The world is facing an environmental crisis. This, we know. We hear about the thunderous calving of glaciers in the Arctic caused by climate change, and the melting of ice around Antarctica. We understand, in theory, that this means sea levels are rising. We can only imagine the devastation of flood-hit communities such as in the Pacific Islands and the backwaters ofthe Bangaldeshi Sundarbans. 

Elsewhere, we hear about the indigenous tribes fighting to keep the Amazon Rainforestcommonly consideredthe lungs of the planet – from being logged. The news tells us how the Great Barrier Reef – and other underwater ecosystems like it – are bleaching due to warmer seas, leaving marine species including turtles, manta rays and sharks in need of food and protection. 

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For many of us, however, when life takes over, we can forget that these issues are happening elsewhere. Our distant proximity to the problem means we are, in the main, not directly affected. Very few of us get to see these sad events in person, as they happen.

That’s where environmental and conservation photographers come in. Some are citizen scientists – hired to do one job but using their frontline positions to raise awareness. Others are life-long photographers who have made it their mission to shed light on the plight of the planet. 

By documenting what they see through their lens, the public are able to access the true scale of the environmental disaster we face today. The graphic honesty summons attention; and encourages awareness and understanding. Here we celebrate five photographers who are a part of the movement calling for environmental preservation.

Emily Garthwaite

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As we learn more about the impact of climate change, we understand that culture and environment are integrally linked. Mainly based in Iraq, storyteller Emily Garthwaite depicts this wide-reaching complexity through her portraits. She also carefully examines the effect of geopolitical tension, when added into this mix. For those of us looking in from the outside, it can be difficult to fully comprehend the human position in the regions we know little about.

Emily’s work adds important nuance to the conversation around conservation by speaking from a community perspective. She highlights that for many, the protection of ecosystems goes beyond a keep-cup and reusable water bottle. It means a lifestyle upheaval that goes against years of tradition and learning.

Daylin Paul

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South Africa-based photographer, writer and educator, Daylin Paul, has been capturing the effects of climate change in his locality for years. His photo-documentary series, Broken Land, highlights the conflict aroundenvironmental disaster and human survival in Mpumalanga Province. The independent collection of black and white images showcases the story of 12 government licenced coal-burning power stations built in a region where 46% of South Africa’s most arable soils is found.

Much of the land has been degraded, making farming impossible and leaving the surrounding communities in poverty. The province has been hit hard by drought in recent years, and residents struggle to find uncontaminated water to drink. Still, the coal plants emit greenhouse and noxious gases into the atmosphere. While miners and residents suffer from respiratory conditions as a result. 

Cristina Mittermeier

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Over the years, Marine Biologist Cristina Mittermeier has used photography as her key tool in promoting conservation of land and sea. With a keen love for Fine Art Photography, she founded the International League of Conservation Photographers, to help citizen photographers find a platform for their vital images. In 2014, she joined forces with her partner, Paul Nicklen, to create Sea Legacya non-profit organisation dedicated to raising awareness about ocean conservation through powerful photography, film and story-telling.

Her work has taken Cristina all around the world and brought her an Instagram following of 1.5 million people. 

Victoria Stokes

Through her work as an Expedition Guide, Victoria Stokes, has captured images from remote regions all over the world. Her love for photography grew from savouring her own memories. However, as she learned more about the looming environmental crisis, she began to share her work on Instagram in the hope she could engage and inspire viewers to care about the world beyond their doorstep.

From snapping polar bears in Svalbard to illuminating the scale of plastic pollution on the isolated beaches of Papua New Guinea, Victoria colourful images tell the story of the environmental crisis through humbling eyes. Reminding all of us, that we all have a role to play in looking after the furthest corners of our planet.

Aaron Gekoski

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Just a few years ago, British photographer Aaron Gekoski was crowd-funding to support his projectsaround the world. Today, he is an award-winning photographer, featured in many international publications. His images have helped gain vast coverage around the misuse of wildlife for human entertainment. Thanks to his heroic efforts of capturing disturbing practices around the world, we are all a little more educated in what animals endure in so-called ‘sanctuaries’ and ‘wildlife parks’. From the sad reality of Orangutan tourism in Southeast Asia, to the dark trade of shark finning in Mozambique, Aaron’s photography isnecessary story-telling.

We're partnering with Arts Help to give out $3.5 million in funding to creatives who wish to create work addressing climate change. If you're keen, apply here!