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Photography as a passport for seeing the world

5 years ago

We are pleased to reveal Daniel Sullivan as our first monthly winner of the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards. He has won the June prize with his image, 'The Moment', of two Cheetah brothers embracing in the African grasses. 

Daniel, who lives and works on the island of Maui, Hawaii, says of his work: 

"My themes are born of my fascination for history, architecture and belief systems. I travel off the beaten path to those small hamlets of culture where the layers of tribe, belief 
and ritual still remain strong. I am transfixed by the brief moment of time when the essence of the spirit reveals itself. Colour plays an important role in my photography. It has the ability to engage the spirit, illuminate light and energy, and transcend the moment."

For your chance to become the next monthly winner, make sure you enter the Open competition the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards. Submission is free for everyone! 

Hi Daniel. Congratulations on winning the first monthly prize in the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards. Tell us a little about you and your photography

Using my camera I gather images of humanity and our connection to the land. For 13 years I've lived on Maui where I have my gallery Indigo Paia and lead cultural photography tours. For my latest book, 'The Maui Coast - Legacy of the Kings Highway', I walked the entire coast of Maui searching for the Kings Highway, the first Hawaiian road to circumnavigate an island. For me, the road is a living link to the ancient culture of Hawaii hidden within this beautiful landscape. 


Tell us more about the winning shot... how, when and why did you take this image? 

In Africa, it's not how many animals you get to see, it's the quality of the moment. I took this photo last month working on a personal project in Namibia documenting the delicate balance between wildlife and conservation. I took my 13-year-old son, Tristan, with me and we spent 4 weeks driving across Namibia photographing wildlife. 

As the early morning light illuminated the golden African grasses, we followed two cheetah brothers as they stalked a heard of impalas. As they turn towards us, just a few feet away, my heart skipped a beat. When you slow down and really begin to watch the rituals and interactions of animals, and begin to see past the objectification we place on them, you see how beautiful and complex they really are.


Why photography? What does the medium mean to you? 

Photography is my passport for seeing the world. I consider myself infinitely fortunate to have been able to explore the places and meet the people I've been able to meet. Photography has allowed me not just to explore the world but to examine how I see myself. Photography is what gets me up at 5am in the morning to go out and see the light. 


Tell us about your most memorable shoot, and your most challenging shoot

My most memorable shoot was in Ethiopia's Omo Valley for my first book, 'Tribes of the Omo Valley'. For two weeks I traveled along the Omo River with a chief from the Kara tribe documenting the many people who would soon be affected by the building of a massive dam. Several days down the Omo we reached a Mursi tribe from Sudan who had received few if any visitors from the outside world. Their enthusiasm at seeing me, tearing my clothes and pinching my white skin became abit overwhelming in the hot African sun so I ducked into a nearby hut to catch my breath. As I looked up across from me a young Mursi girl stared back a lit by the sun coming through the hut. The lighting was perfect and it ended up being the cover shot for the book. 

The Most challenging shoot physically was the 220 miles I hiked along the coast of Maui for my last book. I'd wake up at 5am every morning when it was dark out and start walking, taking photos and reflecting on the history of the areas. On day 6 hiking across the lava fields, I ran out of water and had to climb several miles up the mountain to the road. When I finally reached the road I was in pretty rough shape and flagged down the first car I saw. It turns out that it was a good friend of mine and her mother who had headed out to bring me dinner that night. They took care of me and I set out back on the road. Half an hour later another friend passed me and handed me a fresh coconut out the window. That's when I knew everything was going to be alright. 

Do you have a photographic philosophy? 

Shoot what you love and don't go just far, but go deep.