Flamingo tragedy highlighted in award-winning photo

The Bitter Death of Birds by Mehdi Mohebi Pour

Iranian photographer Mehdi Mohebi Pour has won the highly coveted prize for Environmental Photographer of the Year, with a striking image called The Bitter Death of Birds.

The photograph depicts just three of the thousands of birds that died in the Miankaleh Lagoon in Iran due to contamination and lack of water. It also shows the efforts of environmental workers to collect the bodies to prevent the spread of disease.

Judges said Mohebi Pour's image was chosen 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.

"If we do not reconsider our lifestyle and take care of the planet, this will soon happen in other countries.”

Mehdi Mohebi Pour, photographer

Reflecting on his win, Mohebi Pour said, “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. 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.”

Young photographer

The competition also celebrates photographers of the future, with 16-year-old Fayz Khan from the UK winning Young Environmental Photographer of the Year for Beautiful but Hostile Colours on Earth.

Beautiful but Hostile Colours on Earth by Fayz Khan

Flamingoes feature again, but in this image, the birds are flying over Lake Magadi and Lake Natron in Kenya, two water bodies that were once a single freshwater lake but today have become highly concentrated salt pans.

Khan says, "To now win this award from people who care so deeply about the environment is more than a dream come true. The fact that my image comes from a part of the world that fascinates me is icing on the cake."

Now in its 15th year, the Environmental Photographer Of The Year competition showcases some of the world’s most inspirational environmental photography. The annual competition is an international platform, raising awareness for the issues that put our planet at risk.

Winners of four further categories showed scenes from Indonesia, France, Bangladesh and Denmark; they were:

Vision of the Future

Vertical Farming by Arie Basuki

This image shows workers maintaining salad and vegetable crops grown in stacked planters in a warehouse at Sentra Farm in Cimanggis, Depok, Indonesia. The advantages of vertical farming are stable conditions and an environment that is free of pesticides, with a harvest period of only 30 days and an average yield of 20-30kg of produce per day.

Recovering Nature

Naturalia: Chronicle Of Contemporary Ruins by Jonathan "Jonk" Jimenez

The Naturalia: Chronicle of Contemporary Ruins photo is one of a series from French photographer Jonathan Jimenez, which asks 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, the photographer aims to wake our consciousness - nature will always be there he reminds us.

Keeping 1.5 Alive

Chemical Explosion by Subrata Dey

Some 49 people were confirmed dead in chemical explosion and fire at a container depot in Sitakunda Upazila, Chittagong, Bangladesh on 4 June 2022. The mixing of chemicals in the air and water had a devastating effect on the environment, spilling plastic containers into the nearby river, where chemical-laced water entered the aquifer and destroyed the fresh water supply.

Adapting for Tomorrow

New Ways To The Future (III) by Simone Tramonte

The image New Ways To The Future (III) shows a view of Middelgrunden offshore wind farm from Amager Strand, a popular beach in the Danish capital, Copenhagen. The wind farm was developed by a cooperative, with strong involvement of the local community. It now produces electricity for more than 40,000 households.

Ethical oversight

This year an international jury panel, including Nikon ambassador and activist Roie Galitz and environmental and human-rights photographer Matilde Gattoni, received over 3,000 entries from over 115 territories around the world and from amateur and professional photographers of all ages, ranging from seven to 90 years.

For the first time, the competition introduced an ethics panel to improve accountability and transparency in image selection. Following a thorough screening, the panel, consisting of experts in journalism and photography, provided guidance on this year's competition rules and reviewed photos that raised ethical concerns.

All photos that did not comply with our ethical standards - images that dehumanise people, or that exploit people or animals - were discussed by the panel, where necessary going back to the photographer to ask for more information to make an informed decision.

Challenge and inspire

Commenting on the winners announcement, CIWEM chief executive Terry Fuller said, “Our mission with the 2022 Environmental Photographer of the Year competition was to challenge and inspire those in front of and behind the lens with regards to how they view the earth and the people that inhabit it. The photographs submitted this year certainly do that and we hope encourage all who see them to think about their impact on the planet."

Sam Sutaria, chief executive of documentary streaming platform WaterBear said, “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. We hope that these thought-provoking images will encourage storytellers all over the world to continue sharing important stories to drive impact."

Stefan Maier, general manager - marketing at sponsor, Nikon said, “We are thrilled that Fayz Kahn has been selected as the recipient of the 2022 Young Environmental Winner of the Year award. Nikon has been behind some of the most important stories told through photography over the last century, and we’re delighted to support such a young talent as he contributes to the impact photography will continue to have in the future and hones his photography skills."

The awards event was hosted at the headquarters of engineering consultancy Arup, whose global water leader Mark Fletcher said, “It was a privilege to host the winners’ exhibition for this year’s 2022 Environmental Photographer of the Year competition. We are thrilled to be showcasing such a broad range of photography talents from around the world."