2022 W Award Jury: (left to right) Tasneem Alsultan, Martina Bacigalupo, Naina Bajekal, Svetlana Bachevanova, Elizabeth Krist and Darcy Padilla.
TASNEEM ALSULTAN is a visual storyteller. Her work largely focuses on photographing social issues and rights-based topics in Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf region through a gender lens, challenging stereotypical perceptions of the Middle East and portraying a region and people that do not conform to expectations. Her work has been published in NYT, National Geographic, Washington Post and many international publications.
MARTINA BACIGALUPO worked as an independent photographer in East Africa for ten years, collaborating with magazines, foundations and international organisations. Member of VU agency since 2010, she holds professional workshops on documentary photo writing in France and abroad. She has been photo editor for the French magazine 6 MOIS since 2018.
NAINA BAJEKAL is an Executive Editor at TIME, currently based in London. She oversees the conception and execution of the core multimedia packages and projects around which TIME builds its editorial calendar, and leads newsroom development efforts to strengthen TIME's journalism and culture. She has previously worked for The Fuller Project, which reports on issues affecting women, as well as Magnum Photos and Newsweek International.
SVETLANA BACHEVANOVA is the executive director of the FotoEvidence Foundation. She is a Bulgarian American photojournalist and a co-founder FotoEvidence Press in New York (2010). The books she and her team publish expose injustice, create enduring evidence of violations of human rights and inspire social and enviromental change.
Svetlana conceived the FotoEvidence Book Award and the FotoEvidence W Award to support the work of photographers dedicated to the pursuit of human rights, publishing work that is unlikely to find commercial publication. Under her management FotoEvidence has occupied a unique space in the world of photojournalism as both a publishing house and activist organization.
ELIZABETH KRIST ia a National Geographic magazine photo editor for over 20 years and a founding member of the Visual Thinking Collective. She is on the boards of Women Photograph and the W. Eugene Smith Fund, helps program the National Geographic Society Storytellers Summit, and advises the Eddie Adams Workshop. Krist curated A Mother’s Eye for Photoville and CatchLight, and the Women of Vision exhibition and book. She teaches for ICP and La Luz. Honors include the John Durniak Mentor Award from NPPA, and awards from POYi, Overseas Press Club, and Communication Arts. Krist has judged for CatchLight, the Lit List, The FENCE, POYi, Ian Parry, Getty/Instagram, and the RFK Journalism Awards. Recently she has been freelancing at The New Yorker.
DARCY PADILLA is a documentary photographer and photojournalist based in San Francisco, California. She is an associate professor in the Art Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. And a member photographer of Agence VU' in Paris.
Focusing on long-term projects about struggle and the trans-generational effects, Padilla’s honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, Open Society Institute Individual Fellowship, Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellowship, Getty Images Grant, International Photo-reporter Grant, Canon Female Photojournalist Award, World Report Master Award, three World Press Photo Awards (first recipient for Long-Term Projects), and a W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography.
Padilla’s monograph Family Love, published by Éditions de La Martinière in France, follows a family for 21-years — an intimate story of poverty, AIDS and social issues.
“A lake is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.” Henry David Thoreau
Iran is facing severe water scarcity. Drought, rising water demand, degradation put pressure on society and leads to wider injustice and a big social/political crisis not only inside Iran but also with neighbouring countries. I grow up beside Lake Urmia which was once the largest lake in the Middle East, and the second largest salt lake on the planet. The nearly six million people who live in the Urmia basin have deep social and economic ties with this shrinking body of water. The Turk-Azeri people, who live around the lake, treasure it as a symbol of their identity, calling it “the turquoise solitaire of Azerbaijan.”
Photo: Solmaz Daryani
Once a thriving tourist destination, Lake Urmia provided a livelihood to countless people, including my mother’s family. My grandfather ran a lakefront motel in the touristy port city of Sharafkhaneh, where my grandparents still live today, and my uncles were sailors. Less than a decade ago, my grandfather hosted dozens of tourists a day in the summers. I spent all my childhood summers on the shore of the salt lake in my grandparents’ house. When the lake was still a popular destination, bathers would immerse themselves in the saline water and smear their bodies with its legendary black mud. I cherish those memories and still remember the sound of the waves, the chatter of beachside vacationers, the sulphur smell of the dark mud, and the salty breeze in the mid-afternoon heat.
Salt lake Urmia a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, during the past three decades, has lost about 88 per cent of its surface area due to increasing temperatures, changing climate, excessive damming and overuse of underground water by locals and booming agriculture in the region. This precious body of water is a victim of humanmade drought.
As Lake Urmia dried up, local tourism and agriculture suffered. Winds that whip across the lake blow salt dust to farm fields, slowly rendering the soil infertile. Like so many other people around the lake, my grandfather’s motel and gardens now lie in ruins. The port town is now a sparsely populated village that young people flee for nearby cities, and most of the residents who have stayed are elderly. Neither port town nor salt lake resembles the place of my childhood memories.
In this long term and personal story that I started in 2014, I tried to demonstrate the impacts of drying of Urmia Lake on my own family, ecosystem and people living around it to reflect the interconnectedness of humans and the environment.
The vanishing of Lake Urmia is much more than an environmental hazard; it is an emotional wound in the memory of people. For those of us who remember what this place once was, the lake is much more than a receding blue spot on the world map. It is a part of our identity, and we can only hope that it does not vanish forever.
The Eyes of Earth is dedicated to Narges Qasempoor, Solmaz' grandmother. An illiterate woman who knew the importance of balance between humans and nature and managed to plant 800 trees during her lifetime. She died from Covid-19 during the process of creating the book.