An elephant that lay dying amongst a pile of plastic waste in Sri Lanka is a heart-wrenching image that is hard to ignore on the Larvotto Promenade. It has also just been awarded top prize in the Environmental Photography Awards 2022, organised annually by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation.
It may be only the second edition of the Environmental Photography Awards, but the impact of this awareness raising initiative by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation is incredibly forceful.
Displayed along the sun-drenched Promenade at Larvotto Beach are large prints of the most beautiful photographs of this year’s competition; the best of 8,000 images submitted by 2,000 photographers from across the globe.
The Foundation’s idea is to relay the connection between humans and nature, both positive and negative, and it was up to a jury of professional photographers to select the overall winner of the Environmental Photography Awards 2022, as well as five categories: Humanity versus Nature, Towards a Sustainable Future, Polar Wonders, Life Under the Surface and Beneath the Canopy.
On Wednesday 1st June it was revealed that Easa Lebbe Muhammed Jamsith had won the Environmental Photographer of the Year Award for his heartbreaking photograph Tears.
“In Sri Lanka, there is a garbage dump near the forest in Oluvil,” explains Easa Lebbe Muhammed Jamsith. “It was a tragedy to learn on the morning of 5th January 2022 that an elephant was about to die in this landfill. I immediately alerted the wildlife authorities and rushed to the scene. As soon as I arrived, I saw the Himalayan creature cowering in pain, so much so that it could not even stand up and had lost its strength. I approached to take the picture and she looked at me with tears in her eyes. Wildlife officers accompanied by a doctor examined the elephant and reported that it was suffering from a sudden blockage of the oesophagus due to the daily ingestion of polyethylene waste (food packaging), a phenomenon that has already taken place six times in this landfill and which testifies to the relationship that men have with nature.”
Easa Lebbe Muhammed Jamsith has made it his mission to raise public awareness about the crisis facing the environment. Tears is part of that mission.
“Photography competitions are essential because they allow us to give a voice to creatures and habitats in danger,” says Daisy Gilardini, President of the 2022 jury. “Through their ability to reach a very large audience, they help raise awareness among as many people as possible. This year’s award-winning photograph vividly illustrates the devastating anthropogenic consequences of our consumer society. The stillness of the image, achieved by framing the dying elephant in the centre of the photo, is both poignant and gruesome. The duty of committed photographers is to stimulate audience’s emotions in order to move them from apathy to action. This year’s winning photo does just that.”
Alongside each photograph displayed on the Larvotto Promenade is a QR code that the public can scan to understand more about the story behind each image.
In the Humanity versus Nature category, Tran Van Hong won for his photograph entitled Disaster. In this scene, the photographer captures the moment when two children are fleeing a forest devastated by fire and waste, a testament to the negative impact of man on nature, exposing the most vulnerable populations to the risks linked to pollution and climate change.
Far less traumatic is Simone Tramonte’s Net Zero Transition (II), which was awarded top prize in the Towards a Sustainable Future category. It shows the largest hydroponic greenhouse in southern Europe, located in Italy, which is based on the principles of a circular economy. The image is a spotlight on the innovations and solutions that are emerging in the face of an uncertain future and which gives us hope for a more conscious and sustainable life.
Indeed, with this latest edition, the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation wanted to deliver a message of hope, “that together we can still act in a meaningful way, if we join forces to limit the effects of climate change and promote the resilience of ecosystems.”
In the Life Under the Surface category, Yung Sen Wu was awarded for his photograph Pacific Red Sockeye, his “remarkable execution” being highlighted by the jury. Glowworm by Haikun Liang won top honour in the Beneath the Canopy category. In this exceptional scene, glow worms dance in the middle of a forest in Guandong, China.
Kirstin Jones took top stop in the Polar Wonders category for The Great Trek, a photograph taken during an expedition to Antarctica. The photographer was able to capture three Gentoo penguins – a species considered to be “near threatened” – crossing the mountains to reach their colony.
Meanwhile, the general public were invited to vote online for their favourite and chose Mathieué Courdesses for his photograph Black and Wild, featuring a silverback gorilla encountered during an expedition to Rwanda.
“Exhibiting these large format prints is a precious opportunity to bring the environmental values dear to the Sovereign and the Principality to the general public while inviting us to rethink our relationship with Nature,” says the Foundation.
The open-air exhibition will run until 29th June on the Promenade du Larvotto, in Monaco. The exhibition is also available to view online here.
Top photo by Easa-Lebbe-Muhammed-Jamsith