David Hurn likens the esteemed Magnum photographic agency to "a family". He's been part of it since 1965, when he would get feedback from the likes of Bruce Davidson, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Elliott Erwitt. "When you come into this co-operative, you suddenly have access to people who are all better than you," he says. "That's the way to learn." And now Hurn, who was 30 when he joined the agency, is more than happy to be sharing his expertise with a new generation.
As well as setting up an influential photo-journalism course in Newport in the 1970s, he today tours colleges to give talks to students. So Hurn was an obvious candidate to help judge the inaugural 30 Under 30 competition, run by Magnum and The Photography Show alongside arts charity IdeasTap, to encourage and promote the world's best emerging talents.
The competition invited those aged 18 to 30 to submit five documentary photographs k from a narrative project. The judges were looking for "a clear storyline, technique, execution, concept and originality" in the work – and the 30 winning entries are currently on show at the Photography Show in Birmingham.
The final 30 form a notably international bunch; the five featured here hail from Iran to Venezuela, the UK to Ukraine. "Some of the photographs that I think are the best come from countries where it's rather brave that they're even photographing at all," says Hurn.
Not that he prioritised political or social issues while judging. "What I look for is authorship," he says – "somebody [whose] pictures don't look like anybody else's pictures. Most people take lots of pictures, which you see on Facebook – thousands and thousands of pictures – but they could have been taken by anybody.
Magnum's 30 Under 30 competition
Magnum's 30 Under 30 competition
1/14 Maxim Dondyuk, 29, Ukraine
Dondyuk shot images of a tuberculosis ward in her home country
2/14 Maxim Dondyuk, 29, Ukraine
Dondyuk says: "The collapse of the Soviet Union also brought the disintegration of a centralised system of tuberculosis control, which for a long time had been a source of pride. The public health systems of some economically unstable countries from the former Soviet Union suffer from poor funding, a lack of training and cumbersome bureaucracy"
3/14 Maxim Dondyuk, 29, Ukraine
"Ukraine has the highest burden of TB in Europe. I was greatly influenced by what I saw during my shooting [on a TB ward]. Every hour, four cases of TB are recorded. Every day, about 30 people die from the disease."
4/14 Lynn Rothwell, 23, Britain
Rothwell says: "This project explores the idea of the ordinary becoming extraordinary through photography. In questioning our visual expectations of the everyday, it highlights the cinematic qualities within our normal surroundings."
5/14 Lynn Rothwell, 23, Britain
"Most of the images were taken around the area where I grew up, in Dublin. I'm interested in the way that what one person considers everyday or mundane can be visually exciting for others."
6/14 Lynn Rothwell, 23, Britain
"It also forced me to look differently at my everyday surroundings and see new things. All of the images were taken using family and friends as models."
7/14 Alejandro Cegarra, 22, Venezuela
"The Tower of David is a skyscraper located in downtown Caracas, Venezuela. Construction began in 1990, but in 1994, the building was halted due to the country’s banking crisis. Thirteen years later, in 2007, approximately 2,000 families invaded the space illegally."
8/14 Alejandro Cegarra, 22, Venezuela
"For the inhabitants, the Tower is their part in the Bolivarian Revolution. Their way of life represents a fight against the social parameters in which they are viewed as a dysfunctional community."
9/14 Alejandro Cegarra, 22, Venezuela
"The take-over of the Tower, and their way of life remain controversial; but the reality is that the inhabitants are simply people who are searching for a sense of belonging, and a place to call home."
10/14 Ayman Oghanna, 26, British Iraqi
"My father left Iraq in the 1970s, before Saddam's wars, sanctions and before invasion and civil war, when Iraq nearly car-bombed, kidnapped and executed itself into oblivion. In 2009, I flew to Baghdad to photograph the city. Before you visit anywhere, there is a visual preconception of it in your mind."
11/14 Ayman Oghanna, 26, British Iraqi
"My preconception had been framed through the lens of the US military and war – barbed wire, American soldiers and carnage."
12/14 Ayman Oghanna, 26, British Iraqi
"When I arrived, I was shocked. Iraq looked unfamiliar. There was violence, sure, but also people trying to rebuild ordinary lives devoid of conflict and suffering."
13/14 Javad Parsa, 27, Iran
"My project is about Iranian immigrants and refugees in Oslo, Norway. Tens of thousands of people leave Iran every year, impelled by a lack of political, religious, economic and social freedom to go in search of a better life. The majority of people fleeing the country go to the UK, Turkey or Germany.
"I never imagined myself as one of these thousands of Iranians who would have left their homeland, but I had to flee Iran in 2009. The government had issued an arrest warrant for me, after my images of the Iranian uprising of that year had been published abroad. I fled to Turkey, and after 16 months of hope and expectation, Norway finally accepted me as a refugee."
14/14 Javad Parsa, 27, Iran
"In my new life I have met up with many fellow Iranian immigrants and refugees. They all have different reasons for having left their mother country. But every one I spoke to hoped that one day they could return to Iran – but to an Iran where they were allowed to vote in truly democratic elections, speak freely, dress the way they wanted to, and choose their own religion and beliefs."
"Also, I love pictures of people who cry, or laugh, or show some kind of emotion – I'm not in the least interested in walls or peeling paint, which seems to be what people are taught to do nowadays." But the Magnum cache impressed k on this front: "There were lots of people in this group who seemed to be interested in the fact that human beings relate to each other, and that that is an interesting thing to look at and glorify."
Although now a veteran, Hurn wants the industry to pay more attention to emerging photographers. When he was still in his twenties, he was photographing everything from the Hungarian Revolution to The Beatles and James Bond. Such early success is now rare – though why, in an era when we so fetishise youthful talent, is a mystery. "It's about time that we k went back to the days when we didn't think that young photographers had to be 36," he says. "Everything has got older now, which puzzles me – especially when one thinks that the first Magnum photographers were all in the agency by the time they were 24 or 25."
30 Under 30 is run by The Photography Show and Magnum Photos. Pictures from all 30 photographers are being displayed at The Photography Show until Tuesday at Birmingham NEC (photographyshow.com)Reuse content