Winners of this year’s Syngenta Award were recently put on show at Somerset House. The Syngenta Photography Exhibition, which ran from 11 March to 10 April 2015, attempted to draw attention to current global issues affecting society. Both amateur and professional photographers were invited to submit their work as part of a worldwide competition aimed at illustrating the issues of scarcity and waste.
The two themes offer a contrast between the estimated one billion people facing the threat of starvation and the wasteful habits of others, particularly in the West. Much of the work, which was on display in ten different rooms, highlighted the demands we put on our natural resources and the lack of awareness relating to their increasing scarcity. Other themes included recycling, mass consumption and population growth.
A prestigious international jury, which was chaired by esteemed photographer and writer William A Ewing, whittled down more than 2000 entries to an eventual shortlist of six finalists. They were: Benedikt Partenheimer, Camille Michel, Mustafah Abdulaziz, Rasel Chowdhury, Richard Allenby-Pratt and Stefano De Luigi.
Benedikt Partenheimer’s large scale shots of smog-ridden Chinese cities offered a stark illustration of how something as harmful as urban air pollution can actually appear aesthetically pleasing to the naked eye.
Camille Michel chose the mysterious island of Uummaannaq as her subject. Her picture, which was taken near the island’s waste sorting centre, served to illustrate how torn the native Inuits are between tradition and modernity, ecological disaster and natural majesty.
The eventual winner, Mustafah Abdulaziz photographed a group of boys washing at two water points in a slum in Sierra Leone. The picture is all the more impactive given that the area has no access to clean water. He also depicted pollution on the banks of the Ganges in another photograph.
Second-placed Rasel Chowdhury submitted a collection of photographs which showed how the industrial machines of urbanisation were polluting the surrounding rivers and countryside of Bangladesh.
Richard Allenby-Pratt opted for the theme of consumption in his work and portrayed aspects of the supply chain associated with the modern consumer. His images depicted these various stages including a marble quarry mine, electrical pylons and an irrigated desert forest.
In third place was Stefano De Luigi who photographed Turkana women extracting water from a 20-meter deep, homemade borehole. The image, which was taken in an area affected by the Kenyan drought, illustrated the everyday struggles endured by those who live in regions beset by famine and poverty.
In addition to the finalists work, the exhibition also presented the submissions of 42 photographers from around the world. Subjects ranged from population growth and climate change, as well as the increasing demands placed on natural resources and food waste. By way of emphasising the award-winning photography on display, numerous statistics were also shown relating to issues such as water scarcity and starvation.
The winner, Mustafah Abudlaziz received $15,000 and a $25,000 grant to document the misuse of water in California.