LUANDA, ANGOLA – JANUARY 29: A lady watches water droplets land on her hands inside the Povoado slum on January 29, 2020 in Luanda, Angola.

Every year, through our Print Futures Awards, we give talented young people grants of up to £1500 to go towards their career development. This year we had 44 very deserving winners with promising careers in the print, publishing, paper, packaging and graphic arts sectors. 

Luke Dray, British photojournalist who specialises in current affairs including stories on development, natural disasters, civil unrest, climate change and the economy in EMEA, was a winner in our Journalism category this year. We spoke to Luke recently after he completed his Hostile Environment and First Aid Training about life as a freelancer.

How did you get into the industry?

I was (and even more so now) very interested in current affairs, I wanted to be where the action was. The only way I could do that before ‘becoming a journalist’ was to photograph protests. My boss at the camera shop I was working in was very accommodating, letting me take days off to do my work. Working at the camera shop also gave me good discounts on second-hand gear, and everything I earned went back into photography.    

What appealed to you about the industry you are in?

I want my work to highlight things that can be avoided, and if not avoided, fixed. It would be nice to help make the world a better place, and I think we as journalists can, but I have realised that this doesn’t happen very easily. I also love the idea of seeing things first hand, and being where the action is. 

What does your role involve?

As a freelancer my role involves keeping multiple plates spinning at the same time. Be it finding interesting stories and gaining access to them, reacting to breaking news or making connections. It’s hard to switch off, and to be honest I don’t think I like switching off – at our age we need to work twice as hard as everybody else to get ahead of the pack.

What is your award going to allow you to do?

The Print Futures Award allowed me to get Hostile Environment and First Aid Training, which everybody working in potentially dangerous environments should have. It’s a course that gives you in-depth training on more serious first aid (such as ballistic trauma) and runs through other potential risks you have when working in hostile places. This means organisations can send me on more difficult stories where there is higher risk.

What has surprised you most about the industry you work in?

How quickly you learn not to let anything surprise you, because everything in recent years seems more amplified than the last.

What would you advise other young people looking to get into the same sector?

Work twice as hard as everybody else. If an editor rings you up for the first time, don’t dither, just say yes! Work out the logistics later, and don’t under any circumstances mess up.

Where do you turn for support in your career?

Mentors. People are (overall) very nice and want to help young people.

Do you have anyone that you look up to in the industry?

You have all the famous faces in photography, but I like the ones who don’t shout: Finbarr O’Reilly, Dan Kitwood, Hannah McKay, Spencer Platt and Peter Macdiarmid are some of the people I admire.

What are your aspirations for the future of your career?

I really want to be a staffer for one of the wires, but that’s not gonna happen any time soon! 

The 2020 Print Futures Awards are now closed. You can see all of our winners here and find out about the 2021 awards by signing up to our newsletter.