Spanish photographer Sara Antonio de Feu has been taking photographs since she was a child – a passion which started on a single-use camera. Fast forward a couple of decades later and the 26 year-old Madrid native took home the Grand Prize and gold prize in the Next Generation single photo category at last year’s Nikon Photo Contest.
We asked her about her emotional image which won the hearts of the judges and captured the theme of ‘Identity’ in the most compelling of ways. She also offers her advice on how best to interpret the themes of this year’s categories.
An unintentional winning encounter
I was volunteering for an NGO at the time this image was taken. Entering, let alone winning the Nikon Photo Contest, was the farthest thing from my mind. I captured this photograph of Ayimpoka, who suffers from albinism and was recovering from Malaria at the time, and her sister on my second visit to the village in northern Ghana.
A message of love and hope
There is enormous discrimination against people who live with Albinism in Ghana. Atrocities have been committed against albino children because of the popular association with magic and witchcraft. Yet at her home, Ayimpoka is protected by her family and surrounded by love – she also receives weekly visits from the local NGO.
While the theme of last year’s category was ‘Identity’, the image for me represents so much more. It’s also a story of love and hope. Here are two sisters embracing each other, who visually look different, but yet are both hopeful for the same future: change. Together, this generation can fight against this prejudice.
What it takes to be a photographer
I had just celebrated my 26th birthday, when I found out I had won – but I still feel like I’m learning the craft.
Photography is an artform and it takes time to hone your skills. For those who are just starting out in the field I would say to approach photography with your heart and shoot with it! You can then start to think with your head and learn from your surroundings with plenty of practice. Think about projects, ideas and experiment with these. Photography is a very wide field with specialisms in endless areas, from wildlife and sports to landscape and fine art. Even if you don’t know which genre you’d like to focus on, photography is beautiful way to explore the world.
How to interpret the category themes
For people looking to enter this year’s Nikon Photo Contest I would recommend they take a step back and take some time to properly consider the themes. Think in concepts. Imagine what you would like to see and picture this in your mind first, then go out and try to reflect this in your style. Don’t expect to capture what you’re looking for in a single picture – it often takes more than a few clicks to get it right.
Connect and Passion are very good challenges for this year. Connect, especially, is very apt for 2020 and could be interpreted in so many different ways. For example, the pandemic has meant many of us have been disconnected physically, but remain connected technologically. Trust in your interpretation, if it’s something you truly believe in then this will come across in your work.
From a single-use camera to falling in love with documentary photography
I’ve been taking pictures since I was child. My first piece of kit was a single-use camera and I remember when I developed the images they were all burnt with sunlight. At the age of 14, my father died and I used my savings to purchase a second-hand ‘real’ camera – the Nikon D40X. From here, I started to capture my friends, my family and everyday moments without any knowledge of the technical aspects of photography. I even captured a portrait of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie when they were in my hometown of Madrid for an event. The image is only small, but I still have it to this day.
Years later I discovered documentary photography and I fell in love with the discipline. While the picture is important, it’s more about the story you tell through your lens. I am fascinated by how a single image can make a huge societal impact.
An empowering experience
Winning the awards at the Nikon Photo Contest was very empowering. It made me more aware that what I do can affect how others feel and also draw attention to societal issues. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of winning the Grand Prize was my experience at the Nikon-NOOR academy. My time here totally changed my perspective on documentary photography and gave me the motivation to learn and to continue to develop my photography skills.
To find out more about this year’s Nikon Photo Contest and how to enter, visit the official website https://www.nikon-photocontest.com/en/