Aman Alam, winner of the 5 Community Prize
Twenty-six-year-old Aman Alam became a photographer three years ago, leaving behind a job in data science. He found work taking photos for advertisements, mainly in the documentary and travel space in India.
Then the pandemic hit and the work dried up. While it was tough, Aman told 5: “You get to thinking, even though I’ve been affected, I’m still pretty comfortable compared to the rest of people. India is a very poor country where a sizable number of people live paycheck to paycheck, and I started thinking about them. I was not doing anything professionally in the middle of the pandemic, so I thought, why not turn my lens to that?”
“I feel like a historian when I take a photo. You’re documenting things for eternity”
After lockdown was lifted, Aman visited a garment factory in Bangalore to photograph workers whose lives had also been turned upside down by the pandemic. “That’s where I found Manjunath.”
“The thing about Manjunath is, he used to run a garment factory himself, and when I found him he was working as a tailor in another factory. His own factory shut down, not just temporarily, they shut shop forever. And suddenly he’s out of a job. He has a 14-year-old daughter in school, and a wife who was very sick. He tried to get a new job, but in the middle of a pandemic that was super hard. That’s when he took the decision to go back to his roots and work as a tailor.”
The message, Aman says, is that: “You don’t let life beat you down, you do what needs to be done to provide for those who are dependent on you. That really hit home with me.”
“I sort of feel like a historian when I take a photo,” says Aman. “You’re documenting things for eternity. That event vanishes, the people die, but the photograph endures, and you get a chance to relive that moment.”
“You don’t let life beat you down, you do what needs to be done. That really hit home with me”
Aman says he hasn’t yet had a chance to think about what he’ll do with the €2500 prize money, but “a portion of it is definitely going to go back to Manjunath”.
Maysa Leite, winner of the 5 Jury Prize
Seventeen-year-old Maysa Leite has just finished high school, and pursues photography and fashion as hobbies, while studying and working in administration.
Her winning photo shows her mother, Ana Paula, and her 11-year-old sister Luana, who has sickle cell anemia. The three live in São Paulo, together with other relatives.
“I took the picture just a day before the competition deadline,” says Maysa. “And it was funny, because after I took it, the camera stopped working. So it had to be this picture, or nothing. We had a completely different idea of how the photo should be. But in that moment, it just happened like that. But I didn’t stress because I liked that photo from the beginning, even if the exposure wasn’t that perfect, you know, with the white dress. But you know when you feel that something is going to work out.”
“My mum was a changemaker in my life, and I end up being a changemaker in the lives of others”
The picture is all about family, she says. “Everything I do in life, I do it for my mum and my sister. It was my mum who raised me, and I helped her raise my sister. And in that picture my sister looked so comfortable. You can see the affection, the comfort that you look for in a hug. I think it was the best photo I have ever taken.”
“We always try to change things for the better for the people we love, to be the best version of ourselves. In the same way that my mum was a changemaker in my life, I end up being a changemaker in the lives of other people.”
“But maybe the biggest changemaker of all is Luana. She makes me and my mum give our best. She suffers from sickle cell anemia, so in her 11 years of life I think she has been admitted to the hospital 20 or 25 times. She’s at the hospital today. That day when we took the picture, she actually had a painful episode just before taking the shot. I even thought she wouldn’t be able to take the photo. But she really wanted to do it to prove to herself she could.”
“We always try to do our best, because here in Brazil, machismo and racism are very present. So a family of black women, without anybody else, Luana with a disease, and my mum splitting between work and family, me studying all the time to make sure I can give her the best. So it’s a life at 100%, really intense all the time, always on the go.”
“I got into photography through modelling. I would really like photography to be something a bit more present in my life. I want to study history, and photos are basically historical records, so I would like to combine the two things.”
I can’t even measure how happy I am. My mum is also speechless. We are sharing all of that”
The €2500 prize money will have a big impact on life for Maysa, her mother and sister. “After my parents’ divorce, we lost the apartment where we lived, so now we live with relatives. With the prize I intend to rent a house for the three of us. We’ve had this plan for about four years, now with the prize we can make it real.”
“It’s still unbelievable. It seems like a dream. I didn’t have big expectations, I knew my picture was good, but there were photos much more professional than mine. So I am really happy. Especially now during the pandemic, after witnessing so many bad things, having something so good happening in my life, I can’t even measure how happy I am. My mum is also still speechless. We are sharing all of that.”