Michael O Snyder receives the award given by The British Journal of Photography and Magnum Photographers. The winning image is being included in a book and there will be a world tour (along with the other winning images) with shows in Europe, India, and New York City (Photoville). I'm receiving the award for my recent work on climate change in the Arctic, and in particular for an image I shot there of a young girl on her trampoline. The organizing principle for this year's winners is Greta Thunberg's quote "Humanity is now standing at a crossroads. We must decide which path we want to take." Excitingly, the image that I shot is running right beside the image of Greta in the book.
Caption: This is Saga Bernlow behind her house on the remote Arctic island of Svalbard. Longyearbyen, where the family lives, is the world's fastest warming town. In the last four decades temperatures have risen by nearly five degrees Celsius. Now, the family's dog sledding business faces an uncertain future as snowpack melts earlier each year.
Artist statement on the work:
Our world is changing faster than any time since the arrival of humans on this planet. And nowhere is that more evident than in the Arctic, where climate change is causing temperatures to soar. Over this past year I have had the opportunity to document this rapidly changing world during both the depth of the polar night, where sea ice is disappearing, and the unbroken light of the polar summer, where triple digit heat and melting permafrost are driving irreversible damage.
The rich know that chaos is coming. They are erecting walls of concrete and wealth to protect themselves. It is, as ever, the vulnerable, the marginalized, and the children of this planet – mine and yours – who will bear the brunt of what is to come. When I look at this picture, I see a child who deserves a healthy, vibrant, and equitable world. And yet, every day that we fail to act on climate change, we strip our children of precisely those rights. Climate change isn't just an environmental issue, it is the human rights issue of our time.
In working alongside scientists, activists, and residents of the Arctic I’ve seen incredible courage and determination to fight for the ecosystems and cultures that are under threat. But I also see that they cannot do this alone. So, it is critical that we speak up now. It is critical that we tell these stories now. It is critical that we choose courage and hope over fear and apathy now. It is critical that we listen to the voices of the marginalized and the vulnerable now. And it is critical that we act in solidarity with frontline communities now.
The time is now, now, now.
In the words of Greta Thunberg, ‘Humanity is now standing at a crossroads. We must decide which path we want to take.’
Michael O. Snyder is a photographer, filmmaker, and environmental scientist who uses his combined knowledge of visual storytelling and conservation to create narratives that connect people to the other-than-human-world and drive social change. He is a Fellow at the Bertha Foundation, a Blue Earth Alliance Photographer, a National Science Foundation Grant Collaborator, a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar, and the co-founder of two environmental organizations. He holds an MSc in Environmental Sustainability from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland and currently resides in Charlottesville, Virginia where he is a resident artist at the McGuffey Arts Center. (Instagram/Twitter: @michaelosnyder). See more of Michael's Awards here.