Published: August 2009

International Photography Contest

Toensing Places

Focus on Places

National Geographic photographer Amy Toensing is your expert mentor in the Places category.

Photograph by Amy Toensing

When Amy Toensing traveled to Thailand, Malaysia, Nepal, and India at the age of 20, she realized that a camera offered her a way to engage the world. "I've always been curious," she explains, "and photography was a license to engage in people's lives, to discover more about places I visited. It gave me a role in the world."

Toensing was drawn to places through their people, and gradually her work evolved toward the social issues that shape everyday life. Whether documenting life on the New Jersey Shore or the Kingdom of Tonga, she seeks out the familiar rather than the exotic. "I look for the ordinary in the extraordinary," she says. "I think about place the way I think about people: every place has its own personality, its own moods. A good photographer becomes attuned to these."

Toensing captured the mood of Australia's Murray-Darling Basin drought (above) by photographing the barren land with a high horizon in the day's harshest light. She followed Simon Booth as he checked his ranch for growth after a rare rainfall. "It still looked like moonscape," she explains. "These people were simply overpowered by the dramatic changes in their world. Murray-Darling was the story of a landscape and of people's fading place in it.”

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