Winners of 2022 Environmental Photographer of the Year Use Art to Tell Important Stories of Our Planet

Birds Dying in the Miankala Lagoon Due to Pollution

“The Bitter Death Of Birds” by Mehdi Mohebi Pour. Winner, Environmental Photographer of the Year.
Location: Miankaleh, Iran
“In 2019/2020 and 2020/2021, thousands of birds died in the Miankala lagoon due to lack of water and its contamination with various toxins. This photo shows the efforts of the environmental forces to collect the bodies and prevent the spread of this disease. In the next year, 2021/2022, fortunately, we saw the return of birds. The birds are in the wetland from the beginning of October to the end of March and after that they migrate and we can photograph them for almost 6 months of the year.”

For 15 years, the Environmental Photographer of the Year competition has showcased some of the world’s most inspirational environmental photography. The annual competition provides an international platform to raise awareness for the issues that put our planet at risk. The 2022 winners were announced by CIWEM (water and environmental management charity), WaterBear (free streaming platform dedicated to the future of our planet), Nikon (world-leading imaging product provider), and Arup (sustainable development professional services firm).

Photographer Mehdi Mohebi was named Environmental Photographer of the Year for a haunting image that shows the stark consequences of water contamination. Due to pollution and toxins in Iran's Miankala lagoon, birds sadly perish and their bodies are collected by local environmental forces to prevent disease from spreading. According to a statement released by the contest, Mohebi's work was selected for “its surreal portrayal of the circular nature of life between humans and wildlife; as well as its powerful combination of conveying the real environmental issues affecting our planet, whilst using bold and contrasting colors to create a visually arresting photo.”

“It means the world to have won this prestigious award as photographing the climate and showcasing the damage being caused is my biggest priority in life,” shares Mohebi. “I want people around the world to know about this sad event of the death of the birds as, if we do not reconsider our lifestyle and take care of the planet, this will soon happen in other countries.”

Other winners include 16-year-old Fayz Khan, who was named Young Environmental Photographer of the Year. The young photographer's winning image shows flamingos flying over Lake Magadi and Lake Natron in Kenya. Praised for its striking composition, the image also quietly tells the story of how one large freshwater lake has evolved into two highly concentrated salt pans.

The rest of the winning and finalist images also tell important stories of the environment around the world. From the effects of burning garbage to the development of sustainable energy sources, each visual narrative encapsulates the state of our planet. Scroll down to see more images from the 2022 photo competition.

The winners of the 2022 Environmental Photographer of the Year contest use their art to share the current state of our environment.

A view of Middelgrunden offshore wind farm from Amager Strand

“New Ways To The Future (III)” by Simone Tramonte. Winner, Adapting for Tomorrow.
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
“A view of Middelgrunden offshore wind farm from Amager Strand, a very popular beach in Copenhagen. The wind farm landscape perfectly integrates with this very popular beach where local people go to sunbathe or play water sports. The wind farm was developed with a strong involvement of the local community in the planning phase and as investors. 14.4% of the Danish electricity consumption is provided by wind. More than 150,000 Danish families are members of wind turbine cooperatives such as this one.”

Officers maintain vegetable crops in a warehouse at Sentra Farm

“Vertical Farming” by Arie Basuki. Winner, Vision of the Future.
Location: Depok, Indonesia
“Officers maintain vegetable crops in a warehouse at Sentra Farm. Various vegetables such as curly lettuce, romaine, oclave green, siiomak, kailan and others are cultured in a room where the light and temperature remain stable. The advantage of vertical farming is that it is free of pesticides with a harvest period of only 30 days and an average yield of 20 to 30 kg of vegetables / day.”

Lesser flamingoes photographed over Lake Magadi and Lake Natron

“Beautiful But Hostile Colours On Earth” by Fayz Khan. Winner, Young Environmental Photographer of the Year.
Location: Southern Rift Valley, Kenya
“Lesser flamingoes photographed over Lake Magadi and Lake Natron. The two water bodies were once a single freshwater lake but today the two lakes are highly concentrated salt pans, severely alkaline and toxic to most forms of animal and plant life. The lesser flamingoes are an exception because of their biological makeup, and the birds love to feed on the algae that thrive on the surface. As beautiful as the colors may be, the different hues relate to the algae which change in color as a result of reacting to the differing levels of the alkaline content of the lakes.”

Sherpas Passing with Their Yaks on Everest Base Camp Trek

“Always A Little Further…..” by Nigel Wallace-Iles. Longlist, Vision of the Future
Location: Mount Everest, Nepal
“This image was captured on an Everest Base Camp Trek. As we were leading into BC, we stopped for a moment to allow the Sherpas to pass with their convoy of yaks, taking the supplies of LPG to the main base camp. The image, for me, captured the juxtaposition of what we as humans are capable of achieving with determination, and the damage we do in pursuit of those achievements. It was a poignant moment for me considering the pristine environment we were in and also highlighted the intricate interconnected nature of development, poverty within the Sherpa communities, equality, security and climate action. It also made me question why, and how, we are able to focus so hard on achieving certain things and yet so many are unwilling to accept the unprecedented effort required from all sectors of society to address the defining issues of our time.”

A group of electricians in India repair a power line in the late evening, after a cyclone hit the city.

“People At Work” by Jignesh Chavda. Longlist, Vision of the Future.
Location: Ahmedabad, India
“A group of electricians repair a power line in the late evening, after a cyclone hit the city.”

Man Smoking Cigarette by Burning Garbage in Bangladesh

“The Pollution Crisis In Bangladesh” by Kazi Md. Jahirul Islam. Longlist, Recovering Nature.
Location: Chittagong, Bangladesh
” People start fires on garbage dumps to find the iron pieces that remain, which they can sell on the market. The burning plastic generates smoke and gas. I often go to this garbage dump to take photos. This man collects different kinds of iron pieces or breakers from the garbage heap to sell them. Air pollution in Bangladesh is the worst in the world, reducing the average Bangladeshi's life expectancy by 6.7 years. Another study estimates there were 24,000 premature deaths as a result of air pollution in Bangladesh.”

Aerial Photo of Lithium Pools at Bolivia's YLB industrial lithium production plant

“Lithium Evaporation Ponds” by Matjaz Krivic. Finalist, Vision of the Future
Location: Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
“Bolivia's YLB industrial lithium production plant pumps lithium-rich brine into these large evaporation pools on the southern edge of the Salar de Uyuni, where it is left to evaporate for many months. Lithium is the core component of modern batteries. The supply of lithium is not fast enough to accommodate the demand, with Chinese, Australian and American corporations buying lithium mines around the world. Locals are amongst the most vocal critics. Evaporation ponds draw heavily on the already scarce water resources in a dry and high-altitude region. Lithium pollution is an increasing problem wherever it is mined.”

“The striking images submitted to the competition this year truly highlight the importance of digital storytelling for raising awareness for the climate issues our planet faces,” said Sam Sutaria, CEO of WaterBear.

“Environment Friendly Construction Under The Ground” by Md Shafiul Islam. Finalist, Vision of the Future

Panoramic view of Dublin Port entrance with old Poolbeg Power Plan

“The Chimneys” by Pawel Zygmunt. Longlist, Adapting for Tomorrow
Location: Dublin, Ireland
“Panoramic view of Dublin Port entrance with old Poolbeg Power Plant. In 2006, the ESB advised of its intention to withdraw approximately 1,300 MW of total Irish electricity capacity by 2011. This effectively reduced the electricity capacity in the country from 6,437 MW to 5,150 MW. The closure was aimed at the older inefficient power stations in Ireland, such as the 3 thermal units at Poolbeg Generating Station that can generate a combined 461 MW of electricity capacity. The newer 460 MW combined cycle fossil gas turbine at Poolbeg would remain operational.”

Abandoned Pool in Pisa

“Naturalia: Chronicle Of Contemporary Ruins” by Jonathan “Jonk” Jimenez. Winner, Recovering Nature.
Location: Pisa, Italy
“The photographer wants to ask a fundamental question: what is the place of mankind on Earth and what is our relationship with nature? Far from being pessimistic, and at a time when humanity's domination over nature has never been so extreme, this photo aims to wake our consciousness.”

Animals Being Guided Across Flooded River

“The Climate Change Effect” by Solayman Hossain. Longlist, Keeping 1.5 Alive.
Location: Kushtia District, Bangladesh
“During the monsoon season the river rises and the village is flooded. The flood also means there is a shortage of food for the animals, which have to be guided to look elsewhere.”

Aerial View of Kaliganga river in Bangladesh

“A Story Of A Dried River” by Azim Khan Ronnie. Longlist, Keeping 1.5 Alive
Location: Manikganj, Bangladesh
“The once vibrant Kaliganga river has almost dried up in the Tora Bridge area of Manikganj, Bangladesh. The level of water in the river remains very low throughout the year, except during the rainy season. Several chars have emerged from the 78km-long water body. Green activists blame encroachment on river land and absence of dredging for the poor state of the river. These were the places where big boats and launches used to ply in the 1960s, said locals.”

A chemical explosion and fire at BM container depot Sitakunda upazila of Chittagong

“Chemical Explosion” by Subrata Dey. Winner, Keeping 1.5 Alive.
Location: Sitakunda, Bangladesh
“A chemical explosion and fire at BM container depot Sitakunda upazila of Chittagong at 4th June 2024. 49 people were confirmed dead in the blaze, and the mixing of chemicals in the air and water has a devastating effect on the environment. The explosion at the depot spilled plastic containers into the nearby river, where the chemical-laced water entered the aquifer and destroyed the fresh water supply.”

Manual Paddy Drying in Kalna, India

“Drying Paddy” by Dibyendu Biswas. Longlist, Adapting for Tomorrow.
Location: Kalna, India
“Manual paddy drying has become a very rare thing, but it is still practiced by the people of Kalna Village. Modernization would mean that all these manual laborers become jobless. This method of manual paddy drying is also environment friendly.”

Environmental Photographer of the Year: Website | Facebook | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by the Environmental Photographer of the Year.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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