Kenyan Man Kevin Ochieng Wins 2021 Photographer Of The Year Award

Kenyan Man Kevin Ochieng Wins 2021 Photographer Of The Year Award
Kenyan Man Kevin Ochieng Wins 2021 Photographer: Photo/Courtesy

Kenyan photographer Kevin Ochieng has won the 2021 Environmental Photographer of the Year award, a global competition in its 14th edition.

Ochieng, 24, a self-taught photographer from Nairobi, won in the climate action category of the competition through his shot titled “The Last Breath”.

In the vivid photo, a boy breathes air from a plant through a pipe connected to a gas mask, with a menacing sandstorm circling behind him to depict the inevitable apocalypse of climate change.

This photography contest “showcases the most inspirational environmental photography from around the world”.

Winners were announced on Tuesday during the ongoing COP26 conference in Glasgow, Scotland. More than 7,000 images were received from photographers from 119 countries in the world. Eight categories were assessed.

Conferred by UK’s Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (Ciwem), the award “celebrates humanity’s ability to survive and innovate”.

Ciwem supports professionals who’re dedicated to improving water and environmental management practices to attain “a safer, more sustainable world.”

To participate, photographers from around the world were required to submit images depicting manifestation of climate change and its effects on weather patterns and biodiversity.

His work will be exhibited in New York Times’ Climate Hub and during next year’s Floodex climate exhibition in London.

But what does “The Last Breath” mean and what inspired it? Explains Ochieng: “Life on earth is coming to an end, essentially. The air is getting more toxic, green nature is slowly fading away and the weather is becoming more and more difficult to predict. These drastic weather changes have the potential to wipe out humanity.”

The storm of dust behind the boy, he notes, represents the folly of humanity for advocating for deforestation, for large constructions, unsustainable mining processes and exploitation of fossil fuels.

Ochieng, however, argues that humans have in their hands “the clearest solutions” to arrest the climate disaster by increasing forest cover.

Significance of the award for Kevin Ochieng 

He describes his work as “conceptual fine art” that employs “poetry and artistic expressions to drive messages” around climate action.

On the significance of this award, Ochieng emphasises that it’s a validation of his work as an artist and a gateway to “actually gain from my art.”

Ochieng ventured into photography five years ago out of passion, and later founded Spartan Photography with his brother Dennis Otieno. “We have been telling stories of daily lives in Nairobi slums where effects of a changing climate have been felt the most,” recalls his inspiration.

In August 2019, he won the China-Kenya Embassy photography competition before bagging two more awards by Agora Awards last year. His work has been exhibited in cities around the world, including in Geneva, Switzerland.

But even with this imprint internationally, he laments that his work is yet to earn recognition locally.

“Photographers possess the requisite tools to depict a sustainable earth through their work. I see this as an opportunity to be actively involved in conservation efforts and advocacy for environmental issues through film and photography. This is a dream come true.”


By James Kahongeh


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Kenyan Man Kevin Ochieng Wins 2021 Photographer Of The Year Award

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