre Hagen

Photographer’s comment: Heddal Stave Church is a stave church located at Heddal in Notodden municipality, Norway. The church is a tripe nave stave church and is Norway’s largest stave church. It was constructed at the beginning of the 13th century.

Welsh Farmhouse, by Ian M Hazeldine

Welsh Farmhouse, by Ian M Hazeldine

Photographer’s comment: A deserted farmhouse in Wales. Ceilings caving in, but filled with a family history.

English History Winner:

Forged, ploughed, painted, and built – England’s historic environment is unique, incredible and irreplaceable. Whether a place is listed or long forgotten, our rich and varied history helps characterise our landscape and supports our sense of identity and belonging.

This category is inspired by the beauty, breadth, and brilliance of England’s history, the real rare and rousing sights which best describe who we are and where we’ve come from.

St Michael’s Church, Burrow Mump, Somerset, by Adam Burton

St Michael’s Church, Burrow Mump, Somerset, by Adam Burton

Photographer’s comment: An aerial view ofthe beautiful ruin of St Michael’s Church on Burrow Mump on a misty winter morning.

Some of the shortlisted photographs from this category:

Badbury Rings, by David Abram

Badbury Rings, by David Abram

Photographer’s comment: Badbury Rings is one of several large hillforts constructed in the first century BC by the Durotriges tribe. No-one knows for sure why these Iron Age traders felt the need to erect such formidable defences; it may have been a response to the political instability resulting from the northward advance of Roman influence through Gaul (France).

The Roman’s insatiable demand for slaves could well have placed the Britons at risk from raids, and these great ramparts and ditches would have deterred attacks by tribes from the east. Whatever inspired their creation, the concentric rings stand as a dramatic reminder of the wealth and power the Durotriges derived from trade with the Armoricans of Brittany, based around the harbours at nearby Hengitsbury Head.

Shot at dawn using a drone, this image reveals the site in the context of its landscape. Visible on the horizon is Poole Harbour, which was a major centre for ceramics in the decades prior to the Roman invasion of AD43, in the wake of which Bradbury was deserted.

Robin Hood’s Bay, by David Oxtaby

Robin Hood’s Bay, by David Oxtaby

Photographer’s comment: This is the fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay on the North East coast of England. Well-known as smugglers haunt for illicit alcohol, it was built with many narrow passages and secret entrances from the sea.

Where History Happened Winner:

From world renowned locations that marked step changes in the fate of empires and civilisations to little known spots where quiet yet momentous moments took place, there are sites all around us that saw the very nature of human history change.

This category is inspired by those locations that saw the very story of history take place – be it a battlefield that changed the course of conflict or a non-descript building that housed a scientific breakthrough or step change in social development.

Palmyra, Syria, by Martin Chamberlain

Palmyra, Syria, by Martin Chamberlain

Photographer’s comment: This image was taken before the civil war in Syria at the ancient city of Apamea. I’d dragged my family out of bed early, when it was cold and dark, to ensure we were at the Great Colonnade early enough to catch sunrise and the golden hour. Unfortunately, I’d got my timings wrong and we were an hour early so sat around wondering where the sun had gone and waiting for dawn. It was worth the wait. I felt privileged at the time to have the opportunity to visit Apamea, but even more so since the civil war damaged some of these most impressive monuments.

Some of the shortlisted photographs from this category:

Callanish Standing Stones, by Dawn Louise Farrell

Callanish Standing Stones, by Dawn Louise Farrell

Photographer’s comment: Callanish at sunrise a few days before the winter solstice.

Pompeii cart track, Italy, by Laura Hodsdon

Pompeii cart track, Italy, by Laura Hodsdon

Photographer’s comment: The roads of Pompeii have these deep groves, worn by carts as they went along the streets of the busy town. I wanted to really show how deeply indented they are as well as theh detail of the cobbles, and I like how the depth of field shows the background as a town as much as it is a ruin.

More information:

To see more photographs and learn more about the Historic Photographer of the Year competition, visit https://www.historicphotographeroftheyear.com/. (A calendar of the images is available here).

The 2021 Historic Photographer of the Year Awards will open for entries in Spring 2021, and is free to enter.

 

(Main article image: Poulnabrone Dolmen, by Todor Tilev)

Amy Irvine

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