James Oatway is an independent South African photographer. I grew up in a small copper-mining town called Phalaborwa and I completed a Journalism degree at Rhodes University in Makhanda (Grahamstown).
I focus on telling under reported stories in Africa - my home continent. My work revolves mostly around themes of political injustice, social inequality and people affected by conflict. When I was 21-years-old I started my first job at a small regional newspaper called Die Burger. I was the Chief Photographer and Picture Editor of the Sunday Times newspaper before deciding to go freelance in 2016.
Over the years my work has received various international awards including multiple Pictures of the Year International (PoYI) awards. In 2018 my long-term documentary project was awarded the Visa d’or Feature Award, at the prestigious Visa pour l’image photojournalism festival in Perpignan, France. In 2015 I was named the South African Journalist of the Year.
My work has been published in The Guardian, The New York Times, Stern, Internazionale, Le Monde, TIME, Harper’s Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Science, Colors, Paris-Match, L’Obs, The Los Angeles Times and others. I have been commissioned by various Non-Governmental Organisations such as: Open Society Foundation (OSF); Doctors Without Borders (MSF); Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI); Aidsfonds and The Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) among others. I am a regular photographer for UNICEF and have worked with the WHO and the UNHCR too. I am a regular stringer for Reuters.
On 18 April 2015, I photographed a fatal attack by South African men on Mozambican migrant Emmanuel Sithole. This was during a wave of xenophobic attacks. The images of the attack sparked outrage and made international headlines. The army was deployed and mass demonstrations took place.
I have taught documentary photography at the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg and often give presentations to students at various learning institutions. I am affiliated to Panos Pictures.
I have two children who I love with all my heart.