Photographing city life in South Africa was the challenge given to young South Africans by the Sunday Times in its Youth Day photography competition. An extension of the newspaper’s annual GenerationNext Survey Awards, the contest aimed to encourage young photographers to express themselves through the theme ‘My City’. It was open to youths between the ages of eight and 23.
The judging panel included award-winning Sunday Times photo-journalist James Oatway, Jason Levin (managing director of Hdi Youth Marketeers), and Dean Oelschig (creative director, Halo Advertising). The entries were judged on originality, authenticity and overall ‘wow-factor’.
“We were never looking for the stereotypical, postcard-type images that we are constantly saturated with. We spent a long time vigorously debating the merits and demerits of the images – it got quite heated at times,” says Oatway.
GM of advertising sales and strategic communications, Trevor Ormerod, says photography has become accessible to the youth via the use of cellphones, giving them opportunity to express themselves visually without having to pay for expensive equipments.
Winners, however, were awarded with top of the range camera equipment sponsored by Canon.
Mohume Maelene (8) won in the Kids & Tweens category for children aged 8 to 12. Oatway was impressed with the way the “photographer used dramatic light and unconventional composition to provide us with a fresh and fantastic cityscape – a worthy winner.”
Callum Tilbury (14) was the favourite in the Teens category for ages 13 to 19. “Gritty and stark, the winning image provides an unexpected and emotive study of the relationship between Man and the City,” comments Oatway.
Daniel Magidi (22) took top spot in the category for young adults aged 20 to 23 years.
Oatway felt that “this photograph stood out from the other entries because of its simple beauty. The image of a contemporary South African urban landscape manages to evoke the viewer’s emotions while providing lots of context in keeping with the ‘My City’ theme.”
The Media Online asked Oatway and Ormerod to tell us more about the talent out there.
What was the overall standard of the submissions? What was immediately considered, and which were chucked out at first pass?
The standard was quite varied. The kids’ category was surprisingly good. Some entries showed an unprecedented level of technical expertise. The really good images literally ‘jumped’ out and grabbed our attention. Photographs that didn’t meet a basic level of technical skill, creativity or those that had been overly enhanced digitally were not considered.
What kind of visual stories did your standout submissions tell?
Many of the standout submissions had two things in common: mystery and emotion. We weren’t looking for stereotyped images. We wanted the pictures to ‘tell’ us something about the way the young person sees the city or their relationship with it.
Photography is a difficult career to break into: what do skills and attributes do you think young photographers need to make it?
If they are interested in Press photography they need to understand that they are standalone “journalists” and not merely technical assistants. They have to be completely dedicated and prepared to work beyond the call of duty. Most importantly all photographers need to believe in themselves.
Cellphones have made photography accessible, but not necessarily teaching users the art of composition and other skills they might need. What is your view of citizen photography and apps such as Instagram etc?
Citizen photography is really amazing. We are seeing things from places where journalists are often absent that we would never have known about. Instagram and Hipstamtic etc use filters and special effects to make people’s pictures more aesthetically pleasing. Ironically they often make the images look like old film or transparency photos. I think it’s great that the masses can have fun photographing their worlds. Ultimately the camera, whether it’s a cellphone or an SLR, are just tools. How the tools are used is what’s important.
Can photography be taught, or do you need that ‘eye’ before you even start?
Anyone can learn how to operate a camera but I believe that certain people are naturally more ‘visual’. Whether that’s nature or nurture I’m not sure!
What was the thinking behind launching this competition?
A6: Photography has never been as accessible to the youth in South Africa as it is today. With the advent of more affordable camera technology on cell-phones, there is a greater opportunity for children to participate in competitions such as this, particularly where we do not expect the use of professional and expensive camera equipment. Visual forms a part of their everyday life and we wanted to give them a platform (besides social media) to share and attract real talent.
What does TMG get out of the process?
The competition is part of Times Media’s on-going commitment to innovation and encouraging creativity especially amongst the youth. We wanted to give budding photographers the opportunity and platform to showcase their talent, perhaps even encourage them towards careers in photo- journalism, if that is their path.
Will this become an annual competition?
Due to the fantastic response we received this year we will definitely be running the competition in 2014, although the theme will change and some of the rules i.e Instagram pics and photos which have been given some kind of creative treatment will be allowed to enter. From there we will have to see how to proceed, as this market is so fickle and what is on trend changes very quickly. A photographic competition may no longer be relevant to Generation Next in 2015.
What was the response to the competition from youth?
The response to the photography competition was really overwhelming. We didn’t expect such a large degree of participation especially from the younger categories. In total 269 entries were received and we are extremely pleased with the results and the standard that has been set for this competition.
What kind of photos move you?
It’s a tough one to answer, but generally photo’s that can invoke a feeling of serenity or peace are what I’m drawn to. Often these are of the grandiosity or even the minute intricacy of Nature. I also find that photo’s that induce empathy and have a profound effect in inspiring acts of goodwill, resonate strongly with me on an emotional level.
And the winners are:
Kids & Tweens (8 – 12)
1st – Mohumi Maelane, 8, (Johannesburg)
2nd – Carla Stander, 10, (Cape Town)
3rd – Lisa Kock, 12, (Cape Town)
Teens (13 – 19)
1st – Callum Tilbury, 14, (Cape Town)
2nd – Michael Carter, 16, (Johannesburg)
3rd – Andrew Titus Age, 18, (Cape Town)
Young Adults (20 – 23)
1st – Daniel Magidi, 22, (Johannesburg)
2nd – Laetitia Mare, 21, (Cape Town)
3rd – Kyle Eyre, 22, (Durban)
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