Announcing the winner of Student Clique’s first bi-monthly photo contest

Samuel Samuel Eder spoke with Student Clique about his image of he and his school friends back burning in rural India – which won Fairfax Media's Student Clique bi-monthly photo contest for the months of February and March. Eder was born in Sydney, and currently studies at an international school in India.

Steven Siewert, photojournalist at The Sydney Morning Herald, judged the competition and said of Eder's winning entry: "This image is technically quite accomplished, getting the exposure right at this particular time of day with the flames and the dark sky is quite cinematic," Siewert said. "The embers in the foreground, which are slightly out of focus, combined with the detail of the flames and the figures makes for a dynamic and memorable picture."

Samuel Eder's winning photo of his school fire service building a new firewall for the summer ahead. <cite>Photo: Samuel Eder/Clique</cite>
Samuel Eder's winning photo of his school fire service building a new firewall for the summer ahead. Photo: Samuel Eder/Clique

Tell me about your image, who is in the image? Where is it? How did it come about?

I study at an international school called UWC in rural India. Our school is located within the mountains; we have a huge biodiversity reserve on campus with everything from humming birds to panthers. This reserve is often at threat from wild fires, in an attempt to combat this issue we have our own campus fire service, which is part of the outdoor education program. This photograph is from one of our back burning sessions during which we create fire walls to form a barrier and protect against wild fires. On this particular day we were working late in an attempt to complete our wall, as we finished the last back burn the blood moon rose in the distance. I had my camera on my at the time so I took a few steps back and decided to capture the moment. Those who are in the image are fellow students and members of fire service. We all wear makeshift smoke masks, which makes for a rather "out of this world" scene.

What are the people doing in this image?

In this particular shot a student is dragging a pile of burning grass across the ground in an attempt to grow the fire. Others in the background others wait for the wall to grow to an appropriate size before beating it out with beaters i.e. flaps off metal on bamboo poles.

Tell me a little bit about yourself, what got you started in photography and what do you do?

I moved to Germany in 2011 and my whole world was thrown upside down as a result. Everything was totally foreign to me and I had a hard time figuring things out. I turned to photography as a way of capturing and freezing the world. It became my way of understanding the chaotic word around me. When I moved back to Sydney in 2014 I continued with photography, I fell in love with light painting and "adventure" photography. Till this day I still love photography and the role it plays in my life.

Are you based in India or Australia?

I am currently studying and living in India in a two-year program. My house and family is, however, in Sydney

What do you like about Student Clique, the photo club? 

I really like the concept behind Student Clique. It creates an online community providing a place for photographers to inspire, learn from and connect with one another. Combined with the number of articles and resources found online it creates the perfect hub for those looking to better and improve their photographic skills.

How did you get the image? Was it a question of just taking your camera along and catching the moment by chance or were you documenting this for a while?

I had actually been shooting with the fire service team a few weeks prior to taking this photo. Following them and their various activities. On the night I made this photo I did, however, just so happen to have my camera with me, I wasn't expecting anything special. However, as the effort drew later into the night the fire illuminated the landscape and faces of my friends. I love this particular image because it captures a moment of serenity in an otherwise hectic task.

What sort of photography do you like the most and where do you want to go with it?

Until recently I was loved taking "nice" pictures. Although they were aesthetically pleasing they always seemed lack a backbone and level of genuine, which I admired other photographers for. As of recently I have started pursuing adventure photography. Photographing my friends and those who I meet, as they do what they love. I hope to continue and push my photography in this direction, hopefully eventually until I can sustain myself off my work. I have already planned my next steps, working a story in the Himalayas later this year.

Eder wins a Student Clique prize package including a Nikon 50 prime lens, a $100 Momento Pro digital voucher, a PosterCandy print, a $75 Clique workshop voucher, a Full Student Clique membership upgrade, and a portfolio review with a Fairfax photographer.

Student Clique is a photography club run from the newsrooms of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. To sign up to Student Clique for free, and to enter the next bi-monthly photo contest, visit: cliquephotos.com.au/student-clique.