A stunning series of photos featuring nature reclaiming building abandoned by civilization has scooped the top honors at Earth Photo 2020 – an international photographic competition jointly developed by Forestry England and the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers).
Earth Photo 2020 is envisioned by the organizers as a way to better understand the world through the disciplines of the environment and geography. And this idea was best encapsulated by photographer Jonk, and their headline image 'Coffee Shop, Abkhazia' (above), securing the top spot in the Place Category as well as the Overall Winner award.
"This body of work gathers fragments of stories of human environments ‘taken back by nature’. While the images from all over the world have vivid clarity, they also warp the viewers perceptions of time and change," says Joe Smith, director of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG).
"They serve as a mournful commentary on the twentieth century – the era of the ‘Great Acceleration’– but there is also something hopeful in the vivid evidence of the patient and robust capacities of the non-human world to re-cover."
Earth Photo 2020, now in its third year, received over 2,600 entries from around the world. A total of 54 photographs and videos by 35 artists were shortlisted by a judging panel chaired by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Marissa Roth, consisting of experts from the fields of photography, film, geography and ecology.
You can view the shortlisted and winning entries in an online exhibition on the RGS website, and they will also be shown at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) in London, England, from 18 January to 31 March 2021.
In addition, they can be seen at a number of Forestry England forests: Dalby Forest, until 31 December 2020, Moors Valley until 21 February 2021, and Grizedale Forest from 19 December 2020 to 25 April 2021.
Changing Forests Winner
'Dead Tree #1' by Charles Xelot
With 'Dead Tree #1', an image created two years after a forest fire, Charles Xelot takes home the Changing Forest category. “Dead Tree #1 is striking, atmospheric and bold”, says Josephine Lavelle, Director of Marketing and Engagement, Forestry England, “It combines drama and suspense with the starkness of an unknown future. This is a poignant image since human induced wild fires, combined with the increasing realities of climate heating are a concern for forests both here in England and around the globe.”
Climate of Change Winner
'In Moleca' by Joe Habben
The Climate of Change category winner is Glasgow-based photographer Joe Habben. Entitled 'In Moleca', his winning entry portrays a visitor arriving in Venice during the ‘Acqua Alta’ (high-water), a yearly tide which has been exacerbated in recent decades.
“This witty and arresting image presents us with a tourist having to adapt to a changing environment in a city that is both a hotspot of tourism, and a longstanding reference point for environmentalists in attempts to engage concern about climate change”, explains Joe Smith, Director of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), “For me the picture manages to negotiate its way around cliché via the presence of colour and the hint of puzzlement in the stance.”
People Category Winner
'Miss (detail)' by Yanrong Guo
Shot in the Daliang Mountains, China, Yanrong Guo’s 'Miss' wins the People Category. Marissa Roth, Chair of the Earth Photo Jury, describes the image in these words: “This is an evocative and beautiful portrait, where the palette of colours is almost painterly. The composition is vibrant and balanced, with the branches and the pipe all leading the viewer’s eyes from left to right, by sweeping across the image; into a face weathered by time, into a timeless landscape. The placement of the subject nestled within the branches evokes his apparent contentment on being embraced by nature.”
Nature Category Winner
'Dryland-Farming Study 7' by Yi Sun
The Nature Category goes to UK-based photographer Yi Sun for 'Dryland-Farming Study 7', an image taken 3,000 ft. above Aragon, Spain. The aerial shot documents the severe droughts that the region has suffered and the resilience of local farmers. According to Andrew Stringer, Environment & Forest Planning Manager, Forestry England, when admiring this image, "your brain starts by trying to work out what you’re looking at.
"As you read the story behind the image you start to pick out tractor marks, the mosaic of human influence, the destruction of habitat, the impacts of the climate crisis, the resilience of the people farming this landscape. It elicited immediately powerful emotions and considerations of how we’re going to adapt to the striking realities of global heating, while also restoring the natural environment, our crucial life support system."
Short Film Award
'Cambodia Burning' by Sean Gallagher
Finally, the Short Film Award goes to 'Cambodia Burning' by British photojournalist and filmmaker Sean Gallagher. Shot in early 2020 with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, this video shows the impacts of rampant deforestation on the South East Asian country. It is estimated that there is only 3% of primary forest left throughout the country; the main drivers being the conversion of forest lands for agricultural use and targeted logging of valuable species, such as Rosewood, for the Asian furniture markets. Decades of forest clearance have decimated the country’s biodiversity. Iconic animals such as tigers and elephants have long since been eradicated from most of the country’s forests.