Ismail Ferdous’ family expected him to pursue a career in business, but it was more important to him to follow his passion: photography.
“I became a photographer because I had a passion for human interest stories,” he wrote via email. “I realized that photography is a powerful tool for telling stories. I believe when people really pursue their passions and pursue what they believe in and what they love, genuine results will come out of that.”
Ferdous, born and based in Dhaka, Bangladesh, is one of the three winners of a $10,000 grant offered by Instagram and Getty Images designed to recognize photographers who are documenting stories from underrepresented communities around the world. His work focused primarily on the relatives of the more than 1,000 people killed in 2013 when the Rana Plaza garment factory collapsed. The winners also receive a mentorship with a Getty photojournalist.
Another grant winner, Dmitry Markov, started taking pictures 10 years ago. “It was nothing, just a hobby,” he wrote via email. “Then I started working with volunteers who were helping at orphanages. So, I started telling the photo story of the work done by Russian charity organizations. Those photos helped attract new people and sponsors and thus I chose this mission for myself.”
Adriana Zehbrauskas, the third winner, was born in Brazil and is based in Mexico City, thought she’d follow in her father’s footsteps and work as a journalist for a newspaper, but she quickly realized that she was more inclined to become a photographer. Her work focuses on climate change as well as a look into the daily lives of Latin Americans.
“In the beginning, Instagram was a place for more personal photos,” she wrote via email. “A bit of an extension of the new regained freedom I found shooting with my phone. Naturally, it evolved to a place where I could post images from stories I was working on and that wouldn’t necessarily find a space in print. The square format made me think differently while shooting and I think that was one of the challenges that fascinated me.”
Markov said he initially chose the same filter for all of the photos he posts in order to keep things—aesthetically at least—consistent. He tries to add a new story each week using his phone instead of a traditional SLR or point-and-shoot camera.
“Taking pictures with your phone, the way I see it, is great training for a photographer,” he wrote. “You have to manage a great shot without all the optics and a pro camera.”
The first time Instagram highlighted his work, Markov’s followers increased by 30,000. With the increased audience also came new expectations.
“I think people don’t want to see selfies alone,” he wrote. “They are interested in deeper photography. And now, with this grant, I’ll be able to do more.”
The photos from the winning photographers will be on display at Photoville in New York City until Sept. 20.