Photographs that imagine a brighter future

Seaweed harvesting, carbon capture technology, and a hut made of plastic bottles—these were the winning entries from a global photo competition to highlight inspiring ways to fight climate change.

Olam photo challenge winners
Re-imagining a brighter future: entries of finalists of the photo challenge on display at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development Council Meeting gala dinner at Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. Image: Eco-Business

What would the world look like if ideas to fight climate change were realised?

That was the idea behind a photography competition from agri-business firm Olam International and Eco-Business to highlight inspiring ways to fight climate change.

Themed “Re-imagining a Brighter Future”, top prizes for the global competition were awarded to a freelance photographer from Australia, a 24-year old environmental activist, and a manager of Olam’s South and East Africa markets. They emerged winners from 200 entries from all over the world. 

28-year old photographer Brandon Rooney, won top prize in the open-to-all category. His photo entitled “Stillness, stability”, shows a farmer harvesting from his seaweed farm in Nusa Ceningan, Indonesia.

Rooney said that seaweed farming was increasingly being recognised for its potential in mitigating climate change. Seaweed is a source of food and material to make bioplastic, and helps decrease ocean acidity, fixes carbon and protects shorelines.

Winner: Open Category by Brandon Rooney. “Stillness, stability”

“I think there is a lot to be said for how photography can and always has communicated the importance of environmental issues, as it now can reach far greater audiences digitally with much more impact than it ever has,” Rooney said.

As the winner of the open category, Rooney will go on a five-day photo safari in Ghana, Africa. The tour will include a trip to Olam’s climate-smart cocoa projects and a two-night stay at Royal Senchi Resort. 

Winner: Youth Category by Barney Swan. “Climework’s Co2 Direct Air Capture Injection Wells”

The youth category winner was United Kingdom-born Barney Swan, whose entry depicted a facility for removing carbon dioxide from the side of a geothermal power facility in Iceland. 

The director of carbon reduction programme Climate Force, Swan said he hoped his photo could help spread awareness to potential investors about carbon capture technology.

“It is an honour to win this competition. We have to incentivise big and small solutions that drive us to be able to clean up our emissions effectively,” said Swan. “Connecting the corporate world and everyday people to projects like these can create a global system change that will lead us towards a net positive future.” 

Swan will receive a GoPro Hero 6 camera as his prize.

I think there is a lot to be said for how photography can and always has communicated the importance of environmental issues, as it now can reach far greater audiences digitally with much more impact than it ever has.

Brandon Rooney, winner, open category, Olam Photo Challenge

Olam International also opened the competition to its employees all over the world.

Elizabeth Nnoko, the company’s internal communications manager for South and East Africa, won the award with her entry, “Plastic-Bottle House”. 

The 38-year old from Tanzania said she usually watches the sunrise after her daily jogs on Coco Beach, one of the more well-known beaches in Dar es Salaam. But one morning, she noticed a structure on the beach, which turned out to be a man-made hut built using plastic bottles.

“I found the project inspiring as it spoke to me about the problem of plastic pollution in our ocean,” said Nnoko. “I am extremely honoured to have won such a socially and environmentally conscious competition.” 

The photos of the three winners, along with selected finalists, were displayed at a gala dinner on 23 October in Singapore at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) Council meeting and will also be hosted at the Olam Learning Academy.

The judges for the photography contest included National Geographic 2017 Nature Photographer of the Year, Jayaprakash Joghee Bojan, Sunny Verghese, co-founder and group chief executive officer of Olam International, United Nations Environment ambassadress and eco-activist Nadya Hutagalung and Eco-Business managing editor Jessica Cheam.

Winner: Olam Category by Elizabeth Nnoko. “Plastic-Bottle House” 

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