World Press Photo Winner Had to Sell His Camera Last Year to Survive


26-year-old freelance photojournalist Daniel Rodrigues landed the biggest ‘win’ of his photographic career this year when it was announced that his photo Football in Guinea-bissau (shown above) had won 1st prize in the prestigious World Press Photo competition’s Daily Life category.

The win was more than a fancy new line on his resume: you see, just two years ago Rodrigues was flat broke, and this award will allow him to resume the career that he almost had to abandon to survive.

The Porto, Portugal-based photographer graduated from the Portuguese Institute of Photography back in 2010 and found an internship at the newspaper Correio da Manhã and a job with the agency Global Imagens.

When finding a suitable job in Portugal didn’t pan out, Rodrigues decided to volunteer with a humanitarian aid organization called Missão Dulombi starting in March 2012. That role would soon take him to the West African country to Guinea Bissau, where he would help reconstruct a school and hospital that were in bad shape.

The country of Guinea-Bissau is on the west side of Africa

The country of Guinea-Bissau is on the west side of Africa [#]

On one of the days he was there, he joined in on a soccer game with boys and girls who had a day off from school. After playing for a while, he captured a photograph of the players in the midst of their competition, with dust being kicked up all around.

After returning to Portugal that year, Rodrigues found himself unemployed due to cutbacks at Global Imagens. With bills piling up and not enough income to pay them off, Rodrigues was forced to sell all of his gear (a DSLR, three lenses, a tripod, a flash, and a backpack) in October 2012 to a fellow photographer.

In an interview with the New York Times, Rodrigues says it was the most difficult decision he has ever had to make:

It was a last resort and the most difficult decision of my 26 years. I live with my grandmother; she is 68. I used the money to make car payments, pay rent and pay for water, electricity and food.

On February 15 of this year, Rodrigues was informed that his photo of the kids playing soccer had won in the 2012 World Press Photo Competition. His life and career quickly took a turn for the better.

Rodrigues's photograph won 1st prize in the Daily Life category of the World Press Photo 2012 competition

Rodrigues’s photograph won 1st prize in the Daily Life category of the World Press Photo 2012 competition

In addition to the €1,500 (~$1,940) cash prize that comes with the award, benefactors began to take notice of Rodrigues. Canon and a Portuguese bank Banco Espírito Santo both contacted him to provide all the photo gear he would need for his photojournalism work. A newspaper in Portugal also ran story about Rodrigues’s unemployment and award, which led to a flood of people anonymously offering Rodrigues money to support his career (some even offered their personal photo gear).

Rodrigues has now replaced his entire kit, and shoots with a Canon 5D Mark III, three lenses, a flash, and a larger backpack.

The photographer tells the New York Times that he will soon be traveling back to Guinea Bissau to thank the children and offer them the photo, saying “the prize is also theirs.” His current dream is to work as a photojournalist for an international news agency — preferably in Africa.

(via NYTimes and Portugal Daily View via DPReview)

Image credit: Photograph by Daniel Rodrigues/World Press Photo

  • Brendan Wixted

    This is a great inspiring story, good for him.

  • Daverator

    Awesome! Parabens!

  • steve stevenson

    Glad to hear this!

  • Vlad Dusil

    omgwhut he is not shooting with the latest Cannon Mark XVI and the newest IS f/0.7 primes?

    what a schmuck! my pixuls > his pixers.

  • Eric Crawford

    Great story!

  • Vlad Dusil

    (note the sarcasm, please)

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    Come on, Canon, you can do better than a mark II – that camera is 5 years old already. Give the guy a mark III at least! jeez.

  • Michael Zhang

    Yikes, that was actually an error on our part. The camera is actually a Mark III. Thanks for the catch!

  • Eric

    Stories like this keep me coming back.

  • islanderyap

    Nice story:-) i prefer a Nikon:)

  • Armand Salmon

    There is hope.
    Great story.

  • tertius_decimus

    Good for him!

  • GG

    People who make that sort of comment know nothing or very little of cameras.

  • Desi Traveler

    For the love of photography… almost as it happens in the movies…

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    oh, good! less angry at Canon now :P

  • RSmithlal

    Very inspiring! I’m happy to hear things are going well for him now!

  • Igor Ken

    sit down, try not to cry, start crying…

  • Rob

    And people who make statements like yours are idiots. The photographer’s skill matters more than what brand of camera he/she has.

  • KeeFyBeeFy

    You’ll have to understand on an international stage, not everyone understands sarcasm.

  • eni turkeshi imagery

    glad for him.well deserved.

  • Kaushal Parikh

    this made my day:) power to Rodrigues!

  • sim4nee

    I’m a Nikon user but your comment seriously put yourself to shame.

  • pretty_ugly_1

    Inspiring story. But I think there is just too much post processing.

  • sanjukta basu photography

    Life is THAT unpredictable, just when he might have lost every last shred of hope, everything changed.

  • Ideas_R_Bulletproof

    if someone is broke, there can’t be a better story as encouragement….

  • Camden:3

    This is so inspiring for people who want to be photographers, writers, artists.. That people who are constantly told “You’ll never succed/ your dreams will never come true/ it’s way to difficult, just go for the easy boring job everyone else has and that you don’t like”
    Just perfect :,)

  • Duane Pandorf

    An awesome outcome for this young aspiring photographer!

  • Vic

    “Interesting story” but I think we are missing the point here. He won
    1st place in some world famous photo contest but only managed to earn
    enough reputation for free gear. WTF? I would expect agencies lining
    up to hire him instead. I don’t know. It is kind of depressing to say
    the least. From the hobbyist standpoint, great, you get free gear.
    From a professional standpoint, he is not getting a job offer!!!!

  • agour

    I imagine he’s probably had some job offers.

  • Rob

    Thank you Petapixel for editing my comment and GG’s. Much appreciated. /sarcasm

  • Mel Ganaban

    Amazing story… he deserves it… Congratulations!

  • Tom Waugh

    Even if it WERE a 5d MKII, I think that Daniel Rodrigues would have been grateful.

  • Jon Quimbly

    Time for the lad to upgrade: D4

  • SilverArrowPT

    Canon Portugal offered him a Canon 6D and a 24-105mm Lens…. Not a 5D Mark III …

  • SilverArrowPT

    It was a Canon 6D with a 24-105 lense. Not the 5D MarkIII

  • Frugal Travel Guy

    what a heart breaking story. Glad to see a great comeback for a great future photojournalist.

  • Frugaltravelrus

    what a heart breaking story. Glad to see a great comeback for a great future photojournalist.