Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Station and Northern Lights, Iceland, 2017 © Glyn Thomas, Earth Photo 2018 entrant
With the deadline to submit your photos to our Earth Photo 2019 competition only one month away, we caught up with competition judge and award-winning photographer Marissa Roth, to discuss her favourite photographic subjects, the importance of photography in highlighting issues around the world, and her top tips for entrants.
What are you looking for in the Earth Photo entries? What makes a striking image?
For each Earth Photo entry, we are looking for a cohesive series of photographs that fulfils the guidelines for the competition and reflects the creative vision, intent, and technical skill of the photographer, in order to tell the story of their particular subject.
A striking image is achieved when the graphic elements present in every photograph come together in a balanced and evocative way, where the viewer is compelled to really look into the image and see and feel it, and hopefully learn from it. A striking image is the result of the coming together of the photographer’s intuition, talent and intellect.
What are your favourite photographic subjects and why?
My favourite subjects range from people to seascapes, which may seem contradictory, but the basis for much of my work has to do with my deeply held interest in war history and the imbuing of emotion into photographs. I also love to photograph trees, almost as portraits, as I see some trees as individuals with their own unique characteristics.
How and why is photography important in showcasing issues and challenges around the world?
Since the invention of photography in the mid-19th century, it has become a ground breaking medium used by artists and photographers to record the world around us in a realistic form, in essence, by stopping time. Because of the portable nature of cameras, photography enables an immediate and enduring method to document anything and everything, from a child’s first steps to a world war battlefield.
For decades photography has been a critical means by which to raise awareness about a myriad of issues, heightening both perception and change. Lewis Hines’ photographs of child labour in America taken during the early 1900s resulted in the amending of laws requiring a minimum age for employment, while Nick Ut’s wrenching photograph of a young Vietnamese girl running for her life after being burned by napalm changed the sentiments about the Vietnam-American war throughout the world by heightening the anti-war movement.
It is through the immediacy and authenticity of photography that we can express our deep concerns, our sense of hope and our need to make a positive difference, by documenting as much as we can.
I feel that this quote by the noteworthy French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson sums it up: “Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.”
How do you get your photographs to illustrate your message to the audience effectively?
Since a photograph is a composition and the result of multiple decisions by the photographer, the content is determined by the union of elements based on those choices. The first decisions by the photographer are the choice of camera format and medium: film or digital, black and white or colour. Then there are the decisions when making photographs, sometimes in a split second: how to frame the image, what to put in and what to leave out, where to place yourself and what to emphasise for the optimum focal point of the image. If the photographer is thinking about, seeing and feeling their subject matter and responding with intuitive intent, then that will come through in the resulting image.
When a viewer looks at a photograph, they are not responding to the specific visual elements in a photograph or the singular decisions by a photographer in the making of the photograph, but rather to the overall image, which is the illustration of the photographer’s inherent message and which can evoke an emotional, visceral or intellectual response.
Do you have any tips for the entrants?
When you’re selecting your subject matter to submit, make sure that it is relevant to the Earth Photo categories. When you’re selecting the specific images for a series, make sure that each image in the group is a strong stand-alone image, and that all of the images make a cohesive collection.
Developed in partnership with Forestry England, Earth Photo 2019 focuses on photographs and films which explore the themes of people, place, nature and changing forests.
The competition is open to national and international photographers of all levels, experience and ages, and entrants can submit up to 10 photographs or films for one or a mix of the categories. Shortlisted images will be displayed in our Pavilion between 6 July and 22 August. Three further exhibitions will take place at Forestry England sites later this year.
The deadline for entries is 5.00pm on 6 May. So what are you waiting for? Submit your entries now.