Dazed speaks to five of the stand-out talent from the Canon Student Development Program about their burgeoning careers in photojournalism
How do you translate personal story into photography without losing narrative? How do you find yourself through the lens of another’s lived experience? How do you break free of stereotypical perspectives and avoid voyeurism? These were just some of the many questions crunched by the top 30 students of the Canon Student Development Program, who gathered from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia for five days of workshops and portfolio reviews under the mentorship of the photojournalism’s biggest names – like Aïda Muluneh, Gaia Tripoli, Paolo Verzone.
Photojournalism is a crucial yet thorny career. Weeks and months are spent on the ground documenting some of the world’s most challenging environments. But what each of these students share is a special hardiness of character: a sort of quiet resilience, toned by a gripping curiosity and technical talent for capturing the world around them. For to give texture, colour, depth to the stories that we often turn a blind eye to is incredibly noble work.
Below Dazed catches up with five of the stand-out talent from the Canon Student Development Programme on their burgeoning careers in photojournalism.
EBRAHIM ALIPOOR (IRAN)
“I’m from Kurdistan, a city exactly on the border of Iran and Iraq. I started photography ten years ago with my father’s analogue camera. Because of the situation [in Iran], I didn’t have access to mentors or any connections so I couldn’t publish my work. I’m so grateful to be part of the programme.
“One of my photo stories that I worked on with my [Canon] mentor is about when the Taliban took over Afghanistan – I went there for 50 days before I was arrested because I was a freelancer. My other story is about my city: the Kurdish people carry stuff on their shoulders between Iran and Iraq. It’s very dangerous – sometimes the government shoots them because it’s considered illegal, sometimes they fall, sometimes there’s an avalanche. I’ve been taking photos of this for the past eight years.”
DOUGLAS CONDZO (MOZAMBIQUE)
“I’m a self-taught freelance photographer from Mozambique. I started doing photography just as a hobby because all my close friends were. Last year I moved to Portugal to do my Masters as I want to teach photography and open schools. We have one institute of visual arts [in Mozambique] but it’s not enough. We need different perspectives, different approaches, different technical inputs.
“I don’t like to define myself for now as a certain type of photographer. I’m into taking spontaneous photographs of street life in Mozambique, but I also like things like fashion. It’s fun to work in that kind of environment – to meet models, stylists.
“As artists we get stuck in our own creative bubble, so this Canon programme is very important to have people help us see, to help us grow. I feel like now I have a clearer vision.”
TASHIYA DE MEL (SRI LANKA)
“I’m from Colombo, Sri Lanka. I applied to this program through my Masters [in Photography and Society] in Denmark as I’m interested in experimenting with other methods of visual storytelling. Still documentary but perhaps more conceptual, more artistic. I want to tell stories that have impact and to do so you have to find different ways of talking to people.
“The story I’m working on is ongoing: looking at the downstream consequences of hydropower and mega dams on Sri Lanka’s longest river. These big projects are seen as positive because hydropower is a renewable source of energy but there’s a lot of hidden costs. The river is a very sacred place as it’s a source of life. So, it’s looking at the environmental impacts but also at displacement and resettlement of people – this sort of trend of rebirth.”
AHMED ABD EL-GAWAD (EGYPT)
“When I was 17, I borrowed a friend’s camera and started going to the protests during the revolution [in Egypt]. In 2014, my uncle bought me a nice camera and I started working at local newspapers. With the financial support of my colleagues, I was able to move to Hanover [in Germany] and then Denmark to study.
“These photos are from my final school project. I worked with NGOs in Paris to document the lives of some 200 African migrants, all under the age of 18, who were sheltering in an abandoned school in the 16th arrondissement.
“The Canon programmes gives me an opportunity to stay in contact with Europe. I realised it’s been years since I’ve been able to walk freely in Cairo with my camera.”
LAURE PLAYOUST (FRANCE)
“I’ve been studying photography for three years now and before that I was working for the French diplomacy, based in the Palestinian territories. At the end of my contract, I asked the photojournalists I’d worked with if I could accompany them and just started taking photographs myself. I started selling the photos to newspapers and this gave me a lot of confidence to pursue photojournalism. The Canon program helped me a lot as you meet with senior photographers from all different backgrounds and also students – it’s a lonely job but now I have people I can turn to for advice.
“For this program, I proposed a story on the Iraqi marshlands, an area I know from my time working in Palestine and one of the rare wetlands of the Middle East. It’s unfortunately being devastated by ecological disaster.”