Sam Tippetts is the winner of the ultimate photography competition, Assignment: Inspiration, run by National Geographic and Mazda. We follow Sam as he explores the badlands of West Texas in search of the perfect shot.

Videographer Michael Kincaid / Photography Sam Tippetts

When Sam Tippetts was 10 years old, his parents bought him a point-and-shoot camera. Ever since that day, Sam has had a camera with him everywhere he goes. He’s traveled all over the world and found that taking pictures has enabled him to connect with people or things he might never have encountered before. “When I’m taking photos, I’m always looking to establish a relationship with my subject, regardless of whether it’s wildlife, landscape, or humanity,” he says. We asked him to do a shoot for Mazda Stories and our brief was simple: go somewhere you love and show us what you can do. He chose West Texas, his home. Here’s Sam’s story.

“I was pretty out in the middle of nowhere. Everything’s so spread out you could spend weeks, months, years, and still find new roads.

“My name is Sam Tippetts. I was born and raised in Texas. And I take pictures. 

“I’m drawn to West Texas by the landscape initially. There really is dramatic changes from flat to little mini-mountains and hills that sort of captivate me as a photographer.

“Art in general and expressing yourself through something like photography, it’s very personal. You kind of put a lot out there when you show people your work or when you are creating your work. It’s about that relationship between the subject and the viewer. 
“My camera has given me an excuse to interact with people that I otherwise wouldn’t, and that’s something I’m super thankful for. My images revolve around this single idea: connection. 

“When you’re shooting outdoors, you always have to be pretty aware of your surroundings, so that’s definitely something I try to focus on. I’ve spent a lot of time on the road. I’ve walked, hitchhiked, sailed. A lot of time living out of a backpack. 
“I was all over West Texas. I spend a lot of time out there exploring and driving.

“My camera has taken me all over the world, but I have always made my way back home to Texas. There’s just something special about home.”

To see a selection of the photographs Sam shot for Mazda Stories, click through the gallery below.

Assignment: Inspiration was a photography competition run by National Geographic and Mazda. Photographers were asked to share three to five images that inspire, engage, and reveal a passion for storytelling. Sam was shortlisted and, along with two other finalists, he was flown to Los Angeles to compete in a series of storytelling quests under the mentorship of experts from National Geographic and Mazda. Sam’s prize is every photographer’s dream: an official assignment for National Geographic Travel. To find out more about Sam and the National Geographic competition he won, click here.

Click the link below to find out more about Sam’s Mazda CX-9.

Mazda CX-9

Click the link below to find out more about the Mazda CX-9.