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Earth Photo 2020 Winners announced

Posted on December 08, 2020 - By Royal Geographical Society
Earth Photo 2020 Winners announced
Earth Photo 2020 Winners announced
Earth Photo, an international competition and exhibition created by Forestry England and the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers), rewards photographs and videos that document the natural world, its breath-taking beauty, and its ever-growing fragility.

Out of over 2,600 entries, 54 photographs and videos by 35 artists were shortlisted for Earth Photo 2020 by a judging panel made up of experts from the fields of photography, film, geography and ecology, and chaired by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Marissa Roth. Viewers are invited to discover them in an online exhibition.

Now in its third year, Earth Photo is proud to announce its 2020 winners, who represent the very best in nature, environmental and geographical photography.

Overall Winner and Place Winner - Jonk


Coffee Shop, Abkhazia 2019 © Jonk


Swimming Pool, Italy 2019 © Jonk

Photographer Jonk wins the Place Category and is named the overall winner of Earth Photo 2020 with a series of four images representing buildings that have been abandoned by civilisation and re-conquered by nature. According to Joe Smith, Director of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), 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. 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.

Changing Forest Winner - Charles Xelot

Charles Xelot

Dead Tree 2020 © 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.

A Climate of Change Winner - Joe Habben

Joe Habben.

In Moleca 2019 © 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' (highwater), an 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 Winner - Yanrong Guo

Yanrong Guo

Miss 2019 © Yanrong Guo

Shot in the Daliang Mountains, China, Yanrong Guo''s Untitled photo 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 Winner - Yi Sun

Yi Sun

Dryland Farming, Study 7 © 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 - Sean Gallagher
Last but not least, 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.

Cambodia Burning on Vimeo

The exhibition of all 54 photos and videos shortlisted for Earth Photo 2020 is now available online.

The shortlisted and winning pictures will be shown on a national tour to Forestry England forests:
• Dalby Forest, from 17 October to 31 December 2020.
• Moors Valley, from 24 October 2020 to 21 February 2021
• Grizedale Forest, from 19 December 2020 to 25 April 2021 as well as at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), London.

The winners were officially announced in an awards ceremony on 8 December 2020.

Earth Photo
Earth Photo is an innovative international photography competition and exhibition developed jointly by Forestry England and the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers). The project reflects the organisations' common interest in enabling a better understanding of the world around us through their complementary disciplines of the Environment and Geography.
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