8. Souvid Datta
Souvid Datta (UK), Shuogang Factory. Location: Beijing, China

The Syngenta Photography Award is back

Following an exhibition on rural living, dealing with a multitude of themes including infrastructure and deforestation. The Syngenta Photography Award Exhibition returns for its second year. Currently showing at Somerset House’s East Wing gallery, its focus this time is Scarcity Waste. Displaying a selection of spellbinding images commenting on issues like population growth, mass consumption, drought and the careless expenditure of items we deem a commodity. We went to Somerset House to see some of the thought provoking photographs they had on display.

Camille Michel, 'Abandonment', 2014, Uummannaq, Greenland
Camille Michel (France) ‘Abandonment’, 2014, Uummannaq, Greenland

Traversing the 10 rooms of the Syngenta Photography Award, it’s easy to become lost in the scarred and dusty environments. Surreal Chinese skylines shrouded in the mists of pollution gradually become more discernible as if appearing in a forgotten dream. In Greenland, colourful scrap metal lies nestled morosely in the fallen snow as if it were an abandoned installation. What these photographs depict unfortunately, is all too real. With almost 50 million tonnes of electrical waste being discarded annually its no surprise waste was this years hot topic.

Stefano De Luigi (Italy) Drought in Kenya, 2009
Location: Kenya

The Scarcity Waste exhibition shocks and calls us to action. Walls are adorned with pieces of writing commenting on dwindling water resources and what we can expect if we continue to willingly exhaust finite supplies.  Alongside hard hitting photographs of obese children were ‘imperfectly’ formed vegetables. Between 20% and 40% of fruit and vegetables that fail to meet aesthetic requirements are rejected by supermarkets. (Food for thought?)

At People Tree we feel incredibly strongly about the issues raised at the Syngenta Photography Award. In our recent blog post for World Water Day we spoke briefly about the 750 million people globally without access to clean drinking water. The Syngenta Photography award 2015 winner ‘Mustafah Abdulaziz’ decided to base the majority of his collection on water and the difficulties obtaining it. With focus on water scarce areas in Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Pakistan.

Mustafah Abdulaziz, 'Pulling of the well', 2013, Tharpakar, Pakistan
Mustafah Abdulaziz (USA), Pulling of the well, Tharpakar, Pakistan, 2013

One aspect that differentiated Mustafah’s work with the other collections on display, was his relentless inclusion of people interacting with their environment. The majority of the images chose to document villages and cities in states of disarray. People framed by vast backgrounds imbued the images with a sense of scale but were not indicative of a specific subject. Mustafah’s collection instead ranges from women pulling at a well in what could be interpreted as a state of elation to an Ethiopian mother defiantly starring down at the viewer in front of an expanse of land, demanding environmental justice.

It was Mustafah Abdulaziz who produced one of our favourite images, a photograph of the Holy Trinity School in Sierra Leone, the many questioning eyes of the school children immediately transformed the viewer from voyeur to foreign object. It was the sense of self-awareness this invoked which caused a great deal of impact and eagerly await his next collection  documenting water misuse in California.

6.Mandy Barker
Mandy Barker (UK), SOUP – Refused. Location: Leeds, England

Other artists of note were Liz Eve and Jamey Stillings, their respective work situated at opposite sides of the spectrum. Eve interestingly chose to take intense close up shots of vegetables, to highlight increasing demands for food at a time when a third of all food produced is wasted annually. Portraying them in an almost intimate light, the veiny leaves of a packaged salad presenting the weathered textures one would associate with the skin of a weary veteran. The narrative implied in this work was very impressive.

Jamey Stillings’ photography went in a completely different direction with his primary focus being on solar farms. Presenting them in high contrast black and white and transforming the Californian landscape into a futuristic lunar base. Stillings’ work rather than inform the viewer of the shocking amount of waste we produce and its direct effect on the world we live, instead chose to approach similar issues idealistically. In 2013, renewable energy met a fifth of the world’s energy demands and by utilising current technology he hopes a 50% fuel efficiency rate can be achieved by 2050.

11.Marcus Doyle
Marcus Doyle (UK), Red Chair. Location: North Shores, Salton Sea, California

The Syngenta Photography Award Exhibition is free to attend until the 10th of April, showcasing the work of 42 artists from over 20 countries. It is a must see for anyone interested in photography or the growing problems we present to the rest of the world by not consciously pursuing a more sustainable lifestyle.

All images: Courtesy the artist and Syngenta Photography Award

Words: Jordan Troy

Featured image: Gregg Segal, 7 Days of Garbage – Michael, Jason, Annie and Olivia. Location: Altadena, California, USA

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