25-year-old Daniel Rodrigues won the Daily Life category in this year’s World Press Photo Awards for a picture of youths playing football taken while volunteering in Guinea-Bissau. He tells PDV what lies behind the photograph and how it changed his life.
“Guinea-Bissau is the poorest country in the world and they have no electricity or running water, but people are happy. They’re simple,” says 25-year-old Daniel Rodrigues. “Here if we don’t have a mobile phone we feel sad, but there in Guinea all they need is a football.”
This simplicity is what lies behind the award-winning photo taken by Portuguese photographer Daniel Rodrigues who, amid his struggle to find a job in Portugal, set off to volunteer for NGO Dolumbi and portray the daily lives of young footballers in a country bruised by corruption, poverty and repression.
“It’s a photo the whole jury found captivating”, Mayu Mohanna, Member of the 2013 photo contest jury told Portugal Daily View. “It had to do with all the elements – the bare feet, the girls and boys playing, and the sand on the field which created the effect of an atmosphere as if it was suspending the children in the air.”
She adds: “Every time we looked at this photograph we knew we had to take it through to the end, which is why we moved it from the sports category to daily life. The children look so happy and they don’t need anything special, like trainers or special brands. They just needed just a ball. I think it’s the essence of the photo that made it.”
When Rodrigues took the picture, the sun was setting and children were still playing in a field of bare dirt that was once the site of military barracks and training grounds of the Portuguese army in the colonial days.
“I started to play with them and had my camera in hand. And that’s how the photograph came about,” Daniel Rodrigues Portugal Daily View.
“The sun was setting and there was little light, but there was a cool atmosphere. So I just quickly adjusted the settings and took the shot,” he says.
The black and white image, which sharply portrays the motion and enjoyment of young girls and boys playing barefoot amid the effect of a cloud caused by the dirt, appeared around the world and made headlines.
“It completely turned by life around,” Daniel says. “I was unemployed but this has now opened many doors. I also don’t have to sell all my [photography] equipment now.”
On arriving back in Portugal, Daniel was forced to sell his camera to pay his bills. It would not have crossed his mind that he was soon to be bombarded with interviews and job offers. He was also offered a new camera by Canon and bank Banco Espírito Santo.
By coupling his passions for both photography and Africa and not letting money hold him back, Daniel is a symbol of courage in a country where the debt crisis and economic recession have sent jobless rates soaring and people are left with few places to turn to.
“I never give up,” says Daniel. “I looked for work in other areas both in Portugal and abroad but I never once doubted that one day I would go back to working in photography.”
His dream? To work as a photojournalist for an international news agency and, if possible, in Africa.
“Life takes turns when you least expect it,” he says.