This exhibition shows what’s happening to the environment in some of the most beautiful places’

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This year we are very lucky to be showcasing the shortlisted entries for the annual Environmental Photographer of the Year competition run by the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management.

Over 10,000 photographers enter this prestigious contest from all over the world. We get the chance to see the real impact of what’s happening to the environment in some of the most beautiful places on earth, as well as how growing urbanisation affects all of our lives. The photographs are about serious problems, but use gorgeous colour and composition to entice us to look more closely at disturbing issues.

Looking at these photographs helps us to realise the connections between different environmental problems and how we as consumers play a part in so many of them. The photographs are shown in sections covering issues such as climate change, water management, micro plastics and waste management.

These can seem quite dull, but the clarity and brilliance of the images help us understand their importance.

For example, the importance of water for the economy and peoples’ livelihood is demonstrated by a fisherman with his catch of a huge swordfish in Ecuador, while nearby a photograph of brightly coloured houses submerged under floodwater in Mumbai, India, give us a sense of the struggle of people who are subject to flooding and intense weather events.

On the upper level of the gallery, we have included lots of information and suggestions about ‘What We Can All Do’ to live more sustainable lives. This shows interesting (even fun!) ways to vary the choices we make when it comes to what we eat, buy and wear, as well as decisions about where our energy comes from or how we decide to travel.

Tonbridge School really wanted to reflect public and governmental concern with the issues of climate change and environmental damage.

The EM Forster Theatre planned a Festival of the Environment and we wanted to support their message, and give people visiting, as well as the boys, the opportunity to explore the issues in a visual way using striking images.

The school has been focusing on sustainability, and so the exhibition is a brilliant way to enable the Tonbridge School community to think more deeply about the choices we all make and how these affect others.

The photographs have been used as teaching resources, so students are encouraged to explore the themes and ideas from different angles. These issues relate to pretty much whatever subject area you are interested in – geography, creative writing, economics, politics, biology and art.

The wall panels that explore the different environmental themes were written by Tonbridge School Upper Sixth geography students, and the exhibition is visited by local schools and community groups.

It’s been a privilege to be able to show photographs of such outstanding quality. It’s a lot of fun (and hard work!) to organise, but great to be able to include pupils, staff and the wider community of Tonbridge in the exhibition, and see the responses to the images. It’s also great to think that this exhibition can support and underpin students’ work in this
school and across the borough.

It’s a very diverse show, with some awe-inspiring images such as ‘Lungs of the Earth’ by Ian Wade, which captures a view looking up at the magnificent canopy of trees at night in Somerset. Then there are some heart-wrenching ones like ‘Invisible’ by Valerie Leonard, which depicts a wastepicker rummaging in the Sisdol landfill in Nepal.

I’ve chosen images that most effectively use powerful colour and composition to draw our attention, with fascinating details to keep our interest as we scrutinise the photograph more carefully.

As the subject matter is sometimes pretty grim, we need a way to be able to digest this information, and these images manage to allow us to do this.

The students I have taken into the gallery have all chosen different photographs to explore more closely, as there is such a range to choose from. They have some knowledge about the problems that the photographs explore, but many have been surprised at the interconnectedness of the issues and themes.

They have also been able to make links between how the photographers have used their skills to make the image more striking, either by heightening certain aspects with Photoshop or using particular settings on their cameras with their own experiences in art classes.

Discussing the work with the boys has been a really good way to bring home how each of us plays a part in the issues represented. For example, not all the boys were aware that much of the waste created by us in the UK is shipped abroad to be processed.

Being surrounded by such a stunning array of images really brings the issues home, and there’s no hiding the reality of what we are looking at. People have said that they are pleased that the exhibition includes ‘What we can all do’ as a way of counterbalancing what can sometimes feel like an overwhelming challenge.

I am very lucky to curate the exhibitions in OBS Gallery and to work as an Art Teacher at the school – the two things are completely interconnected.  I curate each exhibition with a specific audience in mind and I really enjoy bringing the students in to see the artwork and discuss it.

It’s exciting to have an initial idea
for a show, to carry out the research
for the exhibition, make studio visits
to see artists’ work ‘in the flesh’
and think about how it will work in
the gallery.


The Environmental Photographer of the Year exhibition is open to the general public every weekend from 12-4pm (apart from Saturday November 2 when it will open at 2pm) until November 9.   For further information visit


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