What would ethical dilemmas look like, if you tried to depict them? How would you attempt to catch the relation between cause and effect on camera? Can the categorical imperative, an Aristotelian ‘tode ti’, or even mathematical intuition itself be photographed?

Last year, in recognition of World Philosophy Day, we launched our first ever photo contest, and we’re very pleased to announce we’ll be holding the contest again this year! Photography and philosophy are traditionally seen as unrelated activities. Whereas photography deals with the material world & objects that can be captured by a camera, philosophy deals with the invisible world of concepts & abstract ideas. This contest aims to challenge this view in a very specific way: by photographing the very subjects that philosophers think about!


If you have a photographic eye and a taste for philosophical problems, or if you are a philosopher of any level (student, professor, amateur, etc.) who enjoys taking up photographic challenges… then this contest is for you!

About the contest:

We’re looking for high-quality photos that somehow capture a philosophical idea, problem, theory, etc. All genres of photography can offer inspiration for philosophical issues: street photography, still life, abstract, landscape, close-up, portrait, documentary, architecture, experimental — anything goes, as long as there is a recognizable connection with a traditional philosophical topic.

The contest runs from November 16, 2017, until January 19, 2018, giving everyone a chance to take photos during the winter break.

How to enter:

  • Photos should be at least 1100 x 1500 pixels, and submitted as a JPEG attachment.
  • Each photo must be accompanied by a title and brief description (600 words max).
  • Limit 4 entries per person.
  • Entries should be emailed to rotmanmedia@gmail.com with the subject line, “2nd annual philosophical photocontest entry”. Be sure to include your full name in the email.
  • Entries must be submitted by the contest deadline, January 19, 2018.

Use of photographs:

By participating to the Philosophical Photography Contest, contestants agree to grant the Rotman Institute of Philosophy use of any photos submitted (whether selected as a winning entry or not) for the Institute’s website, social media accounts, print materials, advertising, or event posters. The Institute agrees to always accompany any photographs used with proper credit, including clearly visible use of the photographer’s name.

Judging and prizes:

Submissions will be judged on content, form, composition, and originality. Please note that we are not looking for photographs related to philosophy in general, but to philosophical topics themselves. A simple photograph of an effigy of Aristotle or a sign that reads “Philosophy” does bear some connection to philosophy, but it’s not about a philosophical topic itself—unless a case for it is made.

The winning photos will be selected by our panel of judges, and will be announced on the Institute’s website and social media accounts. A selection of the best entries will be featured on the Institute’s Flickr account, with proper credit given to the photographers. The first place winner in the philosophical concepts category will receive a $50 gift card for Amazon.com.

We can’t wait to see the photos you submit this year. Happy World Philosophy Day, everyone!

Pictured above: Last year’s winning photograph (submitted by Jenny Gillett), titled “Identity”. Read the photo description, and see other entries that received honourable mentions here.