Locals snaps up top award

“I knew it was a powerful photo the moment I reviewed my images – it had the potential to unveil a lot of controversy and spark further unrest,” says award-winning Justin Sullivan from Hout Bay.

He recently won first prize in the Top News Single category for his “Stand Off” image. Sullivan says this is a most prestigious category of the photo contest­.

Talking about the image he took in September last year during a protest over fishing quotas in Hout Bay, he says: “I never thought it would win such a prestigious award.

“The photo ‘Stand Off’ was a memorable moment for me. Apart from being shot by three rubber bullets on separate occasions before and after taking this image, the moment I captured with the police holding his gun at occupants under the table was quite a clear representation of what was going on in South Africa at that time and currently.

“At the time, I did not know there was a 14-year-old boy under the table nor did I know he was injured from bullets fired at close range. I believe this image created a lot of dialogue around not only the current issue of fishing quotes [which was] the reason for the protest, but it brought about other topics of police brutality, poverty, leadership and accountability­.”

Sullivan says he was also placed second in the “My Planet: Series” category for his series “Walking with Fire”, for which he won the online vote.

“It is obviously an honour to be recognised for years of hard work, but more than anything it feels great to see South African work being featured on a global scale.”

His success will see him going to Moscow where the awards ceremony will be held in November this year, with a grand prize of R150 000 to be announced.

Sullivan says he has pledged to donate 50% of the winnings “if I am selected”.

Sharing his secret to success, he says it takes patience, perseverance, creativity, integrity and courage to become a recognised photographer.

“All of those things work hand in hand. I think most importantly to be truthful is the one aspect I strive towards.

“The more you can experience life with a camera, the better chances you have of figuring out what you enjoy and what you don’t. Learn about your subjects before you try to document them – if you understand something, you have a better chance of capturing it perfectly. Always be respectful in all situations, it may mean you miss that golden photograph every now and then, but maintaining integrity with your work will reap high rewards,” he says.

Sullivan found his passion for photography while travelling around Germany while studying towards a Social Science degree in Development and Environment­.

He then took the leap to get into photography after capturing some very special moments during the Cape Town fires of March 2015.

“I knew moving forward that I wanted to specialise in documentary photography, with the focus on wildfires,” he concludes­.

Sullivan says he loves being outdoors and embarking on adventures.