Sputnik: The photojournalism competition dedicated to the memory of our photojournalist Andrei Stenin is in its fifth year. In your view, as a participant, what is the importance of this event?
Justin Sullivan: It’s important that young photographers are able to have a platform to not only express their hard work, but be recognised for their efforts. I believe the contest is not only a celebration of young talent, but a chance for photographers and viewers from all over the world to come together and share stories in unity.
Sputnik: In what ways has participating in this contest and winning it impacted your work?
Justin Sullivan: Participating has driven some inspiration for me to not only think differently about the way in which I work, but also appreciate the works of others. It’s humbling to be recognised for hard work and I’m very proud to be part of the contest.
Sputnik: How significant is photojournalism in general, in terms of drawing attention to the events surrounding us?
Justin Sullivan: Authentic photojournalism is crucial today to shape public opinion. The majority of the world get their stories through journalists and social media and in order for us to vocalise our experiences, it’s so important that we do it with integrity and honesty. The world is moving at such a rapid pace that events can take place without anyone knowing about it - Even more so, these events can be documented falsely and the story afterwards lives on as a fallacy. I think the most important part of journalism that needs to stay strong is truth and transparency.
Sputnik: Photojournalists sometimes have to work in quite dangerous environment like hotspots etc. What are the main challenges of this profession, in your personal experience?
Justin Sullivan: For me working as a photojournalist, I’ve documented a variety of events from violent protests to natural disasters such as Wildfires - The immediate challenge during the documentation process is safety, putting your life on the line to tell the story... The challenges that follow are often related to emotional well being. Apart from journalists exposing themselves to dangerous situations, the visual experiences live on within which can lead to lasting emotional wounds. Having to document events such as death and suffering often have a negative impact on your personal life.
Sputnik: What are your future aspirations as a photojournalist?
Justin Sullivan: I want to continue documenting stories that the world wouldn’t get the chance to see and to have a positive impact for environmental conservation.