Local photojournalist in race for Photoafrica award

MASERU — Local photojournalist Hlompho Letsielo has been short-listed among 25 finalists in the Fourth Photoafrica contest in Spain next week.

If he wins the prestigious competition Letsielo could walk away with 1 500 euros in prize money.

The second winner will get 1 000 euros while the third-place finisher will get 500 euros, according to a statement released by the organisers.

The competition roars into life in the Spanish city of Tarifa on Saturday and will run until June 19.

Letsielo is the first Mosotho to take part in the prestigious competition.

Lesotho is among 11 African countries that have representatives participating at the festival.

Letsielo is however not going to be in Spain during the adjudication process with the winners being selected in absentia.

“This year we registered 75 photographers from all over Africa who sent more than 400 photographs to the competition and from which we chose 25 final photographs to be inaugurated in Tarifa, Spain,” Gaetano Gualdo, Photoafrica co-ordinator said in a press statement.

This year’s topic is ‘Urban Space’.

Gualdo added: “We decided on this topic because more and more Africans are [migrating] from villages to cities and this predicts a lot of radical changes of the continent in the future so we want to capture this process.”

Letsielo is currently studying photojournalism and documentary photography at the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg.

He worked for a local weekly newspaper as a cartoonist and photojournalist before moving to Johannesburg last year.

Letsielo, 22, told the Weekender the platform has brought huge opportunities to his career.

“The competition is global and I believe through it my work is going to be seen.

“After high school I wanted to be a graphic designer but I found it boring and eventually dropped out,” Letsielo said.

“I then accidentally ended up as a journalist and now I am thankful because I’m enjoying it.”

Letsielo said he saw details about the competition on his school’s notice board and took the chance to participate.

“Only two students made it to the top 25,” he said.

Letsielo said he was very confident he would make it to the top list.

“I submitted five of my best photographs and I knew I would make it to the top list but now that I know I am competing with global professional photographers, I am very nervous,” he said.

Letsielo said the competition is giving local photographers a platform to showcase their talents.

“Photography is underrated in the country so I am using my talent to put Lesotho on the international map. I want to leave a legacy.

“This is my platform to expand photojournalism from the way it is perceived now.”

He said none of the local photojournalists take time out to tell stories through taking pictures.

“I have never seen a photo documentary telling Lesotho’s many stories so after graduation I want to expand my horizon by covering wars around the world or return home to work as a freelancer.

“I will also fight hard to advocate growth of the industry,” Letsielo said.

He said in the past photojournalists used to rely on newspapers to publish their work.

“We are seeing a vast growth of online news agencies and I believe that photojournalists should capitalise on this to get their messages across.”

Letsielo said he will continue to compete in global photo competitions because “it is the only free way of getting my work out there”.

Letsielo won third place at a United Nations Development Programme’s Picture This global photo competition in 2009.

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