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Maris Silis 2

Low and Behold

Introducing the winners of Dazed & Confused x Nokia's low light photography competition

At the beginning of summer, Dazed and Nokia launched a search for the next great photography talent, challenging aspiring young street shooters to share their vision of creative urban life using only low light photography. 50 finalists would be given a Nokia Lumia 925 handset – which excels in low light conditions – to capture a series of low-light mobile snaps, ultimately leaving it up to the public to decide on three winners to join Nokia’s photography team for a trip across the magical landscapes of New Zealand.

In connection with the competition, we decided to look back on the history of street photography through a series of articles here on Dazed Digital, to celebrate the unpredictable, radical and ever-evolving genre that has produced some of the most powerful visual records of modern city life, and to examine how the arrival of modern technology may have affected the practice. 

After being inundated with entries, and seeing the scope of the wildly imaginative and vibrant work submitted by young photographers from all over the world, we could only agree with Cheryl Dunn, the woman behind a new documentary about the craft’s most legendary pioneers, that radical street photography is indeed thriving like never before.

With the help of London-based photographer Tyrone Lebon, who has perfected the light-leak technique in his own candid and colourful work, we somehow managed to whittle down the entries to our favourite finalists, of which you, the public, voted forth your top three: 22-year old Sara Rios, whose ethereal images of sea foam rolling in over her favourite beach in northern Portugal transported us to another world; Marseille-born Ugo Petronin, whose abstract visual diary offered an intimate glimpse into his South London life after dark, and Māris Sīlis, a 26-year old Latvian model and photographer, who captured the intense energy of a group of ballet dancers with striking, black-and-white precision. 

Meet the gifted young snappers below.

Maris Silis, 26, Latvia

Dazed Digital: What’s your story?

MS: I come from Kuldiga, a small town in the Latvian countryside. For the past 6 years, I have been living in the Latvian capital of Riga, where I work as a model and editor of an online culture magazine called Breakage. Living and working with an amazing group of people in this city has changed who I am and my outlook on life dramatically.

DD: Tell us about your images of the dancers?

MS: The competitive tension between the girls was so conspicuous – it was like something out of a film. I loved the feeling I got from looking at their stern faces, and the way the light in the photos really accentuates the atmosphere.

DD: What was the most magical thing about New Zealand?

MS: The nature... I remember waking up one morning and looking out of the window, and all I could see was lakes and mountains. I nearly welled up – it was such a powerful moment. Our amazing trip saw us hiking across mountains, flying through the clouds in a helicopter and braving a storm to reach a tiny island sheltering 400 non-flying birds. My legs were shaking from all the adrenalin.

DD: What's your favourite image that you took there?

MS: It's an image I decided to call Another World. Not unlike the nature in New Zealand, it had some kind of extraterrestrial feeling – almost like something outside of this world.

DD: What do you love about shooting in low light?

MS: Low light makes the world appear totally different, providing a form of energy that doesn’t seem to exist in daylight. 

DD: Phone or film camera?

MS: I would have to say both! Although they are two very different pieces of equipment, I think it is striking how slight the difference in detail between the two actually is. I also like the convenience of the camera phone.

Sara Rios, 22, Portugal

Dazed Digital: What’s your story? 

SR: I have lived for 22 years, and am a Portuguese freelance photographer, photo-hunter and analogue-lover. I currently reside in the north of Portugal, right near the sea. 

DD: What compels you to take a picture of something?

SR: Everything around me, particularly in nature. I am head over heels in love with the sea, wind, sun, rain and shadows.

DD: What’s the story behind your winning submisson?

SR: This is an image I took of my boyfriend watching a movie at my house. The light from the television in the dark room made his silhouette look funny. I love how the few beams in a low-lit room bring out shadows and details you don’t otherwise see.

DD: Phone or film camera?

SR: Some time ago this question would have been easy for me to answer. Analogue film will always be my medium of choice, because I love the whole process from putting film into the camera to developing it in the darkroom. But working with a camera phone for the first time also showed me a new kind of quality and convenience, which didn’t have to compromise the quality.

DD: What's next?

SR: My life is a work in progress, but I will continue developing my photography project, The Trend Reinvented.

Ugo Petronin, Marseille / Peckham 

Dazed Digital: What’s your story? 

UP: I come from Marseille in the south of France. After finishing my degree in Art and Anthropology, I moved to London where I have been working as a photographer and occasional filmmaker for about a year and a half. I also work in a bar on the top of a car park in Peckham, and try and throw as many barbecues as I can in our garden in New Cross.

DD: Favourite photographer?

One of my favourite photographers is Francoise Huguier, I especially love her series "Kommunalka", it involves so many different dimensions of photography, anthropology and pure beauty.


DD: Tell us about your winning submission, the images from around South London?

UP: My submission had a very chronological structure, a bit like a personal visual diary that began every day when the sun went down since I received the phone. From my work place in the car park, to an Iron Maiden gig, and riding my bike, slightly tipsy, in the rain with my friend. Subsequently getting stitches in the King's College Hospital A&E's. Nothing too complex, just me, enjoying life. 

DD: What was the most magical thing about New Zealand? 

UP: NZ is the furthest I’ve ever travelled. I think the most magical thing about the country (at least on the South island) is the environment – the nature is present everywhere you look, and integrated into the lives of everyone we met. I loved it when the weather turned bad – it was such a beautiful violence.


DD: What opportunities does low light offer that daylight doesn’t?

An extra vibration to the colours. As my friend once said: I love the texture that low light provides.

DD: What’s next?

UP: Launching a new film company called SINNY FILMS.