Ahead of the 2017 awards, and celebrating its tenth anniversary, the CIWEM Environmental Photographer of the Year competition has looked back on some of the best, and most challenging, images to come out of the prestigious annual photography awards.
Terry Fuller, Chief Executive of CIWEM describes EPOTY as ‘one of the most powerful vehicles for conveying the intensity of humankind’s relationship with the natural world; highlighting the terrible impacts being wrought on our planet by its most dominant species. The competition also celebrates humanity’s innate ability to survive and innovate, lending hope to us all that we can overcome challenges to live sustainably.’
For the 2017 awards, the organisers have pulled in some big-name judges to sort through 10,000 entries form across the globe, including Stephen Fry, Ben Fogle and Steve Backshall. For Fry, the competition ‘encourages all those with cameras (which is most of us these days, I suppose) to look at our environment with new eyes – to see the environmental impact of things around us, sometimes in the most surprising places. Our cameras can be turned from the narcissistic tool of the selfie into a weapon in the war on environmental destruction.’ Fuller adds, ‘There is no doubt that raising awareness is part of the solution to tackling some of the world’s environmental issues.’
For 2017, CIWEM has introduced three themes for photographers to focus on: The Urban Environment; Climate Change, Extremes and Resilience; and People, Nature and Economy. Judges will be looking for pictures that provide an impact (whether subtle or immediate) or offer strong ideas, shots that offer originality, as well as pictures that show an awareness of composition. The ultimate winner will be an image that helps to change people’s vision of the environment.
We asked Fuller to choose one word to describe the image he has for the world, he replied, ‘Lots of words spring to mind. Fragile. Beautiful. Extraordinary. Unique. But I think the word “home” best describes the planet we live in. A home for people, a home for animals, a home for nature, a home for all. We all have a stewardship role and a responsibility to look after our home and ensure that future generations can enjoy the planet for years to come.’
Previous EPOTY Winners
2007, Sudipto Das (India), Hard World
‘My photograph is one of the most interestingly candid photographs I have ever taken in my career. It portrays the socio-economic condition of third world countries – lack of housing, inappropriate hygiene and unhealthy environments increase the risk of exposure to diseases and street violence for poor children such as the boy in the picture.’
2008, Abhijit Nandi (India), Happy in her own world
‘The woman in my picture is returning home from the paddy field after a long day at work. She never thought a village woman could be the subject of a photograph, so when I told her I’d like to take a picture of her, she just laughed.’
2009, Bolucevschi Vitali Nicolai (Moldova), Talking About Stars
‘On a sunny day I took a camera and set out to photograph something of the life of ants. At first I was no good as the ants moved very quickly and I was easily distracted. But gradually I was drawn to a group which was climbing up a nearby dandelion. They would each pull out one seed and then parachute to the ground. Unfortunately I could not photograph these moments well, but I did manage to get this one shot of the last few ants before they flew down.’
2010, Florian Schulz (Germany), Flight of the Rays
‘During an aerial expedition over the coast of Baja California Sur, I came across something I had never seen before. Not even my pilot, who has surveyed this area for 20 years, had seen anything like it. As we glided high above over the water looking for whales, a large dark spot caught our attention. As we got closer we started to discover its nature: an unprecedented congregation of rays. The group was as thick as it was wide, all heading towards the same direction. I have asked around why this took place but no one has been able to explain it to me. After such a unique sighting, I realise there are so many marvels in the oceans that we are yet to understand. Our knowledge of the oceans is so limited; I just hope that we are in time to rescue it before it collapses from pollution and over fishing.’
2011, Chan Kwok Hung (Hong Kong), Homeless
‘The photo was taken in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal and is of two children who live nearby to the junkyard with their grandmother. Every day they search the junkyard for something useful that they can resell for money so they can buy food. If they don’t find anything their grandmother blames them seriously. Unfortunately, they had found nothing for a few days, the little boy feels very hungry… I gave them some money and a biscuit after taking this photo, but who will help them afterwards…’
2012/2013, Michele Palazzi (Italy), Gone with Dust
Palazzi’s striking image shows a young boy and his sister during a sand storm in the Gobi Desert, Mongolia.
2014, Mohammad Fahim Ahamed Riyad (Bangladesh), In Search of Life
Riyad’s moving image reveals a fireman searching for signs of life following a fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He comments: ‘About 400 shanty homes were gutted and four people died in this incident, including a child of six-years-old. However, no casualties were ever officially reported and the reason for the fire remains unknown.’
2015, Uttam Kamati (India), Watering Melon
Kamati’s winning photo depicts a husband and wife watering watermelon saplings on the Teesta river bed, in West Bengal, India. Kamati is an amateur photographer and filmmaker from India, who captures the work of humanitarian projects, transforming these endeavours into candid, touching scenes.
2016, Sara Lindström (Sweden), Wildfire
‘It was an exceptionally warm day in July in southern Alberta when I came across this massive pinkish smoke plume rising high towards the sky. The big flames were thriving on the dry land and had me completely mesmerised in fear and awe.’