The Earth Photo exhibition at the RGS-IBG in London – a shortlist of 50 images and films submitted by a cohort of international photographers – documents ‘people, nature, place and change’ in a bid to enhance our ‘understanding of the world around us’. Featuring unique landscapes, diverse cultures and a range of global issues, the display provides stimulating material for viewers wanting to engage with the contemporary state of both human and natural environments. The exhibition was developed in partnership with the Forestry Commission England and will tour a number of locations around the country after its summer appearance in London.
Moments of the exhibition provide snapshots into complex natural processes and environments. Sue Jugnarain delivers images of the natural beauty and ruggedness of the Icelandic landscape (renowned for being one of the most active in the world) in her Earth Energy collection which intends to illustrate the ‘power of the Earth and the ever-changing volatile landscape it creates’. This features Myvatn, an active volcano basin, and the Silfra fissure, a chasm filled with crystalline freshwater which has formed where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are gradually separating.
Paul Christener captures the serenely beautiful rural landscapes of Switzerland and Greenland in winter in his In Search of Silence submission, hoping to transport viewers away from the ‘noise’ of everyday life, while David Jenner delivers images of landscapes a little closer to home in his capturing of a turquoise inlet on the Dorset coast and a woodland in the autumnal Lake District.
Other photographers deliver political messages. With considerable focus on climate change impacts, refugees, waste and landscape degradation, many submissions depict pressing global situations and bring the realities of human struggle and environmental damage to light. Hannah Maule-ffinch’s Barracks of Belgrade presents stark images of the refugee crisis in Serbia. She highlights the critical situation faced by migrants from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq as they battle the Serbian winter while sleeping in makeshift settlements. Shot against abandoned warehouses, mountains of waste and unrelenting weather conditions, the unnamed figures are just some of the 2,000 migrants living precariously behind Belgrade’s main transport hub.
Climate change seems to be high on the agenda of contributors. Lena Dobrowolska and Teo Ormond-Skeaping present a reminder of how rising sea levels continue to threaten Bangladesh’s coastal areas. Captioned ‘failing coastal defence’, the photo points to the inevitable engulfing of the country’s shorelines, and the powerlessness of human attempts to prevent it. Similarly, Mark Benham documents the increasing frequency of forest fires in Portugal as a result of rising global temperatures, with images of blackened woodland. He causes us to reflect on the impacts of ‘hotter, drier summers’ and how they devastate both communities and wildlife.
Human innovation is illustrated by Ruben Salgado Escudero as he explores how people around the world are harnessing solar energy to benefit livelihoods and education. He provides insight into how the making of sugar cane and transporting of coconuts during the night in Mexico take place with the help of solar lighting, and how it simultaneously allows the extension of schooling hours in Uganda.
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