Each year, Earth Photo brings together the best photographers to share their visual stories on the themes shaping our world. Forestry England and the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) have shared the 2021 winners, picked from a shortlist of 55 photos and films showcasing the best in environmental and geographical storytelling.
Overall winner and winner of the People category – Rosie Hallam, The Right to an Education
Hallam’s triptych A Right to an Education depicts one family’s story: daughter Selamaw, the first person in her family to stay on at school past primary age; her mother Meselech; and her father, Marco. They are all subsistence farmers participating in an education programme in Ethiopia. Pullitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Marissa Roth, comments: ‘This series exemplifies hope and possibility, and I wholeheartedly agree with Rosie Hallam’s statement, “Education is both a basic human right and a smart investment. It is critical for development and helps lay the foundations for social well-being, economic growth and security, gender equality and peace."
‘It is eminently clear that Ms Hallam has committed a lot of her time and heart-felt interest in telling Selamaw’s story as evidenced in the outstanding image of Selamaw studying in a barn, chosen as the People category winner, and through the sensitive portraits of Selamaw's parents. I feel that she is an accomplished and dedicated photographer and that she is trying to interpret the world with an eye towards positive change, while raising awareness of the importance of literacy.’
Winner of the Place category – Edward Bateman, Half Dome in Winter
This year, Covid-19 restrictions made travel to Yosemite National Park impossible. So Bateman decided to recreate a scene of Yosemite’s Half Dome on his kitchen table, with a 3D printed landscape derived from geographical data from the United States Geographical Survey (USGS). ‘The overlay of the image of contour lines puts me in mind of the effort needed to climb the resolute face of Half Dome - and yet the playful, ephemeral light patterns thrown by the sun conjures the image of Alex Honnold dancing up the face in his epic free solo climbs,’ says Nigel Clifford, President of the RGS.
Winner of the Nature category – Markus van Hauten, Blue Pool
Blue Pool depicts a hidden geothermal spring on the sparsely inhabited highland plateau of Iceland’s interior. ‘I was drawn to the scattered green strokes, highlighting nature’s ability to cling on even in the harshest of conditions, reflecting the perilous state of biodiversity across the planet. Then I started to notice the creeping influence of people, and I immediately started to think of what influence people will have on this landscape in future years, through visitor pressure, through pollution, through climate change,’ says Andrew Stringer of Forestry England.
Winner of the Changing Forests category – Roberto Bueno, Forest Like Garden
Roberto Bueno produced an aerial image of lush forest slopes juxtaposed against human-made stepped vineyards in Spain. Josephine Lavelle of Forestry England commented: ‘A breath-taking aerial shot starkly but beautifully demonstrating man’s impact on the local forest.’
Winner of the Climate of Change category – Antonio Pérez
The Sea Moves Us, The Sea Moves (Fuvemeh, Ghana) depicts individuals whose lives have been directly and significantly affected by coastal erosion in West Africa. ‘Perez invites the viewer to make a direct personal connection with people whose stories serve to represent the experiences of vulnerable coastal communities in many parts of the world,’ says Joe Smith, Director of the RGS. ‘They [the images] avoid, to my mind, the potential trap of a somewhat manipulative portrayal of ‘victimhood’ that can be a feature of the climate change photographic idiom. I sensed that these images gave the subjects some ownership of the act of witness rather than the viewer simply following the photographer’s gaze.’
Winner of the Video category – Pierpaolo Mittica, The Semipalatinsk Test Site
Piepaolo Mittica's short film, The Semipalatinsk Test Site, sheds light on a very important, but overlooked, humanitarian and environmental disaster, caused by the Soviet Union's nuclear testing in Kazakhstan.