Making waves: The winners of the Independent's inaugural Eyewitness Photography Competition

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The Independent Culture

What makes a winning picture? It was a question hotly discussed by the judges of our inaugural Eyewitness Photography Competition, in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Arts and Metroprint, the high-quality photo printing company. The competition, inspired by the RA's acclaimed current exhibition, Eyewitness: Hungarian Photography in the 20th Century, was designed to encourage budding photographers to upload and share images in four categories: "Street", "Portrait", "Fashion" and "Abstract", with each category itself based on an individual great photographer from the show – Brassaï (for his classic portraits), Capa (street), Moholy-Nagy (abstract) and Munkácsi (fashion).

Six weeks and an astonishing 5,500 entries later, the judges – including Colin Ford CBE, the distinguished curator of Eyewitness – convened at Burlington House to make the case for their favourites. In the end, after several hours of good-natured debate, an overall winner was agreed on: David Gould's beautiful black-and-white picture of a boy wading across India's Yamuna River, ka deceptively simple image lent a subtle and sinuous complexity by the ripples emanating out around him. The photographer recalls: "I was on a railway bridge and noticed the boy below. I leant over the railings, scrambling to get the shot as the look of the rippling water was amazing, like the rings of a tree – as if the circle of life was emitting from this little boy."

As the images on these pages attest, the category winners reached an (almost) equally high standard, prompting Ford to reflect, "With such a high quality of submissions, it was a tough decision. However, the winners all remain true to the styles of the great Hungarian photographers, who we celebrate among the most important image-makers of modern times."

'Eyewitness: Hungarian Photography in the 20th Century' is showing until 2 October; see