Winners Named in SEJ Awards’ New Photo Category

September 15, 2012

SEJ News


A Vietnamese trader's family has dinner over a pile of bomb shrapnel, cluster bombs and an artillery shell in their hut in Etoum. Vietnamese traders come to the area to buy scrap metal from locals who collect it in the surrounding fields and forest. PHOTO: © JERRY REDFERN.

In recognition of the contribution photography makes to environmental journalism, the SEJ has included it for the first time as a separate category in the 2012 annual SEJ Awards competition, and several winners were announced during the summer.

The top award went to Jerry Redfern, a freelance photographer and media trainer from Peralta, N.M., for “The Flavor of Danger,” published in Gastronomica magazine. It documents the estimated 600,000 tons of unexploded ordnance remaining in Laos following the Vietnam War that has killed or injured up to 20,000 mostly rural Laotians since the end of that conflict.

Redfern has spent over six years on the project to produce Eternal Harvest: The Legacy of American Bombs in Laos to be published later this year. (Just two days before the announcement of his award, Hillary Clinton visited Laos to discuss the lethal ordnance legacy and other residual issues from the Vietnam War, the first such visit by a U.S. secretary of state since 1955.)

In a gym in Hirono, Japan, residents in protective suits are briefed before being escorted to their abandoned homes for a visit last June. PHOTO: © DAVID GUTTENFELDER / ASSOCIATED PRESS.

Both second and third place honored photographers for work that appeared in  National Geographic magazine. David Guttenfelder, chief Asia photographer for the Associated Press working on assignment for the magazine, received runner-up honors for “Japan’s Nuclear Refugees,” his coverage of the mass evacuations following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that disabled the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

“No other organization or photographer took the risk to document this tragedy in such depth,” NG executive editor Dennis Dimick said. “Guttenfelder took many of these pictures by avoiding security barriers and entering closed areas off limits to everyone.”

The final photography honor went to Jim Richardson, a freelancer based in Lindsborg, Kansas, who has been covering food and agriculture for the Geographic for over twenty years. His story “Food Ark” explored the threat to the human food supply by “the large-scale loss of genetic diversity in domesticated crops and livestock.” His coverage of such a broad topic involved travel to five different continents and a frigid island in the Arctic.

The photo winners were chosen by a panel of three judges, part of a team of 21 judges representing writers, photographers,editors and educators all involved with environmental journalism, who selected winners in seven separate awards categories. Top place finishers in the SEJ Annual Awards receive $500, while others are given certificates.

In a departure from other photojournalism competitions, entrants were not only invited to submit their photos (up to five with captions) of one or more environmental topics. They were also encouraged to include a cover letter of up to 1,000 words that described the difficulties they faced in obtaining the photos entered, the need for photos, and other context providing information.

Food conservationist Cary Fowler at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the Arctic. PHOTO: © JIM RICHARDSON.

Those interested in entering the competition next year might want to remember one thing: While the rules didn’t require photographers to limit all their entries to one subject or topic, all of the winning photographers did choose to do so. All the honored work can be viewed on the SEJ website.

The awards will be given out at SEJ's 22nd annual conference, hosted by Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, Oct. 17-21. SEJ is also continuing its attention to photojournalism with a session — “Using Imagery to Tell Environmental Stories” — planned for the conference on the Friday afternoon, and moderated by author and photojournalist Michael Kodas.

Meanwhile, as SEJ’s annual gathering shapes up, national and world headlines have turned the agenda from relevant to crucial. Mass ignorance on climate? We’re discussing communicating climate science. Epic drought, killing heat, water shortages? You’ll understand extreme weather, how we’ll provide food and water to a warming world, and how global trends in deserts directly affect your audience. Plus, there’ll be dozens of other topics in the news.

“Nowhere else can journalists, educators and scientists gain so much knowledge and so many story ideas in so short a time,”contends Conference Chair Randy Loftis of The Dallas Morning News.  “Knowledge, of course, is power. Power to tell the stories. Power we can pass on to people who need it.”  Register for the conference at

Roger Archibald is the photo editor of SEJournal.

* From the quarterly newsletter SEJournal, Summer/Fall 2012. 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.

SEJ Publication Types: