Welcome to our look-back at 2021. It’s been another extraordinary year. We’ve continued to adjust to new ways of living, working, and connecting with each other. We’ve introduced some exciting cameras and lenses—and we’ve been inspired by the work of an incredible array of Nikon photographers.
This year, we wanted to share our love of photography with you. We asked some of our colleagues to tell us what stood out for them in 2021, and we begged and pleaded until some were brave enough to choose a favourite shot (or movie) of the year. It’s so hard to choose!
Read on for short Q&A interviews, plus a selection of inspiring image choices, a round-up of notable projects, key launches and awards—and more.
Questions and answers with Stefan Maier
(General Manager, Marketing, Nikon Europe B.V & Nikon DACH)
Stefan has been at Nikon for over 7 years now. His love of photography began when he first picked up a camera himself at the age of 20, and Nikon cameras quickly became Stefan’s tool of choice. Many cameras—and years of use—later, he finds himself holding his dream job being responsible for Nikon marketing in Europe.
· In the world of photography, what stood out the most for you this year and why?
What was surprising to me about this year—or even the past two years—was the unexpected impact that the restrictions like lockdowns and social distancing have had on creativity.
We’ve seen a trend whereby people are discovering or re-discovering a love of photography in a different way than before. Without the option to travel, so many photographers got creative in shooting their everyday environments. Alongside all of this, there was a real rise in the number of online educational initiatives, many of which resulted in the development of strong bonds within the photographic community.
Here at Nikon Europe, it was inspiring to see the Nikon community participate in the Create Your Light campaign. And Nikon Germany supported Nikon Female Facets, a photo competition for female creators that involved online workshops and professional mentoring and resulted in an extremely supportive community of female creators. I was also proud to see how the European virtual Nikon Days event enabled us to connect with people from 88 countries, which physically would never have been possible! Should you have missed it, you can still access the content.
Outside of Nikon, I was impressed by the work and professional development of the DOCKS—an award-winning collective of five young documentary photographers. This year, their collective photo-essay on the flood in western Germany was really powerful. It’s inspiring to see groups like this support each other as they grow and develop.
· What stood out the most for Nikon in your view, and why?
If I had to pick one thing, it would have to be the Z 9 launch. I am a photographer myself and, with the Z 9, we launched a camera that many Nikon shooters, including me, have been waiting for!
Looking at the Z 9 spec sheet, it reads like a Christmas wish list written by an enthusiast or pro, and witnessing this camera being launched firsthand represents one of my all-time professional highs. A camera is always a tool, a very sexy tool in the case of the Z 9: to see it in the hands of our very capable Z creators was exciting, and I love the work they created for the launch. In such productions, the creators have just one or two days maximum to create something the whole world will critically review! It’s an enormous pressure on the creators—and on the equipment.
If I had to choose, then probably my favourite images taken with the Z 9 so far are the two below by National Geographic photographer Tomas Peschak. These images tell an incredibly important story about climate change in a region that’s very close to where I live. I have seen thousands of shots of the Matterhorn from multiple perspectives, but I have never seen one like the image Thomas covers in the video below. I think these photographs are visually impressive and thought provoking: the viewer is invited to linger in the details.
They urge us to reconsider our lifestyles by showing us how much beauty is out there that needs to be protected and saved.
I was also really happy to add a new camera and lens to my camera bag this year. The Nikon Z fc with its 28 mm Z lens meets one of my key needs: a stylish, compact, high-quality camera that I always want to carry with me. I love the Z fc for a very different kind of photography to the Z 9. It is perfect for those family and everyday moments where you require a small, unobtrusive camera. The image quality and autofocus performance really does these moments justice! For instance, I love the shot below that George Karbus captured for the Z fc launch campaign.
· Which Nikon photographer’s work stood out to you this year, and why?
If I look back over this past year, it’s not just one photographer’s work that stands out to me, but rather the sheer resilience of Nikon professional photographers—some of whom had to adjust to very different working conditions. We at Nikon are very proud and deeply grateful to see so many Nikon photographers producing outstanding work on a day-to-day basis. We’ve seen these photographers play a key role in documenting the current Covid-19 pandemic, and they’ve also been raising awareness for crucial societal issues — their images will bear witness to the happenings of 2021 for generations to come.
I also have a deep admiration for the photographers who are on assignments on sporting events such as the Tokyo Olympics or Roland-Garros (the French Open). With all the restrictions and rules around social distancing, sports photographers who cover such events have had to work under extremely difficult circumstances. This was an unprecedented situation and a very weird environment—big tournaments without spectators! Despite the challenges, which also included gruelling schedules, they continued to document. Just one example is this image by Pauline Ballet: there were no spectators for the late matches at the French Open because of coronavirus restrictions and the strict 9 p.m. curfew.
Questions & answers with Julian Harvie (Head of Marketing – Northern Europe, Nikon UK)
Julian has been at Nikon for almost two years now. He is passionate about the natural world. Like many Ambassadors and Z Creators, he views photography as the perfect reason to spend more time outside and, with any luck, serve our planet through a photographer’s unique perspective.
· In the world of photography, what stood out the most for you this year, and why?
I feel like we're in a real gear shift: the drive to make an impact through images really dialled up the purpose and power of photography for me this year. Two events in particular come to mind.
Nikon sponsored the Young Environmental Photographer of the Year award (as a part of the Environmental Photographer of the Year 2021 competition), and the whole event generated this incredible narrative that really brought home the power of storytelling and the role of the still image in helping to transform people's agendas and provoke action.
There was also a talk during the Nikon Days online event between Lara Jackson, George Turner, and Conor McDonnell, all Nikon Z Creators or Ambassadors, and the whole subject of discussion was the fact that there aren't any wildlife photographers who go out just to take a photo of an animal anymore—that's not the purpose. The purpose is to tell a story about the environment in which the animal exists and the plight of that particular animal: there’s a responsibility to use what they can do professionally to move people to take action. It’s not about what the animal or subject matter can do for the photographer, but what the photographer can do for them.
· What stood out the most for Nikon in your view, and why?
We had several important launches including, of course, the Z 9. It was exciting to see how it created a real change in the perception of Nikon: now we’re perceived as market leaders again. I felt privileged to witness Nikon Ambassadors, many of whom were still Nikon DSLR users, pick up the Z 9 and basically be like ‘I’m never going back’—that felt pretty momentous!
I also have a soft spot for the launch of the Z fc earlier in the year. I think what I love about the European approach to this launch is that we really leant into that idea of heritage and legacy. Most of the photographers we work with were introduced to photography by someone in their family, so we used that insight to tell these amazing intergenerational stories that were so inspiring.
· Which Nikon photographer’s work stood out to you, and why?
One that I feel really connected to—I love his work but I love his personal story too—is a new Z Creator named Alfie Bowen, who I met through our partnership with WaterBear. Alfie is a young autistic photographer who shoots wildlife in zoos near where he lives in East Anglia. He talks about how his autism gives him a perspective on the world that others don't have. He typically shoots in monochrome, and his ability to record patterns and to understand and pre- visualise the exact shot that he wants to create is astounding. He has this ridiculous focus: he can stand in the same spot for six or eight hours just to wait for an animal to move into the exact position he wants them in so he can take the shot that he's got in his head.
Alfie’s story is such a wonderful story, but it's also very humbling because his backstory, which he talks about in An Eye for Detail, the WaterBear documentary, is fraught with bullying, depression, and feeling like an outsider. Photography for him was salvation: it is his purpose, and the way that he's able to articulate that is incredibly moving—and then his output is just staggering as well.
Shots of the year—our personal favourites
Why do you like a particular photo or movie—what makes it stick in your mind? Between the spreadsheets and meetings, the Nikon teams behind the scenes do get to see an awful lot of incredible images—so we thought we’d ask them to share some of their personal favourites with you. Choosing was no easy task, but we’re glad they did!
Ines Bernardes, Distribution Strategy Manager, Nikon Europe
For the Z fc launch this year, photographers from different countries shared their own images taken with the new Z fc. One of the selected photographers was Eugenia Hanganu: she has lived in Portugal for some years and she portrays the country in such a warm way. All her pictures show really simple and random moments, but the way she captures them turns them into pure poetry. I can stare at her images for a really long time—they give me the same feelings of calmness and delight that I feel when I am back at home in Portugal.
Another image that stood out for me was this picture from Ami Vitale. It was taken in Loita Hills, Kenya, and there are so many things that I love about this image: the silence, the calm, the sense of deep respect. It looks like Ami managed to build such a close connection to her subject that nothing disturbed this intimate moment. Students in this remote region have to walk over 17 miles (approx. 27 km) to get to school, and this photograph was used to raise awareness of a fundraising campaign to build three new secondary schools.
Heidi Jales, Marketing Communications Manager, Nikon Europe
The level of detail in these shots blew me away. They were both awarded as Images of Distinction in the Nikon Small World 2021 Photomicrography competition, which is one of the contests that you might not have heard about if you’re not into microscopy and photography. I love that element of my job: I get to see images I would never have come across otherwise. At first sight, it was the composition, tones, and colours that really drew me into the image (even though I had no idea what I was looking at until I read the captions!). Then you look again—and again—and it’s like, oh my goodness, how did they do that? I was mesmerised.
I also loved the series Kristian Schuller shot for our Z 9 EU launch. The images that our Z creators and Nikon Ambassadors shot for the Z 9 launch included incredible sports, action, and nature shots, but I was personally really excited to see what a fashion and portrait photographer like Kristian could do with this camera. What he does is technically really accomplished, but it’s also edgy and I think that’s really interesting. It’s fashion, it’s art, it’s modern, quirky, playful—all the things I love!
Dirk Jasper, Product Manager, Nikon Europe
Art of Pollution is a short movie by Milan Radisics which won a Special Encouragement Award at the Nikon Photo Contest this year. It made a real impact on me. The climate crisis is getting a lot of attention—and rightfully so—but other topics which are just as important are not getting enough awareness. This short movie shows the terrible wounds we inflict on our planet: destroying soil, water, woods, and green land. The images are stunning, some of amazing beauty, and others purely shocking to see. And these images don’t come from some deserted place somewhere far away—it is happening right here, in the middle of Europe.
Zurab Kiknadze, Product Manager, Nikon Europe
A photographer who caught my eye this year is Mous Lamrabat. I like his unconventional tongue-in-cheek portraiture, and his use of rich saturated colours for stronger presentation. It’s hard to choose a single photo, but the shot below is a recent one. You could pick pretty much any of the ones on his Instagram page and I’d like it.
Two years of Create Your Light
A look back at 2021 couldn’t pass without a look back at Create Your Light!
We launched #CreateYourLight at the beginning of 2020, when we realised that lockdowns weren’t going away anytime soon. Over the course of two extraordinary years, the creativity of our Nikon community has been so inspiring to see—the wealth of responses from all over the world blew us away time and time again.
We can’t thank you enough for keeping the creative spark alive. You can still enjoy the blog posts and tips-and-tricks videos here.
Ambassadors of Excellence
Special mention for standout projects coming from our European Ambassadors this year must go to the Stanley Greene Legacy Prize and Fellowship, which was launched in 2020 by Stanley’s colleagues at NOOR Images. Stanley was a Nikon Ambassador, and many of his colleagues at NOOR are too.
Now in its second year, the fellowship continues to follow in the footsteps of Stanley’s life. It looks for candidates documenting forgotten topics, and for authors who are not afraid, just like Stanley, to be vocal about human rights. Authors who transcend the rules of traditional storytelling, mindful of the ethics of the stories they tell. Stanley Greene was a true ‘Ambassador of Excellence’, and we’re incredibly proud to sponsor this fund and give back something of value to the world of photography.
The 2021 Stanley Greene Legacy Prize and Fellowship recipient is Tako Robakidze for her long-term project 'Creeping Borders', which shows how the Russian occupation in Georgia affects people's daily lives and shares the stories of internally displaced peoples (IDPs) who have suffered along the way.
Another standout project came from a Nikon European Ambassador who continues to demonstrate his passion, energy, and commitment to the pressing issues of our time—Kadir van Lohuizen (also a co-founder of NOOR). Kadir is known for his long-term projects, and, at the start of this year, he launched his new book—After Us the Deluge. The disastrous consequences of rising sea levels in six regions around the world are captured in photographs that are both beautiful and disturbing.
Nikon cameras, lenses, and awards
2021 was, of course, the year in which we launched our most significant camera since the game-changing D3. The Nikon Z 9 delighted critics and Nikon community members alike—more of which we’ll get to in a minute.
First, let’s take a moment to mark the launches and awards of 2021. It was quite a year!
Nikon Z 6II (Advanced Camera award)
Nikon Z 5 (Best Buy Camera award)
NIKKOR Z MC 50mm f/2.8 (Best Macro Lens award)
NIKKOR Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S (Best Telephoto Zoom Lens award)
DPREVIEW Awards 2021
All eyes on the Z 9
In the year of Z 9—all eyes were on our mirrorless flagship. How would it be received? The responses from the Nikon community were overwhelming. Here’s a selection of just some of our favourites.
“Congratulations Nikon, this is a very important step and an innovative product.”
“Kudos to the designers and engineers, what an amazing camera!”
“Nikon has really opened the game wide with this one.”
“I knew it was going to be a game changer but phenomenal doesn’t even come close.”
“The future becomes clear as of today.”
“I haven’t been this excited since, EVER!”
“Nikon D3 made history…now it’s time for mirrorless.”
Needless to say, we’re thrilled by the way the Z 9 has been received! We can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Remembering Mick Rock
“Technique wasn't important, what's important is getting the damned image and the energy...” (Mick Rock)
We were saddened to hear about the passing of British photographer Mick Rock in November this year. Known as the Man Who Shot the 70s, he was the personal photographer to David Bowie and a Nikon Ambassador.
We had the honour of working with Mick for the launch of the Nikon Df: The Revisit was filmed as part of the launch, in which he re-created his iconic shots of the 70s. Watch it to see Mick Rock talking about his beginnings and what it took to shoot the heyday of punk, rock, and the New York music scene.
Mick was as iconic as those he photographed, and he will be greatly missed.
After what can only be described as another unique year, is anyone brave enough to suggest what 2022 might have in store?
We certainly aren’t, except in one respect: we know that the Nikon community of photographers and videographers will continue to inspire us, and we can’t wait to see what you will create.