Istanbul Photo Awards great way to make name, says winner

Adam Pretty, winner of 2 prizes in story sports category, defines contest as 'really big contribution to photojournalism'

The winner of the first and second prizes in the story sports category of the Istanbul Photo Awards 2020 contest said the contest is a "really big contribution to photojournalism."

Adam Pretty, the 43-year-old Australian photojournalist at Getty Images, won first prize in the category with 10 pictures in which he presented the breathtaking rock climbing scenes of Amy Dunlop of Australia and Katariina Rahikainen of Finland.

Ten more pictures showing the Japanese Paralympic hopefuls Hitomi Onishi and Sayaka Murakami working with Japanese Prosthetist and Orthotist Fumio Usui and competing against each other for qualification brought Pretty the second prize in the same category.

Having practiced rock climbing himself around China, Australia and Japan for 10 years, Pretty wanted to take on his "unfinished business" and decided to shoot scenes of rock climbing training.

"The pictures were going to be based on the Olympics, which were, sadly, postponed. Rock climbing had just been included as an Olympic sport for the first time. That was the whole point of the story, trying to shoot the athletes training for the Olympics," he noted.

Pretty told Anadolu Agency that his background as a photojournalist dates back to his young ages.

"I was in high school when I first decided I wanted to be a photographer or photojournalist. I was really into art and illustration. And then I became interested in photography almost by accident," he said.

"Then I just fell in love with it; going into the darkroom, going out meeting people, talking to people, trying to tell a story with pictures [...] Instantly, I was attracted to it. I pretty much gave up doing any illustration after that, and then set up my own darkroom, at my home in my mom's laundry. And since then, I fell in love with photography. And that's pretty much all I've done since then," he added.

Pretty touched on the preparation period for the shooting of the pictures that brought him the first prize. "For the pictures I submitted last year, I had a lot of freedom with what I was able to do. And that's taken a while to get there; to build trust with the company, Getty Images, whom I work for, and then maybe the clients whom I'm working with as well."

As a rock climbing lover, both in terms of practicing and shooting, he said: "I remembered I had the opportunity; I had to shoot the climbing story, and I thought I'd love to go back to China."

Emphasizing the power of photographs, Pretty said: "To get a photograph, you need to be an eyewitness to what's happening. You can't find out or you can't ask a question after the incident or the story."

He pointed out the importance of photojournalism by saying: "I think photography is definitely the purist, unbiased form, of journalism, just because you need to be there; and if you’re not, there’s nothing you can do to make up for it or to tell that story accurately."

"It comes with great responsibility as well," he added. "If you're doing news for journalism, then you need to be really careful about trying to tell both sides of the story and being unbiased on the view, the situation you’re covering."

Pretty believes that to catch the best moments, a photographer must master technical skills. Without these skills, a photographer cannot be ready for off-script moments. He conveyed his ideas as follows:

"If you have your technical skills at a high level, if something happens quickly, and unexpectedly, you won't miss it. And I think that's important, too, that you are ready for when something does go off the script, and something really unexpected happens, and you do have the skills, and the positioning and the knowledge to make the most of the opportunity."

He shared the same ideas he has on photography on life, too. "And I think that's photography in general; it's kind of the story of my life, those small chances you get just trying to maximize them and make the most of them and realize how fortunate you are to be in that position."

Pretty said there is no simple formula for a striking photograph. He noted that content and technical features may not be enough to shoot an outstanding picture. “I think we need a number of different elements to make a good picture, or a memorable, striking picture."

Underlining that the first thing he pays attention to is finding the best background possible, he said that once he has the subject he is going to shoot, he works out the story he is trying to tell, then positions himself in the best spot and waits for the action. He said, on the other hand, while working on more personal stuff, he puts much thought into his work and tries to "build a picture with layers."

"Of course, equipment can help," Pretty added. "But I think the biggest thing comes down to is the photographer's division. There, whether it be their education, their experience, what they've seen, how they approach, a job or subject, it all adds up. So, it could be a combination of everything, I think," he noted.

He recommended photojournalists across the world participate in the Istanbul Photo Awards 2021 and said: "Having a competition based in Istanbul, it's going to be different from having a competition that's in Australia, or in America or wherever. So, you do have a different, I guess, not so much market, but area where you're showing that work and representing that work."

"It's a great way to try and make a bit of a name for yourself. So, I think it's pretty damn good at the moment," he continued.

Applications are open for the Istanbul Photo Awards until March 18. Professional photographers can submit their works in Single News, Story News, Single Sports, Story Sports, Story Portrait and Story Daily Life categories at

Pretty also suggested that photojournalists who want to improve themselves receive as many different opinions from others as possible and be open to criticism.

He said: "What I would recommend to photojournalists really is just get your work out in front of as many people as possible, get those opinions back in. I did so, too. And I want to hear that critique, I want to see what people think of my work. If it's harsh criticism, take it and say, ‘Okay, you know what, next year, I'll work harder.’ You know, I think it's really hard to be super self-critical."

"I think if you try and, or you think, you've got to a level where you're on top of things, then you're going awesome. It's downhill from there," he said. “Show it to as many people as possible. And listen, you don't have to do exactly what people say; you have your own opinion. But I think you'll learn a lot more and give other people an opportunity to do that,” Pretty noted.

On the increasing trend of photojournalism on social media, Pretty reminded how dangerous false or biased photography can be. "I think that can be a little bit dangerous," he said. "Because you can push out stories that might not be true or told from a certain side, if you've got an opinion, and you want to sort of push that out, you can without anyone double-checking it."

Still, he focuses on the bright side. He mentioned the positive outcomes that social media holds for photography and photojournalism.

"So of course, it's dangerous, but it has made photography much more accessible. And therefore, there's much more of an appetite for photography, in every form of media, not just looking at the phone, but everyone's using more and more photography, whereas people would say, oh, photography is dead," he remarked.

"But it's, as I said, it's just opened up more people to photography. As I said, it has made that hunger for visual stimulation and photography much bigger. So, I think it's sort of helpful, especially if you're trying to work and earn a living from photography," Pretty added.

"So, I think the future is looking good," he said.

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