American Photography Open 2022: Svetlin Yosifov is the Winner of the SanDisk 'Share Your World' Contest

By David Schonauer   Wednesday September 28, 2022

Above: “Mundari Cattle Camp,” by Svetlin Yosifov

“Traveling is my life,” says Svetlin Yosifov, a Bulgaria-based photography enthusiast who is the winner of this year’s SanDisk “Share Your World” competition, part of the American Photography 2022 contest.

Svetlin’s winning image, titled “Mundari Cattle Camp,” captures a way of life for the Mundari tribe of South Sudan, whose lands are bounded on the east by the White Nile, an important source of water for their livestock. “Where exactly the photo was made is hard to say, because the Mundari cattle camps change locations depending on water bodies and pastures,” Yosifov says. “It was taken in October/November of 2021, about four or five hours from Juba, the capital of South Sudan.”

The photograph, filled with sunlight diffused by dust and filled with silhouettes, was praised by judges Fred Pompermayer and Nitish Waila for its emotion and authenticity. “Ten or more families live in each cattle camp of the Mundari tribe,” Yosifov notes. “They are cooperative, help each other out in their work, and protect each other. Each family has anywhere form 20 to 100-plus head of cattle—however, when an animal dies for any reason, the meat is distributed to all.”

Yosifov lives in the Black Sea city of Burgas, Bulgaria, where he works in a private health club that specializes in extreme sports. “That involves a lot of travel and keeps my life dynamic and interesting,” he says. “Apart from that, I love traveling abroad and do so once a year for a period of two months. I associate these trips with diving into the unknown, meeting new people and experiencing new things.”

His travels also afford him the chance to pursue his passion for photography—especially, he says, street portraiture that allows him to “figure out the character of my subject.” He says he is “obsessed with photography and ready to do anything to get great art.” For his photographic journeys he chooses places “away from mass tourism.”

“There are many such places in Africa, including the Omo Valley of Ethiopia, with tribes that still retain their traditions, such as the Mursi and Surma tribes, and the Dinka and Mundari of South Sudan,” Yosifov says.

As the grand prize winner, he will receive receive a $2,500 cash prize, a 1TB Extreme PRO Portable SSD and 3 128GB Extreme PRO SD cards. Today we also spotlight the competition’s two finalists, Zay Yar Lin and Alain Schroeder, who will receive 2 128GB Extreme PRO SD cards.

Zay Yar Lin’s “Shipboard Life in the COVID -19 Pandemic”

Zay Yar Lin, a former grand-prize winner of the American Photography Open contest, is the captain of a chemical tanker ship whose avid pursuit of travel photography has blossomed into a flourishing sideline. “Photography helps me to escape from the stressful captain's life at sea,” he says. “Due to the covid restrictions, unfortunately, much of my personal travel has been postponed.” In the meantime, he has joined the NFT space, making sales after being noticed by collectors on Twitter.

Zay Yar’s finalist image, above, captures life aboard his ship during the covid pandemic. “During the pandemic, seafarers suffered a very stressful life and dangerous situation onboard,” he says. “They are used to living away from home for months at a time, but with covid they couldn’t even relieve their stress by going ashore at various ports. Also, many ships were infected by the virus.”

The image was made while Zay Yar’s ship was leaving the port of Ulsan, Korea, last November. “I took this photo from the bridge wing at the top deck level of my ship in order to get the bird's eye view of life aboard the vessel,” he says. “Since the ship was sailing from the port, I patiently waited and used a faster shutter speed in order to get the beautiful whirling waves beside the ship's hull.”

Alain Schroeder’s “Kyrgyzstan Horses"

Our other finalist, Alain Schroeder, is also a past grand-prize winner of the AP Open competition.  The founder of Belgium’s Reporters photo agency, Schroeder has worked on stories around the globe. His images have appeared in National Geographic, GEO, and Paris Match, as well as in more than 30 books focusing on China, Iran, the Renaissance, ancient Rome, the gardens of Europe, Thailand, Tuscany, Crete, Vietnam, Budapest, and Venice. His series on kid jockeys in Indonesia took first place in the Sports, Stories category of the 2018 World Press Photo competition. He has also documented the Rohingya refugee crisis and rituals of death in Indonesia.

His finalist image this year, “Kyrgyzstan Horses,” is from a story he shot focusing on Kok boru, a traditional game played by Krygyz horseman (and elsewhere in Central Asia) in which players try to maneuver with a goat’s carcass. In other words, notes Schroeder, Kok boru is “dead goat polo.”

“Trying to outrun your opponents with a headless goat wedged between your leg and your horse might not be your idea of a fun game, but in Kyrgyzstan, Kok Boru is the national sport,” he says. “Most villages throughout the country have a playing field, some have official stadiums. Professional teams play tournaments which culminate in the national championships that take place during the festivities surrounding Nowruz on March 21, when the Kyrgyz nation celebrates the beginning of spring.” Schroeder captured the scene above in the village of Uzgen in December of 2020.

We offer our congratulations to Svetlin Yosifov, Zay Yar Lin, and Alain Schroeder. And stay tuned, because we’ll be back shortly to announce the 10 finalists of the American Photography Open 2022 competition.

Pro Photo Daily All Access