Environmental Photographer of the Year 2014

Rozie Apps
Thursday, 26th June 2014

Must see! A thought provoking collection of environmental photographs from across the globe to inspire us all to do more to conserve and protect our world.

In it's seventh year, the Environmental Photographer of the Year competition has brought thousands of people, problems, suffering, environmental issues and solutions together. Open to the public, the exhibition shares thousands of artists' striking images, encouraging us all to take action and find solutions to the many environmental issues in the world.

With over 13,000 entrants from across 130 countries, this year was no exception.

My colleague Emma and myself were lucky enough to be invited to the opening night of the exhibition and awards ceremony. 

Based at the National Geographical Society, London, we were welcomed by around 100 stunning photographs in a bright and airy building.

The variety was amazing. From environmental issues, climate change effects and renewable energy to local people's survival and hardships.

Both Emma and myself were struck immediately by Wrapping a surviving tree (above) by Luke Duggleby. Here Luke captured Buddhist monks in Cambodia blessing one of the remaining trees in an area felled to make way for a banana plantation. The monks are wrapping the tree in brilliant orange cloth while praying, making them sacred so as not to be felled by loggers. This image won the Forestry Commission England Exhibition Award, new this year, giving winner Luke a solo exhibition at one of England's public forests later in the year. Definitely one to look out for.

I was intrigued by Ignacio Evangelista's photo, PV Hill Farm, which showed the slopes of an Andalucian hillside covered in PV solar panels. The photographer felt uncomfortable by this site which I find really interesting. Can renewable energy be integrated into our environments and at what cost? And what is more important to compromise on?

Above is another image exploring renewables. This is a Gemasolar power plant in Fuentes de Andalucía, Spain. It is a commercial scale solar plant. The mirrors cover 185 hectares and concentrate the suns energy onto the tower. This is stored as heat and then used to generate electricity. It guarantees electrical production for 6,500 hours a year - 1.5-3 time more power than other renewables. Could this be the future of our energy supply?

A stunning photo that really stood out was Azure by Alicia Abu Jaber. An amazing bright blue sea and coastline, explaining: "When confronted with beauty such as this, beyond anything man could create, one knows we must conserve this purely for its aesthetics. But how does an environmentalist justify their air travel in order to enjoy it?"

Emma found Fish Death by Angelo Antonio Duarate incredibly powerful - The Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon in Rio de Janiero filled with floating dead fish as far as the eye could see - and Lettuce by Freya Najada, showing a clean, white room filled with hydroponics systems, growing green leaves without soil. It looked bizarrely futuristic and made us both question the positives and negatives of this new growing system.

There were also many depictions of people and Faisal Azim's Life in the circle won the Atkin's Cityscape Prize, showing a community of beggars living in concrete pipes. I was pleased to see this win as it was a beautiful image that really stuck with me.

The photo above is another favourite. I really enjoy how the colours draw you in to what seems like a day-to-day activity of fish net making. But what you don't see is the changing climate, affecting flood fishing, which is effecting the livelihoods of these Vietnamese people.

The other prize winners were; Sean Gallagher for his film The toxic price of leather, winning the £1000 Atkins CIWEM Environmental Film of the Year; Bogumil Kruzel from Poland won the CIWEM Award of £1000 for his striking image Man in the face of nature I which depicts the Wieliczka Salt Mine in southern Poland; and Mohammad Fahim Ahamed Riyad won the top prize, the Atkins CIWEM Environmental Photographer of the Year 2014, receiving £5000 for In search of life.

The selection of photos is eye-opening and thought-provoking although slightly edging towards hopelessness. Personally I would like to see more images showing solutions to the issues we are facing, but perhaps this just shows that destructive and devasting images create more of an impact. Hopefully these striking images will inspire us all to make changes and protect, conserve and improve the environment for the future.

David Tonkin, Atkins’ CEO for UK & Europe said: As the spotlight on sustainability continues to drive change in both the natural and built environment, this photography collection draws attention to the challenges of a growing population, climate change and that we must all live within the limits of our planet's resources. As engineers and scientists, these pictures serve as a constant reminder we must do more to work together and share our knowledge of ways to adapt to changing weather patterns, cope with rapid urbanisation and avoid the temptation to use up natural assets to meet short term needs without a plan for the long." 

I think exhibitions like this are really important. They engage the wider public who may not even be aware of some of thesen issues, creating questions and conversations, hopefully leading to solutions. Overall this is a beautiful exhibition, one I feel everybody should visit. 

The exhibition is open to the public from 23rd June - 4th July 2014 and is free to members of the public. It will then move to forest venues, appearing at Grizedale Forest Visitor Centre, Cumbria from 19 July - 2 November 2014. For more information visit www.epoty.com

The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) is the leading Chartered Professional Body covering all aspects of water and environmental activity, sustaining the excellence of the professionals who protect, develop and care for our environment.

The Environmental Photographer of the Year is sponsored by Atkins, a design, engineering and project consultant group.

Rozie Apps is assistant editor at Permaculture magazine. 

Further resources

The East - a film exploring freeganism and corporate responsibility to environmental destruction

Cheese - a play

When art turns suburban lawns into edible food parks

Using art to promote permaculture ethics - 'common senses' at MoMA

Permaculture - practical solutions for self-reliance, a magazine filled with useful and inspiring features, stories and ideas about all aspects of sustainable living from gardening and farming to green building and renewable technology. Check out a free digital copy HERE. You can subscribe to the print edition HERE.