By ROGER ARCHIBALD
Judges for SEJ's 2013 annual awards chose this image, part of first-place winner "Ivory Worship," as the "strongest single image of all the submissions." Photo: © Brent Stirton of Getty Images, working on assignment for National Geographic. See all the winning photos here.
A series of images tracking the course of illegally poached ivory from slaughtered elephants in Kenya to wealthy collectors in Asia received top honors in the SEJ’s second annual award for environmental photojournalism.
Judges chose “Ivory Worship” for first place in the contest this summer, saying the five-image portfolio by photographer Brent Stirton of Getty Images, working on assignment for National Geographic in the globe-spanning style that is the magazine’s signature, included the “strongest single image of all the submissions,” showing tusks being hacked off.
While top honors in a photography competition going to National Geographic comes as little surprise, both second and third prizes went to an organization most don’t even associate with visual media — NPR. The well-known non-profit broadcaster has embarked upon new media not previously associated with network radio since 2007, sending multimedia teams into the field to combine “the organization’s audio storytelling strength with still and motion photography.” The two photojournalists hired to “redefine the ‘look’ of NPR” also happen to be the same two winners taking second- and third-place honors in this year’s SEJ photojournalism awards.
David Gilkey came in second with his story, “In Nigerian Gold Rush, Lead Poisons Thousands of Children,” which depicts the plight of a poverty-stricken community taking a huge health risk in the effort to scrape a measure of gold out of their community soil. Gold also makes an appearance in John Poole’s third place story, “Mongolia Booms,” which looks at the boom-and-bust cycles of mineral prospecting currently impacting that distant country.
After first working as a web editor and video journalist at the Washington Post, Poole says he was drawn to the challenge of public radio by ‘driveway moments,’ when you can’t exit your car at the end of a trip until a compelling radio story has concluded. “As a photographer I thought, what a great challenge to try to capture one of those. . . When [listeners] go online to see pictures, I hope they’ll be so compelled by the combination of imagery and sound that they’ll have some new form of moment, like maybe a ‘laptop moment,’ an image that you can’t forget.”
Roger Archibald is SEJournal’s photo editor.
* From the quarterly newsletter SEJournal, Fall 2013. Each new issue of SEJournal is available to members and subscribers only; find subscription information here or learn how to join SEJ. Past issues are archived for the public here.