Armed Karo herdsman in the Omo Valley, South West Ethiopia, 2008
7-Time World Press Photo Award Winner Brent Stirton
By my count, Durban-born, New York-based Brent Stirton is South Africa’s most awarded photographer internationally. Brent’s won seven World Press Photography Awards, with his first at age 27.
He’s also won seven prizes from The Pictures of the Year International contest; International Photographer of the Year from the Lucie Awards; and many, many other accolades. He’s one of 12 Canon ambassadors worldwide; the senior photographer for the assignment division of Getty Images in New York; and worked on the Emmy-winning documentary The Gorilla Murders.
Italian Vogue says that Brent taught himself photography while covering the violence in KwaZulu-Natal in the late eighties for The Weekly Mail. “Unable to find a courageous enough photographer who was willing to visit those dangerous areas with him, Stirton bought a second-hand camera thereby starting his career as a photo journalist,” says Alessia Glaviano in Vogue.
“Most of what I do is investigative, so it’s very frustrating: it’s 90% investigation and 10% photography,” says Brent in the interview with The World Press Photo Awards below. “There’s very little instant gratification visually.”
Many of his stories have required him to go undercover. “I often don’t come to those projects as a journalist: I come as a dealer or a hunter or a buyer or a soldier. I’ve been a priest; I’ve been a seed farmer; I’ve performed many roles to get into different places.”
Interview Magazine says he travels to approximately 50 countries per year, which is probably why looking at his photography always makes me want to get on a plane.
Having seen more of the world than almost anyone, he told Interview Magazine, “What’s really amazing is just how much we all have in common. Yes, there are many different manifestations of that, but we are all commonly human. The same variables apply no matter who you are, what you look like, what your gender is or what your race is. And that always amazes me. How we are all lacking compassion when actually we are so similar. So I guess my job is to continue to comment on that. See if I can get that right. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
See more of his work here.