The Publication of Habitat for Humanity International

Habitat World

Camera icon
About the contest

Press i for artist statement; then esc to view photo; o to open/close the menu.

Photo Finish

Announcing the winner and top four finalists in the 2011 Habitat World photo contest

In the official rules announcing this year’s Habitat World photo contest, we challenged readers to send in images that “show us what Habitat means to you and why the work we all do together remains such an important priority.” Once again, we received hundreds of submissions from Habitat volunteers, advocates, travelers and professional shutterbugs.

Late this summer, three rounds of judging yielded five finalists, with photos that included subjects such as volunteers at work, staff teaching in the field and a child exploring her new Habitat house. In the end, our first-place image came via a volunteer from Austin, Texas, who took his shot inside a concrete-block house he helped build in Chiang Mai, Thailand. For his winning photograph, “Concrete Break,” Chris Sebilia was awarded a volunteer opportunity in Haiti last month, during the 2011 Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project in Leogane.

On the following pages, Habitat World proudly shares Sebilia’s photograph and the images of our top four finalists, along with each photographer’s thoughts on what their pictures signify.

View winner

“Concrete Break”

Chris Sebilia | Austin, Texas

Concrete Break

After a couple years in the working world, I felt the need to take greater strides toward making a difference. I started giving blood and spent some time working with my local Habitat affiliate. Eventually, an opportunity came up to go on a Global Village volunteer trip with Habitat to Chiang Mai, Thailand. A departure from the typical vacation of overcrowded museums and too many fanny packs sounded like the perfect opportunity to travel and give back at the same time.

This photo comes from that trip. It features Sornchai Meinoi, a skilled assistant on our build site. He spent much of his time working with us volunteers, literally running to different areas demonstrating tasks to different teams of participants. I am sure working with 16 well-intentioned but inexperienced volunteers was trying. But the air of warmth and laughter that he and all the Thai volunteers brought to the site seemed impervious to any physical or mental stress.

The photo shows a moment Sornchai and I took to reflect on the small triumph of finishing the interior of the home. After having mixed and transported concrete all day, pouring the last bit of the floor brought home the fact that, beyond just another batch of concrete, this was someone’s living room. Around the corner was not just another concrete block wall, but someone’s bedroom. Most of all, it showed that the red two-by-fours were not just door frames, but the doorway to a better life.

When I look at this picture, I don’t see the concrete walls or Sornchai’s seemingly laidback stance. I see the part of myself I found in that small village outside Chiang Mai. I see the strength of everyday people uniting for a noble goal. Most of all, I see Mit, Ari and Mint Panjaikaew, the new homeowners, the people that motivated us.


Pi-Lin Vuong | Toronto, Canada


This photo is very special to me, as the gentleman in the middle is my Global Village trip leader to Malawi, Yamiko Samu. Yamiko was born in Malawi and now works for Habitat for Humanity International. I saw firsthand how Yamiko spoke to the local parents and children about how important education was to his life story. The casual conversations were relevant for both the parents and the children.

This photograph showcases how Global Village team members can inspire the lives of the local community. On the right-hand side, Kerry Gray, a longtime volunteer for Habitat Toronto, listens to Yamiko. Kerry’s passion for Habitat goes beyond her local chapter as she builds hope globally. Alongside them walk some children from the neighborhood. To the left and the right, just touching the sky, you can see new Habitat houses that have been raised.


Eric Rudd | Bloomington, Indiana


Habitat of Monroe County organizes a Women Build each year here in Bloomington, and many local photographers volunteer their time. We are each assigned an afternoon to come shoot a group photograph of that day’s participants, along with some more photojournalistic images. I captured this image during a build this past spring.

I look forward to this event every year as a way to help my community in a small way — to document the folks on the front lines who sacrifice a large chunk of their own time to help families with real needs.

I took this particular photo of a volunteer painting one of the home’s bedrooms. Standing back in a doorframe to the hallway, I shot this image on 35mm Kodak Portra 400 film.

“Elm: Who were you, who will you be?”

Adam Nelson | Cincinnati, Ohio

Elm: Who were you, who will you be?

This is an exciting time for Cincinnati Habitat, full of new opportunities to start relationships with families and communities. Our affiliate is on a mission to double our number of builds over five years. The build at 1522-24 Elm Street is a rehab of a home vacant for 10-plus years. It will be energy-efficient to a LEED-rated standard, is situated in a historic district and must, of course, be affordable to a Habitat homeowner.

My first time entering Elm, the home’s past immediately washed over me: peeling sections of paint and wallpaper, forlorn plumbing fixtures not worth scrapping strewn about the floor, a chair looking vacantly upon the memory of children’s play. I was excited that Cincinnati Habitat would rescue this building, that it would again host life and be a place of stories. Many partners have assisted our affiliate in this great endeavor. The build, now under way, is one of constant activity.

The moment captured in “Elm: Who were you, who will you be?” takes place between those two frenzied periods inside the long-abandoned home: planning and execution. The construction manager for this project, John McEwan, pauses in a doorframe as he and I walk the chilly building together on an early February morning.

“Gabby: Home Dedication”

Jessica Notargiacomo | Gaithersburg, Maryland

Gabby: Home Dedication

This photograph was taken during the home dedication for Gabby and her parents. Gabby is excitedly exploring every nook of her new home. The family moved in earlier this year after months of swinging hammers, cutting wood and installing insulation in freezing temperatures.

I started as a volunteer photographer with Habitat Philadelphia and had a blast climbing ladders, learning about green building materials, and meeting people of all ages and backgrounds. In moving to Maryland, I became involved with Habitat Montgomery County. I have fallen in love with Habitat and look forward to many years of documenting our accomplishments.