‘How in a world that is so desperately short of resources can we ensure that there is enough land, food and water for everyone and for future generations?’
The Syngenta Photography Award aims to inspire photographers from around the world to engage with the tension between scarcity and waste. Somerset House presented the incredible results, exploring some of the environmental and ethical issues that face our society: recycling, landfill, food waste, drought, population growth, and pollution. From over 2,000 submissions, the works of 42 photographers from 21 countries have been selected for exhibition across 10 rooms.
In the professional category, Mustafah Abdulaziz (USA) took first prize for his series of pictures about water, a natural resource in crisis. His next project will look at misuse of water in California, examining how it is determining our future: “What I began in West Africa by looking at the problems of water, sanitation and poor infrastructure will continue in my homeland as I examine how a place renowned for success and excess, beauty and potential, may be humbled by the challenge of scarcity and waste.”
His Dirty drinking water scratched from riverbed is the final picture of the exhibition. The simple image evokes the extreme hardship suffered by the women and young girls in the Konso region of Ethiopia, who must queue for hours to scratch water from a dry riverbed.
In the open competition category, Stefano De Luigi (Italy) took 3rd prize for his series on drought in Kenya, which severely affects both people and animals. Stefano wrote of his work: “The series about Kenyan drought has affected me more than any other story I’ve done”. Opining a sense of shared responsibility in the use of the planet’s resources, he presents a series of touching images, including a giraffe that perished because of the drought.
Each room presents a powerful response to the award’s criteria, approaching the issues with curiosity and reflection. Affecting environmental facts are dotted around the exhibition; for example, did you know the UK produces enough waste to fill the Albert Hall every two hours?
The Syngenta Award, now in its second edition, aims to underline the stark fact that the world’s demand for natural resources has doubled in the last fifty years, and that to continue producing waste and consuming resources at this rate could provoke an environmental catastrophe in the near future.
The message from these surprising, often thought-provoking pictures is clear: something needs to change.