Meet This Year's Getty Images Instagram Grant Winners

The three winners hail from Ethiopia, India and Uruguay.
Girma Bertaeg/@boxcreativ/Getty Images Instagram Grant Recipient 2016

Beyond the excessive filters, the pucker-faced selfies and the salacious bots, Instagram hosts a truly impressive number of great photographers who have heartfelt stories to tell.

Thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones, those photographers cover a wide and growing portion of the world, allowing unprecedented access to communities that might otherwise go unnoticed.

In honor of those photographers, Getty Images last year launched the “Instagram Grant,” a program “designed to recognize and support photographers documenting stories from underrepresented communities around the world using Instagram.” The three winners of the grant receive $10,000 and mentorship from one of Getty Images’ photojournalists.

This year’s winners selected by a panel of judges are: Christian Rodriguez of Uruguay, who focused on teen pregnancy in the country; Ronny Sen of Calcutta, India, who highlighted the struggles of people who live in Jharia, a coal-rich city that has been on fire for more than 100 years; and Girma Berta of Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa.

Honorable mentions were given to: Daro Sulakauri (@darosulakauri) from The Republic of Georgia; Ako Salemi (@f64s125) from Tehran, Iran; and Andrew Quilty (@andrewquilty), an Australian photographer based in Afghanistan.

An exhibition featuring the winners’ work will be free and open to the public from Sept. 21-25 at Photoville in New York City.

Scroll down to see their photos and to read their interviews with The Huffington Post. Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Girma Berta

How did you get started with photography?

I had been doing graphic design and a bit of painting for a while, and during those times I got exposed to many photographs while I was browsing the internet. I fell in love with so many photographs back then. And one day I just felt like photography might be the next frontier I felt like I had to conquer. I love a good challenge and this was it. I decided to get out and begin capturing my city.

What misconceptions do people have about Addis Ababa that you’d like to set straight?

The misconception is that Addis is an all-pretty tourist destination, with the usual hotspots of the city. And there are numerous photos that show its beauty. There is nothing wrong with photos of that sort, but they only tell a small fraction of the city’s real life. My pictures illustrate what is really going on in the city’s day-to-day life, the beautiful, the ugly and everything in between. And that is what I want to set straight.

Is there any particular population you tend to focus on? What about them draws you in?

My pictures usually focus on the average working-class people in my city and their interaction with it in their daily lives. I go far and wide, documenting various things they do. And recently I have discovered an interest I have developed is my photography of elderly people and their lives.

Is there anything else you want people to know?

I want people to take more photos of themselves living in their daily lives as well as their daily happenings. I want photography to be part of their daily lives. Because as a culture, photographing subjects and also being photographed is slightly frowned upon. I want it to be as normal as eating food. I want people to even take it a step forward and start telling stories with their pictures because there so much to tell. It takes many more people to document all those great stories. No one person can do this.

Ronny Sen

Children wait for their parents to return from work, both of whom are coal pickets inside a coal mine in Jharia.

A photo posted by The End (@whatdoestheendoftimelooklike) on

Coal thieves work very early in the morning before the mine officials come inside the mines in Jharia.

A photo posted by The End (@whatdoestheendoftimelooklike) on

How did you get started with photography?

It was a journey with many beginnings and many dead ends. When we were growing up in Salt Lake in Calcutta in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, the kind of life my friends and I had back then, I don’t remember if we wanted to become anything at all … Mobile phones weren’t there and photography wasn’t as popular as it is today. It was much slower and quieter. We lived through that whole transition until now. So much has changed in such a short period of time.

I remember very specifically that I was quite drawn to photography, and before I knew it, it just became like a mad obsession … like some sort of a game you suddenly fall in love with. It was indeed a game initially, it became craft and language and communication and art at a much later stage. Now, it is something else completely, which is another conversation.

Back then, life as usual was going on, but photography eventually gave a certain shape, a kind of a rhythm to all of this madness. I had stories to tell and I knew that only I had these stories to tell and photography was the only option that was available. That was the only thing I could do or I knew about. There was a sense of identity as well. When you do nothing and you have a camera and you are looking for adventure and freedom and so on, and people ask you, what you do? I was tired of telling people that I don’t do anything, and then I started saying that I was a photographer and people believed me…

But with time, slowly, steadily, the obsession got more problematic and there was no escape. Photography then became like a life and death thing in no time.

What do people who live in Jharia think of the fires, and what is being done about them?

The underground fire in Jharia has been burning for more than 100 years now. People who inhabit that space have seen this since they were born. So they are totally aware of it and it’s very much a part of their life.

Many villages which were once thriving with life don’t exist anymore. While some people have left these areas and shifted elsewhere for better jobs and opportunities in other cities, there is a big population which calls Jharia home and keeps on shifting along the blasting mines. They are mostly dependent economically on this huge coal industry. They don’t have any other skills. So, even if there is fire and subsidence, they don’t have any other choice but to keep moving along the mines.

Various small and at times extremely ambitious projects were initiated to rehabilitate these people affected by the fire and subsidence, but nothing substantial has been achieved so far. Some houses were built for some of these affected people as a part of the rehabilitation and resettlement project which were far away from the mines. The one-room apartments were extremely small for these families, and on the other hand there was no livelihood opportunity for them. So, people who were shifted started moving back to different mines again.

This is a place where historically literally everyone has failed, the Maharajas, the British Raj, the government of India, the Communists, the Mafia, and now is the turn of the Multi Nationals who will also eventually fail. I have imagined this space to be at the end of the world after everything has been extracted. What remains after that is what I am interested in. So, the basic premise begins with the future.

I want to share my concerns with a larger audience. Because, the story is not only specific and limited to India at all. It is just a coincidence that Jharia is here. It’s an economic, environmental and deeply political problem which is predominantly visible all across the world. There are many areas which I am trying to touch upon with this body of work. The fact that it’s a complex issue and it doesn’t only deal with mining but how it is done and about the people who are the most affected and so on. I hope that this can initiate a dialogue and show people a small glimpse of a possible future that is coming towards us.

What inspired you to document the people who live there?

I had never seen people living with fire literally burning under their houses. It’s like magic realism. It’s simple daily life of people in one of the most extraordinary and unbelievable, almost inhabitable sort of setup. Who will believe this? You have to show photographs to make people believe this.

Is there anything else you want people to know?

Another magic realism story: There are many in Jharia almost on every street corner, but this one is so bizarre and pathetic that’s it’s almost funny. Whenever there is blasting inside the mines, there is a rain of stones on the villages nearby. It literally rains stones from the sky.

So, a man was watching a cricket match on TV inside his house and nearly every day in the afternoon the nearby mine was blasting. Most of the coal mines in Jharia are into open cast mining now. During the blasting, a big piece of stone flew and pierced through his rooftop and landed on his TV, breaking it completely. The man, in disgust, shock and anger, took up the TV in his arms and barged into the mine from where they were blasting. He went inside one of the officers’ rooms and to register his protest, he threw the broken TV on the floor in front of the officer and said that the blasting has broken his TV and he needs to be compensated with a new one.

Christian Rodriguez

#eyebrows #lady #zocalo #DF #mexicocity #Mexico #méxico #everydaylatinamerica #everydaymexico #everydayeverywhere #onassignment

A photo posted by Christian Rodríguez (@christian_foto) on

Angela Mieres (15) hugs her sister Patricia during labor. Her boyfriend and father of the baby was shot dead 20 days before birth. Uruguay is among the countries with the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the world. Uruguayan highest number of maternity cases; as well as the most complex; are attended at the Women's Hospital "Dra. Paulina Luisi" in the Pereira Rossell Hospital Center; reaching a 26% of the total. While in Uruguay there are 60 teenage pregnancies per 1; 000 inhabitants; the global average is 49. For authorities it has always been a problem: more prematurity; lower birth weight; higher prevalence of congenital syphilis; reproduction of poverty; and 85% of teenage mothers leaving the education system.; Most of the young people I spoke with decided to have their children and never considered the idea of abortion. Professionals working at the hospital reported that in their respective neighborhoods; these young women no longer belong to street rods; they reach a higher status: being a mother. Being a teenage mother in the neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city has another social connotation; that a middle or upper class girl wouldn’t have. For a teenage mother from a lower socio-economical status a child is a personal object; a possession nobody can deprive her from. Her child becomes a way to approach a higher level in the social ladder; it is a life project.; Results of a field study concluded that they tend to repeat their mothers' patterns; most of whom were also teenage moms. From a 23 patients research; 19 were born to teenagers. Their closest references have been very young mothers; which is well regarded in their communities and neighborhoods.; "Teenage pregnancy is an issue. Gender week in @sanjosefoto Photo: @christian_foto / @prime_collective #nicaragua #teen #mom #everydaylatinamerica #teenmom #latinamerica #everydayeverywhere #teenager #pregnancy #sanjosefoto2016 #sister #teen #mom #labor #montevideo #uruguay

A photo posted by Christian Rodríguez (@christian_foto) on

How did you get started with photography?

I began to explore the visual arts from an early age. I studied different techniques in painting, drawing and fashion design, among other things. The move to photography was almost natural and provided one more way to explore and discover the arts. For many years it was just a hobby. I have gone through different areas of photography: social events, weddings, fashion photography, advertising and photojournalism. Currently I am interested in working on long-term projects, developing a much more reflective and paused photography.

What inspired you to focus on teen mothers?

All the projects I develop are linked, in one way or another, to my personal life or family. I am the son of a teenage mother; my mother had me when she was 17 years old and she was a single mom, a pattern that constantly repeats in the issue of teenage pregnancy. One of my sisters was a mother at the age of 16; clearly this reality has always been very close to my life, so that is why I decided to work on this topic.

As the son of a teenage single mother, raised by my grandmother, and the fact that I did not meet my biological father until the age of 33, my world has always been focused on women. I have been very lucky to be surrounded by wonderful women who have influenced me and inspired me to work on these issues.

I am interested in exploring the feminine world not only visually, but also by looking at how cultural practices influence the way women relate to their environment, usually due to inequality; how some canons are still imposed nowadays by distant or ancient cultures; and how this affects relationships with the opposite sex. I want to show an everyday, contemporary vision of women and their environment.

What misconceptions about teen pregnancy in Latin America would you like to set straight?

There is a standardization and blaming of the girls. They say, “The girls are too precocious, they are looking for relationships at a very young age.” We have a group of 10- to 14-year-olds of high vulnerability. It is a group that has no voice or awareness of the things that happen. There is a very high percentage that result from abuse; we believe that a child under 14 has no ability to authorize and consent to a sexual relationship. There are many cases of violence, incest and clear sexual abuse.

It’s not just education, poverty and information; there are several elements. The persistence of teenage pregnancy is talking about a gap in gender equity, a gap that is manifested in maintaining traditional roles. Teenage pregnancy is associated with gender violence in a broader sense, including physical, symbolic, psychological and economic violence.

The visibility of this issue and the implementation of medium and long-term measures are essential to generate a change. More work is needed on the empowerment of girls. The achievement of true equality in decision-making will develop in equity in life projects. The day that life projects for boys and girls become similar, teen pregnancy will decrease.

Is there anything else you want people to know?

The persistence of teenage pregnancy continues talking about a gap in gender equity, a gap that still shows the remains of traditional roles and in the acceptance that their body is a vehicle for other things. Maternal mortality speaks of a gap in the exercise of women’s rights. There is little autonomy and ability for making decisions. If we keep on working on empowering girls at very early ages in the achievement of true equity in decision-making, we will also have equity in life projects. The day in which life projects for boys and girls become quite similar, teen pregnancy will decrease.

Latin America needs long-term programs to reduce teen pregnancy, and girls need to have greater opportunities in order to finish their education programs. The aim of the project is not only to give visibility to the issue but to show solutions to this problem through an educational multimedia piece.


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