Despite the return of load shedding and the endless clouds in the sky spoiling the view, there is one bright ray of light shining through in South Africa’s photographic community. For the very first time in the Sony World Photography Awards‘ seven year history, two finalists in a single category are coming from the same country.

That category happens to be for students, and that country happens to be South Africa.

It is no small feat, considering entries came from 230 educational institutions across the globe. Entrants were asked to submit a single image to the brief of “Tomorrow’s News”. The judges selected ten top finalists in the Student Category and included Russell Bruns from Rhodes University and Tara Mette from the Stellenbosch Academy of Design & Photography.

And here are their awesome shots (click through for large versions).

Human nature at its best: By Tara Mette
Human nature at its best: By Tara Mette
Heewon, Grade 1, Coutrai Primary School, Paarl, South Africa, 2013 - Rus...
Heewon, Grade 1, Coutrai Primary School, Paarl, South Africa, 2013: By Russell Bruns

While they’re waiting on tenterhooks to find out who’s going to win the overall prize, we managed to spend a little time with Russell and Tara to find out what it’s been like.

Tell us a bit about your photography and what inspires you?

Tara: I enjoy “documenting” people and capturing their emotions. I love discovering people through my camera, exposing their strengths and their weaknesses; depicting their daily struggle or their strong inner core.

Reality and truth are my core beliefs and this is what I aim to portray in my photographs. I want to share the bare truth and tell the whole story in my images.

Russell: I am originally from Paarl but have been based in Grahamstown for the last 7 years. I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Art in 2011 and I am currently in the second year of my Masters at Rhodes University. Theoretically my interests lie in how staged photography has been used to create discourse. My thesis entitled: Deconstructing the Constructed Image: From the Pictorial to Post-apartheid Photography will in turn help inform my practical work; which is currently a photographic interrogation of repressed privilege within a South African context.

How did you hear about the World Photography awards?

Tara: Our lecturer Mark at the Stellenbosch Academy informed us about the competition and asked our class if we where interested in competing.

Russell: A friend of mine made the finals three years ago, and said it was a great experience!

How does it feel to be nominated?

Tara: There are so many words I could use to explain how it feels but no word would do it justice. It is overwhelming.

Russell: I am incredibly grateful for any platform to showcase my work.

What are your aspirations for the future?

Tara: I would love to pursue a career in documentary photography, where my photographs could change a person’s outlook on life.

Russell: Ideally I would like an academic/freelance career in the future.

What excites you about photography today?

Tara: It fascinated me that in photography you can create something that the human eye will not be able to capture. The angle, composition and lighting can turn something as ordinary as a pepper into something extra-ordinary.

Russell: I have always been excited about photography’s ability to create critical debate.

The ten finalists have been sent a second brief, to submit a series of images under the title of “Self-portraits”. The body of work is to be produced on the Sony Alpha 7, a full frame mirrorless camera which each of the finalists have won. We wish Tara and Russell everything of the best moving forward.

[Main image – Gallery of 2014 award finalists]