Twenty years ago, I was in Yosemite National Park due to be in New York three days’ after. All flights were grounded.
I waited at San Francisco airport and managed to board a flight. I arrived in New York with a change of purpose, assigned to document the aftermath of 9/11.
I went with the intention of photographing the destruction of the twin towers and ground zero, but this quickly changed to documenting the emotionally charged atmosphere within the people of New York. Everyday for a week I walked the streets around ground zero, speaking and photographing people in mourning, protestors, and emergency workers. There was an undeniable spirit of unity in a city that you are normally “on your own”.
I did photograph the wreckage of the twin towers, along with the surrounding buildings which had either been destroyed, damaged, or filled with dust. I also captured people at numerous vigils and protests. Emotions were strong and I witnessed love, compassion, anger, hate, and opportunity on every corner. There was 9/11 memorabilia being sold with T shirts and photos of the planes flying into the sides of the towers. I spoke and photographed one Afghan restaurant owner who had already experienced vandalism and abuse to an extent that he was closing his business down.
Where has the last twenty years gone and what has been achieved? Today we remember those who lost their lives on 9/11 2001, vowing “never forget”. We need to all recognise that the only way forward is to live with the same spirit of humanity, that was experienced in the aftermath.
This years theme for the United Nations International Day of Clean Air for blue skies is “Healthy Air, Healthy Planet”, to help raise global awareness of air pollution and its devastating impact on health. The UN is very clear about the scale of the problem: Air pollution is the largest environmental risk to global public health, and it particularly impacts children, women and the elderly, with increased links to diseases such as dementia, diabetes, COVID-19, cardio-vascular and neurological diseases. Developed countries have greatly improved their air quality in recent years but many developing countries are, still reliant on wood and other solid fuels for cooking and heating. The result is that many vulnerable and marginalized people also suffer from the worst air quality.
I worked with the organisation DelAgua in Rwanda, photographing their cook stove project. I travelled throughout Rwanda with the DelAgua team photographing the distribution days, community health worker visits and how the program is improving the lives of those involved. Over 3 billion people still cook over polluting fires, a major contributor to carbon emissions, deforestation and climate change. Cooking over open fires or inefficient stoves emits one-quarter of global black carbon emissions—the second largest contributor to climate change after carbon dioxide. Household air pollution is the leading environmental cause of premature death and disability, ahead of unsafe water and lack of sanitation, causing more deaths than Malaria, HIV and TB combined. Clean cookstoves are vital to tackle both global challenges and they also provide a plethora of other benefits that impact the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The UN calculates the cost of inaction at $ 2.4 trillion and describes the provision of clean cooking solutions as nothing less than a human rights issue.
The DelAgua cook stove is designed to work for the reality of the lives of the families who use them. It uses wood, but just small pieces of twig and tinder, which rural families can gather without encroaching on forestry. Crucially the design of the stove increases thermal efficiency resulting in quicker cooking speeds and much lower fuel requirements. The stove requires at least 50% less wood than a traditional fire. The stove is durable and saves the equivalent of 14 tons of CO2 emissions over its seven- year life.
Education and ongoing support is central to the work. Every family is visited by a Community Health Worker who explains the dangers of cooking on a traditional fire and household air pollution and the health advantages of cooking on the stove and they also make sure the family know how to use it. Behaviour change is immediate and lasting. 99% of stoves are still in daily use after 2 years.
I am honoured to be a FINALIST in the eleventh edition of the World Report Award 2021 | Documenting Humanity in the SINGLE SHOT category. My entry of “A Boy from the Crowd” photographed in Liberia for International Alert was shortlisted from over 13,000 photographs taken by photographers around the world. An international jury composed of Lauren Steel, Svetlana Bachevanova, Gary Knight, Alberto Prina and Aldo Mendichi selected the work which will be exhibited during the annual edition of the Festival of Ethical Photography in Lodi, Italy.
The World.Report Award aims at a new form of social commitment through photography. The award gives attention to work focusing on people and their social or cultural stories; public or private, minor or crucial, major human tragedies or smaller daily life stories, changes and immutability.
Every year the contest creates a fresco that tells the stories of our planet, its great changes and its intimate and personal relationships connecting human beings.
The World Report Award|Documenting Humanity isn’t simply a contest that through its prizes economically supports those who are actively engaged in this difficult sector of photography, but it also represents a way for all participants to enter into a supportive community that they have built over the past 10 years and composed of professionals who are already collaborating with the organization.
The winners in every category will be announced on August 30th.
The 16th Pollux Awards have been announced and I am pleased to share that my three entries into the singles categories of Fine Art, Culture and Children have all received honourable mentions.
The Pollux Awards is one of the most important annual photography competitions which attracts talent from around the world. Hosted by Worldwide Photography Gala Awards, the 16th Pollux Awards was juried by Stephen Perloff, photographer, writer, founder and editor of The Photo Review and The Photography Collector. The Worldwide Photography Gala Awards recognises artists’ talent through competitions juried by industry leaders, exposing their work in the media, publishing their work, hosting collective exhibitions, and by exhibiting their work online and in the Biennial of Fine Art and Documentary Photography.
Selected works of the Winners and Honourable mentions will exhibited at the FotoNostrum Gallery, Barcelona in late 2021.