South African student is world photo finalist

[Image] This scene in a nightclub has earned
Nina Grindlay a place in the finals of the
Sony World Photography Awards.
(Image: Nina Grindlay)

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By coupling patience and an eye for detail, a South African student has been selected as one of the finalists for the 2012 Sony World Photography Awards’ Student Focus competition.

The announcement came earlier in February that Nina Grindlay, a photography student from Rhodes University in Grahamstown, is short-listed amongst ten finalists from nine different countries for her Nightclub Portrait Series.

Grindlay is the only representative from the Africa/Middle East region.

She now stands to win US$61 000 (R453 000) worth of Sony digital imaging equipment for her institution when the World Photography Awards ceremony takes place at London’s Park Lane Hilton Hotel on 26 April.

Capturing a fleeting moment

According to Grindlay, the picture was part of a series created for an exhibition at Rhodes.

She chose the nightclub not as a way to merely capture the scene but as a way of looking at those subtle moments of human interaction within social environs.

“I wanted to capture a fleeting moment that people do not usually notice unless it is captured by a camera,” she said.

This year’s competition brief was based on the philosophy of the haiku poem. Photographers were asked to take on the role of a haiku poet and capture a decisive moment in time.

Grindlay said the subtlety of the image is akin to a haiku and like a poet she spent many hours in various locations patiently waiting to seize that one moment.

She is confident about her chances in the competition. “I am an optimistic person but if I don’t win, it’s okay. This is an opportunity to make contacts and meet people.”

Since receiving her own disposable camera as a child, the Durban-born photographer has always been intrigued by the way the lens captures the human condition.

“I find it amazing that I can freeze a moment in time with the click of a button and that through these pictures, recall all emotions, smells and sounds,” she said.

Entering the competition

According to the rules of the Student Focus competition, it’s up to the tutor to submit a selection of students’ works.

In Grindlay’s instance, senior photography lecturer Brent Meistre entered her into the competition, along with the rest of his third and fourth year students.

Meistre said that Grindlay is motivated and has a good eye; traits that will give her a good chance in the final.

“She has quite a graphic style. She leans more towards the genre of street photography, meaning that she waits for the moment instead of composing it,” he said. “That is what makes her pictures dynamic and unusual.”

However, he did acknowledge that her chance of winning is determined by the second stage of competition. The theme is Your world in colour and photographers are asked to create a series of images that evoke emotion through their choice of colour.

Meistre said Grindlay will have to be explorative during this stage in order to impress the judges.

Snapping socio-political South Africa

For Your world in colour, photographers have to capture their images using the latest cameras supplied by Sony. This stage will be completed in each of their resident countries a month before they are to fly to London.

For this stage, Grindlay wants to focus her lens on the more socio-political side of South Africa instead of the aesthetic.

“Capturing the socio-political aspect is relevant in this country,” she said. “There are a lot of issues we deal with. I want to see the deeper meaning behind the pictures and make the viewer think.”

She has already received her Sony camera and is now traversing Grahamstown in search of the perfect shot.

About Student Focus

Student Focus finalists were chosen by a panel of three judges, all of whom are World Photography Organisation Academy members.

They include Belgian Carl de Keyser, co-founder and director of the XYZ Photography Gallery; the UK’s Sarah Toplis, commissioning editor for Young Tate; and executive director of the Society for Photographic Education in the US, Virginia Morrison.

During their stay in London, the Student Focus finalists will receive lectures and master classes from industry leaders and academy members.

Their images will also be on show at the month-long World Photo London exhibition, between 27 April and 20 May.

The Student Focus competition is a global education programme created by the World Photography Organisation. It is open to universities from around the world that run photography programmes.

Since its conception in 2007 when just ten universities from Europe entered, the competition has grown to attract entrants from over 200 institutions across six continents.