Imagining and capturing the UK: scholar photos exhibited

Jenny Johnson Programme Officer – UK

In July, a select group of our 2016/2017 scholars had the chance to showcase highlights of their Chevening journey in the first public exhibition of Chevening Scholars’ photography.

The exhibition, ImagineNationUK, was held from 6 to 8 July at gallery@OXO on London’s South Bank.

Chevening Scholars at ImagineNationUK

It was the culmination of the year-long Chevening #OMGB photography competition organised in partnership with VisitBritain, the UK’s national tourism agency.

The exhibition’s aim was to give visitors the opportunity to see the UK through the eyes of its international students, and to experience something of their journey as they studied, travelled, made memories, and built bonds in the country.

ImagineNationUK was open to the public for four days and saw over 200 visitors walk through its doors to share in our scholars’ experience and to learn more about the Chevening programme.

Themed photography

Each month, scholars were challenged to capture moments of their time in the UK related to a particular theme, with the top three monthly entries shortlisted for exhibiting. (Take a look at all the shortlisted entries here.)

The competition kicked off in November with the broad theme of ‘culture, tradition, and heritage’, which saw entries capturing everything from a traditional Scottish bagpiper to a Premier League football match.


Scholars braved the cold in December to capture scenes of winter festivities and were challenged to submit their interpretation of ‘the old and the new’ in January.

Our photographers captured ‘romantic Britain’ in February before venturing into the great outdoors in the spring (March), seeking out the best of British street art in April, and portraying the nation’s diversity in May.

Graffiti in Glasgow

The competition challenged scholars to look for unique perspectives and capture moments that expressed something about their time in the UK. The entries reflected a wide range of experiences and captured everything from natural wonders to the arts, as well as scenes of everyday life in Britain and moments of personal reflection.

Judging and winners

Entries were scrutinised by our panel of expert judges (meet them on this page), who had the tough job of picking out the best images to be put forward for the exhibition and choosing their overall favourite. The winners were announced at a private opening of the exhibition on Thursday, 6 July, attended by staff from Chevening, VisitBritain, and other partner organisations, joined of course by our shortlisted scholar photographers.

The overall winner of the competition chosen by our judges was Juan David Restrepo from Colombia, who’s studying an MSc in Global Innovation Management at the University of Leeds. His photo captured a moment of euphoria at a concert by UK music artist Fatboy Slim in Church, a nightclub in Leeds.

Juan David Restrepo and his winning photograph

Juan David Restrepo's winning photograph

Of his photo, Juan said: ‘Music is one of the most important forms of cultural expression in the UK. Year by year, millions of people come here to enjoy festivals, concerts, and shows, and to remember how this country has given the world big artists such as the Rolling Stones, Elton John, and the Beatles.'

Kathryn Smith, one of our judges, is a visual and forensic artist from South Africa, as well as a former Chevening Scholar in 2012/2013. She said: ‘The energy of the event is perfectly captured in this photo.’

'Exceptional quality'

Claire Curran, Acting Manager of International Scholarships and Funding at the University of Southampton, attended the opening night and said: 'ImagineNationUK provided a fantastic opportunity to come together with the Chevening community and view the UK through the eyes of our international students.

‘I was especially proud of our University of Southampton scholar, Solomiia Kratsylo, who had three of her photographs shortlisted, and was awarded first prize for her spring entry.

Solomiia with her prize-winning photograph

‘The exceptional quality of photographs on display was testament to the standard of this year’s cohort of Chevening Scholars and it was a humble experience to listen to the stories that inspired such photographs.’

Winning photographs

(Shortlisted entries can be found here)

November: Mohamed Shalaby
December: Christine Go
January: Hendra Oktavianus
February: Deasy Sibarani
March: Solomiia Kratsylo
April: Samia Melo
May: Hendra Oktavianus

Overall winner: Juan David Restrepo

'The exceptional quality of photographs on display was testament to the standard of this year’s cohort of Chevening Scholars'


Claire Curran,
University of Southampton