Ed Ou took up photography as a teenager. As a photojournalist, he began by covering clashes between Hezbollah and Israeli forces in 2006 and the conflict in Somalia. Tough assignments for a seasoned photojournalist, let alone a 19-year-old student.
Five years later, Ou captures images in conflict zones for the likes of the New York Times and Getty Reportage. His career trajectory has been remarkable, to say the least. His last permanent address was the New York Times Nairobi bureau, and the young photographer's satellite phone bill for the year amounts to the cost of a luxury car.
"Being in a publication like [the New York Times] is a lot of validation, but it’s a lot of pressure to constantly produce these kinds of images," he said.
Ou's recent work covering the Arab Spring, including the occupation of Cairo’s Tahrir Square in the days leading up to the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, put him on the front lines of that country's revolution. His age and ability to speak Arabic helped give him access to the youth behind the revolt.
"I shoot from my vantage point as much as I can ... a lot of these youth are essentially my peers, and so it was my job, to essentially hang out with them," he said.
"Looking at youth in Egypt was a mirror to my own youth. And I often wondered, what would I be standing for? What do I believe in?"
World Press winner
Ou is 2011's sole Canadian winner of a World Press Photo award. He took first prize in the contemporary issues category for his photo series Escape from Somalia, documenting a group of four Somalis as they fled conflict and poverty on a dangerous escape route to Yemen.
In order to capture the images, Ou made the treacherous journey across the Gulf of Aden, along with his subjects, capturing intimate portraits of people on the run.
Ou's winning work can be seen at the World Press Photo show running from October 5 - 26 at the Allen Lambert Galleria in Brookfield Place, in Toronto.