Award-winning Havelock North lensman Richard Wood likes photographing people because faces give "emotion, feeling, expression and thus stories".
Wood won the title of New Zealand Professional Photographer of the Year at the 2021 Nikon/NZIPP Iris Professional Photography Awards, held in Nelson at the weekend.
His winning portfolio of 10 images was described as "masterful" and "unbelievably mind-blowing" by judges.
"The work I enter into awards is often created purely for that purpose and to then sell as art," Wood said.
"It's [the awards] an opportunity for me to stretch the boundaries as far as I can and really get to work my abilities in all areas of photography, including the camera work, my lighting setups, editing and storytelling."
For him, the key to a good photo was entirely subjective.
"But I always believe a brilliant image is not just one that has great craft, but also one that takes the viewer on a journey or creates an emotional response.
"If you can take your viewer on a interesting and innovative narrative, you're on to a winner. I take inspiration from the vision of many artists in all sorts of genres. I love narrating historical, mythical and cultural concepts.
"I also take influence from music. Where normally a piece of music is written 'for' a scene, I like to reverse that and create a scene in my mind 'for' a piece of music."
This was the fourth time he took out the title. The judges said his winning portfolio was world class.
"Richard's entries pushed the possibilities of photography to new levels not seen before at The Iris Awards," said NZIPP president Catherine Cattanach.
"His entries were exceptional even as regular photographs, but then on top of that he harnessed technology and physical layering to make his images come to life."
He also picked up the award for the Open Portrait category and the Expressive category, which allows mixed media.
One of his entries in the Expressive category became more than three-dimensional when judges held their phones to it and using augmented reality, the image became very three-dimensional and mist and butterflies moved through the forest scene.
His work will be displayed for sale next month at the BOYD-DUNLOP Gallery in Napier.