Twenty-two year old Sipho Mpongo was born in the Eastern Cape, Nqamakwe, in South Africa. In his youth, he joined a local photography mentorship program, Illiso Labantu, where he got his start as a photographer – a launching pad that would later become a career.
He recently completed full time studies at the Cape Town School of Photography, while contributing work to photography exhibits around the world. Sipho also recently completed a project which took him all over South Africa, documenting (via his lens) the so-called “Born Free Generation," which now accounts for some 40% of the population, born during the time since the country’s first fully democratic elections in 1994, who have grown up without apartheid and many of the struggles South Africa’s older generation faced.
Sipho has just been selected by The Magnum Foundation as one of their 2015 participants. Mpongo’s work as a photographer has earned him entry as the first South African to be accepted into the program, so congrats to him!
The foundation offers scholarships to photographers and journalists from non-Western countries to support their participation in a six-week Photography & Human Rights program in New York City. The students will receive training, and mentorship, via a program that seeks to support the next generation of photographers around the world, and seek to increase the impact of both historical and contemporary documentary photography in the digital age.
The other objective is to encourage the selected participants to use their creativity and tools in telling visual stories that help advance Human Rights in their home countries.
The Cape Town-based Ginkgo Agency forwarded the below short documentary they made on Sipho Mpongo, requesting that I share it with you all, hence this post.
Here’s the intro: "Through the lens of a camera Sipho explores what it means to be born free in South Africa today. Sipho was chosen to be one of seven participants to travel to New York for the Magnum Foundation human rights fellowship. Despite his background drenched in poverty and ill circumstance he has captured a unique aspect of life in south Africa and in turn Sipho has come far from the days when he took photos with his mother’s phone, to travelling the world as a documentary photographer. This is a story of promise and inspiration. These are the stories that we feel need to be told, please could you help us spread this message of positivity and hope showing exactly what the youths in south Africa are really capable of doing."
Here’s the short film titled "Sipho goes to New York."