Broke photographer sells camera, wins big photo prize, is back in business


posted Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 10:44 AM EST

There are some out there who might tell you photography competitions are a bunch of malarkey. But don't tell that to 26-year-old, freelance photographer Daniel Rodrigues, who was so poor he had to sell his camera gear to survive. Then Rodrigues won one of photography's biggest prizes and is suddenly back in business.

Rodrigues, who is based in Portugal, told his story to the New York Times' Lens blog.

"I sold my cameras to live. Global Imagens had cut back its freelancer staff, so I became unemployed. With less and less work and growing bills to pay, I was forced to sell my photo equipment. It was a last resort and the most difficult decision of my 26 years. I live with my grandmother; she is 68. I used the money to make car payments, pay rent and pay for water, electricity and food," Rodrigues said.

In total, Rodrigues sold his camera, three lenses, a tripod, a flash and a backpack to a colleague.

Then a shot Rodrigues captured of kids playing soccer in a dusty field in Africa unexpectedly won first prize for Daily Life in the World Press Photo competition and changed everything for him. (We reported on the World Press Photo winners last month and have included Rodrigues' photo below.)

Daily Life, First Prize, World Press Photo (Singles): Football in Guinea-Bissau by Daniel Rodrigues

After the win, Canon Portugal and a Portuguese bank helped Rodrigues  out, and now he has a Canon 5D Mark III, three new lenses, and a big photo backpack. He's currently working on a photo project for the government and plans to return to Guinea-Bissau, Africa -- where he shot the winning photo -- to thank the kids.

"The prize is also theirs," he said. "So often, the people that are the protagonists of photographs that win awards don’t have the slightest notion about that."

Read more about Rodrigues' story here