Ahead of GLF Climate 2022, which brought together thousands of attendees online and in-person alongside COP27 in Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt, the Global Landscapes Forum held a photo competition to showcase different perspectives on climate change from around the world. Hundreds of photos were submitted, resulting in a shortlist of 36 images that were put in front of our professional judges and discerning audience.
Two winners were picked by the panel of judges, made up of conservation documentary photographer Gab Mejia, commercial photographer Viviane Ponti, storyteller and impact campaign strategist Sydelle Willow Smith, and photographer and National Geographic Explorer Miora Rajaonary. A third image was chosen by the audience, as the recipient of the popular vote.
Here are the stories behind these winning photographs.
First prize: “Dry Season” by Le Van Vinh
The frequency and duration of droughts have increased by nearly a third since 2000, but all the facts and figures in the world don’t give a voice to the people most affected by our changing climate. First prize winner Le Van Vinh created a photo of a grandmother and granddaughter at a dried-up lake in the Vietnamese province of Gia Lai’s Ayun commune, Chu Se district, which captures the harsh reality of what a drought really means for the people living through them.
“In Gia Lai province, this area is the one that is most impacted by drought,” Le Van Vinh tells us. “The driest season of the year is from March to the end of May; at this time, the entire lake region dries up and the lake bed is reduced to cracked soil. If you visit at this time, you will notice the harshness of the area and it will be simple to witness the locals walking for miles to find water for their daily needs in the water holes.”
“I asked the grandma and [grand]daughter to sit in a certain position so that the photograph could accurately capture the harshness in this situation,” Le Van Vinh explains about their winning image. “Since my retirement in 2016, I started to love photography, and since then I often come to this land.”
“I intend to use my passion for photography to support the interests of the authorities at all levels with construction and development initiatives to improve the locals’ economic and cultural well-being. Moreover, I want the communities to come together to support the development of this land,” says Le Van Vinh.
Second prize: “Sundarbans Being Threatened by Climate Change” by Jibon Ahmed
The night after the cyclone known as “Gulab” struck Bangladesh in 2021, Jibon Ahmed was out on assignment, filming a documentary about environmental issues in the Sundarbans. Traveling to Kalir Char, he spotted a dead deer from the road, and after searching for others, realized it was the only one, alone in the mud of the Sundarbans Reserve Forest.
“Increasing salinization is already a problem in Bangladesh’s southwest coastal area,” Jibon Ahmed explains. “[The] salinization of rivers and soils will become an even greater issue as a consequence of climate change-induced sea level rise. Global climate change threatens almost all of the Sundarbans’ animals and plants,” he says.
“As coastal surges flooded the majority of the mangrove forest with saltwater, freshwater ponds in the Sundarbans became salinized,” according to Jibon. “I was thinking about all of these issues both before and after I shot the photograph.”
Popular vote: “Climate Migrants Due to Climate Change” by Dipayan Bose
When Dipayan Bose got the news of severe flooding due to Cyclone Yaas in May 2021 – also in the Sundarbans – he grabbed his gear and headed out to document the disaster and its impact on coastal people.
“Most of the river embankments were broken by the high tides of the sea in the coastal village areas of Sundarbans. This man was standing inside his half-submerged home [and had] lost all the household belongings in the flood.”
“[The image] was not planned. I found the subject randomly while taking images inside a washed-away village. I was also standing half submerged in the water. My first and foremost goal for this image was to show the global community about the rapid climate crisis effects on the Sundarbans and the hardships faced by the coastal people.”
“They are gradually losing their ancestral lands and becoming climate migrants.”
Some quotes have been edited for clarity.