Ocean Visuals: open call has launched, please share

Here at Climate Visuals we want to share our huge gratitude, respect and pride in the wider Ocean Visuals team, colleagues at Climate Outreach, our external partners, funders, advisory board members and contractors. We’d also like to recognise the foundational  contributions, expertise and system design that went into our ‘Visualizing climate change’  initiative with TED Countdown in 2021.

This is a movement-generous, time-limited opportunity to reach and seek the participation of global, diverse and creative voices through photography.  We appreciate any help big or small on social media or direct messages to colleagues, contacts and followers to amplify Ocean Visuals from now until 14 September 2022.  This is everyone's to share with the objective of long term positive impact in ocean-climate comms at COP27 and beyond.

View and boost the current and future Twitter and Instagram posts to encourage your followers to register and submit their images. You can also use our incredible, free to air social media pack. There's additional 'one click to tweet' posts and information on our audience engagement pages.

If anyone has any queries, the team here are available to help and we have a representative on standby for participants throughout on visuals@climateoutreach.org.

Thanks for your support and good luck

Toby Smith

Climate Visuals Programme Lead and Ocean Visuals Project Exec

1. Register to the Climate Visuals library for instant access

2. Review Ocean Visuals background and photography brief

3. Browse, download and amplify the Ocean Visuals collection

Scottish Power supports Climate Visuals’ COP26 exhibition

As a Principle Partner for  the UN climate conference (COP26) in their home city of Glasgow, Scottish Power is thrilled to be supporting Climate Outreach on their exciting Climate Visuals project.  

“We are absolutely committed to playing our full part in ensuring COP leaves a lasting positive legacy for the world and the people of Glasgow.” said Samuel Gardner,  Head of Climate Change and Sustainability for Scottish Power. “A key part of that must be engaging the public in not only the reality of climate change but the solutions we have to tackle this emergency.” 

Ahead of COP26, Climate Visuals, a project of Climate Outreach,  will be announcing the selected photographers and images from Visualizing Climate Change: An Open Call for Photography.  This initiative challenged global photographers to utilise Climate Visuals’ evidence-based approach to show solutions and narratives and consider the people, places, communities, sectors, and areas of society that are not normally featured in the media or climate change conversations. Submissions were requested to feature the TED Countdown and COP26 thematic areas which both highlight energy as a topic. 

Photo credit: Kunal Gupta / Climate Visuals Countdown

“We’re so incredibly grateful, proud, and excited about the submissions received and embodied in our judge’s final selections.  The exhibition will portray diverse climate solutions, new narratives and voices, and impactful photography—all direct from communities around the world. The impact starts here as the entire collection will be accessible to climate communicators in media, education, and advocacy—all without charge—via our image library system.” Toby Smith, Climate Visuals Programme Lead.

The Climate Visuals exhibition will celebrate the very best in climate change visual storytelling, providing a dynamic window into the response to climate change from communities and businesses from around the world.  Hoping to inspire delegates at COP26 to raise their ambitions and turn them into action that locks us into a decade of delivery and a green recovery from the pandemic. 

All non-profits, campaigners, educators, and editorial publications can access, download and use the collection for free, via a unique QR code embedded in each image at the exhibition. The goal being to help everyone  communicate solutions to the changing landscape of Earth more effectively – providing equitable, free creative content to all COP26 delegates both in person and online.

“At ScottishPower, transforming to a cleaner electric future has been central to our strategy for the last 15 years.  We were the first energy company in the UK to ditch coal and gas and go 100% green.  All the power we generate, enough to power more than 2 million homes, now comes from our 40 onshore and offshore wind farms.  Nor are we standing still, we are investing £10 billion in the next five years to drive forward the infrastructure solutions to the climate crisis, like floating windfarms, solar power plants, battery storage, smart grids, EV charge-points and hydrogen electrolysers.”  Samuel Gardner,  Head of Climate Change and Sustainability for Scottish Power. 

Indigenous Media Presence

Climate Visuals was commissioned by the Climate and Land Use Alliance to create recommendations of best visual practice for content producers, editors, distributors, agencies and publishers who wish to work with, for, or who are from, the Indigenous and forest communities of Central and South America. It is an openly accessible report to catalyse positive change and connections towards imagery that is transformative, sustainable and impactful around the issues of land use, conservation and climate solutions.

Hosted on Climate Outreach’s website features a detailed research report and literature review which draws richly on new conversations held with Indigenous leaders and photographers, media stakeholders and NGOs in 10 different countries. The online resource, available in English, Spanish and Portuguese, details and illustrate eight new principles prepared by a team of researchers, with inputs from Climate Visuals, If Not Us Then Who, Nicolas Salazar Sutil, Jaye Renold and Leah Rangi.

Find the indigenous media presence project here. 

Indigenous media presence  concerns the communication of cultural, linguistic, political, spiritual and environmental priorities and sensibilities of Indigenous Peoples, particularly regarding the fast-changing conditions of life within Indigenous Territories. There is a rapidly growing appetite for narratives and images of the climate crisis related to endangered forests and Indigenous communities. However, inconsiderate media publication risks simplifying and sensationalising a complex story narrative while also isolating and burdening these communities with a responsibility to protect primary forests. Well-meaning but uncritical production and consumption of imagery in this context presents enormous risks and is also a lost opportunity for self-determination and lasting climate solutions.

The research team set the frame of this project in response to the need for a best-practice guide. We set its geographic scope, of Central and South America, to focus our finite research resources on producing a set of broad yet pragmatic recommendations. These address the common issues identified by members of the diverse communities interviewed and consulted as part of this research process.

The authors recommend that new primary or participatory research be urgently completed into parallel issues faced by Indigenous communities of Southeast Asia or in a global context – recognising that some of our existing recommendations may be applicable once verified.  Further, the authors considered incorporating advice on depictions of charismatic animal life; however, for reasons of scope, the present research focuses on forest protection within the context of land and climate justice from an Indigenous perspective.

We conclude that the challenge and opportunity ahead is not how to simply improve representation but how to achieve a lasting, positive, and impactful media presence for Indigenous Peoples. Existing media representation, although well-meaning, poses significant risks, particularly through stereotyping and sensationalism; as does the continued exclusion of Indigenous Peoples from territorial, political, legal, academic, and other forms of self-determination.

Find the indigenous media presence project here. 


Indigenous Media Presence – Commissioning Guide

Find the full Indigenous Media Presence project HERE

A best practice guide and check-list to commissioning and being commissioned for photography of Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities, in relation to our research recommendations, that considers:

  • Fair pay and limited licensing terms
  • Value-based, ethical and risk considerations from our research study
  • Cultural sensitivities

Overall guidance:

Lines of communication should include different languages to support and promote the resilience of native languages.

Publications should look to publish in the language of the people who appear in images or articles and/or share the publication with the communities in their dialect. 

The global media should diversify their pool of translators to allow and promote the resilience of different languages, and prevent dominant languages such as English and Spanish from making the existence of native languages invisible.

When commissioning new photography:

Exploratory research should deeply consider: 

  • What is the story?
  • Who will tell the story and why?
  • How to form connections? 
  • Being open to collaboration

Favour positive stories, which are more empowering for communities. If reporting on negative stories, positive elements of resilience and resistance should be highlighted as far as possible.

Create work with a flexible, transparent and informed approach.

Employ a considered editing approach which continues to be open to collaboration.

Consider the usefulness of sharing, and being open with, content.  

Be transparent and fair with industry-standard fees that reflect the length of licensing. Paying the same rate to photographers regardless of their country of origin and publishing pay rates openly are steps to achieving this. 

Honesty is essential in all interactions with photographers and communities.

Create considered and fair licensing agreements – exclusivity for no more than 3 months is a good industry example when licensing stories.

Even when licensing with exclusivity, communities should receive copies of the images and have the right to use them after publication e.g. for their own social media.

Non-exclusivity can be a more equitable approach to licensing work in the non-profit sphere.

When going on assignment:

Speak with the people appearing in images about any potential risks. Many will be aware of these risks already. Consider together the risks of identifying names, locations and faces of people in images.

Respect communities or individuals who do not want to be photographed. 

Consider the impact of photography on the mental health of the person photographed.

Be collaborative with the editing process, such as selecting photos with the people photographed, and be open to deleting photographs that raise concerns. This creates a more horizontal relationship between the photographer and the person photographed and helps to mitigate problems arising from publication.

All parties involved should be given the opportunity to see the publication before publishing to evaluate potential risks and concerns.

When purchasing or licensing existing work:

Exploratory research should consider:

  • What is the story?
  • Why are these images required to illustrate this story?

Be aware of the cultural context of images and do not de-contextualise images; be sensitive and aware of cultural appropriation. 

Further dialogue is required if and when the story deviates from the original agreement. 

Agree fair, equitable licensing parameters (with whom and how will the work be shared;  in what context) 

Be transparent and fair with industry-standard fees that reflect the length of licensing.

When selling existing work:

Transparency with the community about the destination of work is vital.

Provide cultural context with images.

Make photographs available with a press release/story which provides context for editorial use – licensees must not deviate from that story.

Sensitive documentary photography is rarely suitable for commercial use licensing.

Consider the destination of income from images, such as contribution back to the community.


Creating impact: New visual perspectives on the climate crisis

Zoom Webinar, 30 June 2021, 15:30-17:00 BST – Registration Link

This symposium will explore three urgent questions on how to create impactful communications on the climate crisis, in advance of the UN Climate Change Conference 2021 (COP26) to be held in Glasgow, Scotland starting 1 November:

  • How can visual images and stories impact the climate crisis agenda?
  • Are there new global voices and perspectives emerging?
  • How can images improve public engagement ahead of COP26?

Hosted by VII Insider, the symposium is a collaboration between Climate Visuals, University of the Arts London’s Photography and Arts Research Centre, Slideluck Editorial, and the VII Foundation.

This hour-long event will also introduce the Climate Visuals programme, its evidence base, and preview submissions to ‘Visualizing Climate Change: An Open Call for Photography’, which is a partnership with TED Countdown.

The Open Call is accepting submissions until 30th June and will distribute a total licensing fund of US $100,000 directly to photographers – professional and amateur – to build a diverse collection of powerful images of climate solutions from around the world that cover five key themes: energy, transport, materials, food, and nature. In the lead-up to COP26, this collection will be open access to climate communicators and editorial media via the new Climate Visuals library.


Paul Lowe

Participants and Agenda:

Toby Smith, Climate Visuals (15 minutes)

Introduction to Climate Visuals, its evidence base on impact, and the concept behind the ‘Visualizing Climate Change’ initiative

Maria Teresa Salvati, Slideluck Editorial (15 minutes)

A personal selection from the Open Call highlighting new voices and perspectives on climate change 

Nichole Sobecki (15 minutes)

Recent photographic work on the climate crisis 

Moderated Q&A (20 minutes)

Registration Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_VkXcx0XlQFerZhLnSJG6pw

Climate photography: a cool future for India’s dairy farmers?

Join Ashden, Climate Visuals, and LCAW as we use striking photography from rural India to explore the challenges faced by farmers living without access to refrigeration.

Thursday 1 July, 3.30-4.30pm BST

Register now

Around the world, more than 2.3 billion people go without clean and efficient cooling – often damaging their health and ability to earn a living. Proven, practical, and affordable solutions to the problem exist and must be scaled up as global temperatures rise.

Photographer Prashanth Vishwanathan (New York Times, The Guardian, Newsweek, Time) will discuss his images of the people at the heart of this story – while Jiten Ghelani, CEO of Promethean Power Systems, will share the inclusive solutions that can help even the most marginalised farmers.

They will be joined by experts in cooling and climate storytelling to talk about the growing danger of heat stress around the world, solutions to this problem, and how inclusive communications focused on the lives of those most at risk can accelerate progress.

This event is presented by the Ashden Fair Cooling Fund (supported by K-CEP) – an initiative bringing affordable, sustainable cooling to those most at risk around the world. Please join us for a fascinating session, particularly relevant to anyone interested in cooling, climate, or development, in India and beyond.

The panel:

Host: Ellen Dobbs, Programme Manager, Ashden
Climate and development photographer Prashanth Vishwanathan
Jiten Ghelani, CEO of Promethean Power Systems
Toby Smith, Senior Programme Lead at climate photography consultancy Climate Visuals

Visualizing Climate Change: An Open Call for Photography

Visualizing Climate Change: An Open Call for Photography

We're thrilled to launch ‘Visualizing Climate Change: An Open Call for Photography’ with TED Countdown to source, license and promote 100 powerful and diverse images of climate solutions from around the world.

In the lead-up to COP26, we will be supporting climate change photographers,  communicators, organisations and campaigners who have long struggled to create, access or afford quality visual content. 

This initiative will distribute a total licensing fund of US $100,000 directly to the photographers - professional and amateur - whose images are chosen by our independent jury.

In time for this and other new projects and partnerships, we've also launched a brand new Climate Visuals image library. The new site provides a more advanced search functionality including keywords, country, theme, date, license type and source. Users can also now register in order to see and access content that is ‘rights ready’ for their profile and needs, as well as save, download and collaborate on their image selections across multiple lightboxes. 

Submissions open:    1  June

Submissions close:     30 June

To receive the latest updates register now at Climate Visuals and ‘opt-in’ to our newsletter.

New Climate Visuals library

Welcome to the new Climate Visuals website and image library

Welcome to the new, expanded and improved Climate Visuals website and image library - a unique and trusted source of evidence and images for over 350 climate change and environmental groups, journalists, educators and businesses.   

Since our launch in 2016, our collection has grown to host over 1,000 Creative Commons and rights managed images - all content that embodies our evidence-based 7 Climate Visuals principles.   These guidelines and exemplary images help ensure photographers, commissioners and editors can find and select photography that goes beyond illustration towards positive impact. 

In April we relaunched our image library to maximise user and search functionality, creating new digital architecture to underpin four new major projects and partnerships for 2021 and COP26. The system is a customised word-press interface and digital asset management (DAM) platform provided by Capture  and gratefully funded by the KR Foundation

After registration, library users can now see and access content that is ‘rights ready’ for their profile and needs -  searching in combination by keywords,  country, theme, causes, impacts, solutions, date, license type and source.  Users can also save, download and collaborate on their image selections across multiple light boxes and share selected images directly to social media. 

Over the next six months, we plan to grow the library substantially with new partnerships and contributors, whilst rolling out customised climate-change keywords and vocabulary. This strategy and search tool will make our content even more accessible but also enable us to target and support both emerging and urgent climate narratives with the best visual content.   Our Climate Visuals research and full reports can now be found on the main Climate Outreach website, freeing up the Climate Visuals news pages for accessible summaries and news from across visual media. 

New York Climate Week Event: Climate Visuals Documenting Solutions

The power of imagery to communicate the urgency of acting now

In one of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication‘s most popular webinars, Toby Smith, our Senior Programme Lead for Visuals and Media, discusses how visual people-centred narratives and positive solutions drive strong climate communications.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year: a call for action

Wildlife Photographer of the Year: A call for entries and action

As the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition retires its Earth’s Environments, Creative Visions and Black and White categories, Competition Manager Gemma Ward shares what’s new for this year.

Three new categories will be introduced for Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Natural Artistry, Wetlands – The Bigger Picture and Oceans – The Bigger Picture. It is hoped that they will create a call for action for the competition and shine a light on some of the world’s most vital ecosystems.

Inspired by new strategies from both the Natural History Museum and the competition, Gemma believes that these new categories will help to ‘engage the public with climate issues and also attract the images that are telling these important stories and which have a strong message’.

‘We have also simplified the titles of the Wildlife Photojournalism and Wildlife Photojournalist Story Award categories to Photojournalism, to make it clear that the coverage is environmental in the broadest sense and not restricted to wildlife conservation and welfare issues’ Gemma explained.

‘There are so many crucial stories to be told and there’s more and more of these images being awarded.’

Ecosystems in focus

Following the museum’s declaration of a planetary emergency in January 2020, Gemma wanted to expand on how the competition engages the public in climate issues.

‘My initial thought was to have a climate change category,’ she says, ‘but then when I did some research, I found that actually it’s a very hard topic to photograph. There are very few photographers actually shooting climate change and we could potentially just have a category of flooding, droughts and fires.

‘They’re important pictures and we have our photojournalism category for them, but really I felt like what we needed to do was to delve deeper and this is where the focus on Oceans and Wetlands, as new categories for the competition, has come from.

 Sewage surfer was a finalist in the 2017 Wildlife Photojournalism category.
Photo credit: Justin Hofman

‘These ecosystems are in need of a critical call for action for their protection’ Gemma says, ‘because both are seriously under threat, and Wetlands are disappearing pretty quickly, and so hopefully this will shine a spotlight on them and bring more awareness to their vital role in tackling climate change.

‘I think a lot of people don’t know much about them and the importance of them, this is where the competition and the photographers work together.

A new perspective

As Wildlife Photographer of the Year looks towards its fifty-seventh year, Gemma considers the growing popularity of conservation images among the public. She says, ‘What’s interesting is that the exhibition visitors are loving the wildlife photojournalism categories, so hopefully these new categories will fall into their hands as well because they obviously appreciate these important stories and this will provide more of that in the exhibition.’

 Palm-oil survivors won the 2017 Wildlife Photojournalism category.
Photo credit: Aaron ‘Bertie’ Gekoski

Outside of the exhibition, conservation and photojournalism have also shone through in the People’s Choice Awards. Gemma explains, ‘For the last few years it’s the conservation images, voted for by the public, that have made the top five, and 10 years ago it would have always been the cute and cuddly or the pretty portraits, and so there is a real shift in the public’s perception and interest in conservation photography.’

This shift has been felt within the photography community as well. ‘A lot of wildlife photographers have felt that they wanted to do more storytelling pictures and that’s how a lot of conservation photographers have come about,’ Gemma adds.

With the natural world in crisis and ecosystems across the world facing destruction, it has never been more important to create advocates for the planet. Wildlife photographers are an important piece of that puzzle.

Is photography sufficient to communicate the climate emergency?

The third episode of the symposium ‘Visualizing Climate Change’,  jointly hosted by The Photography and the Archive Research Centre at the London College of CommunicationUniversity of the Arts LondonClimate VisualsSlideluck Editorial and the VII Photo Agency.

In our analysis and process discovery of how to effectively visualise climate change, we want to start from contemporary and documentary photography as our core medium to disseminate content around the current climate emergency. Furthermore, we want to draw new perimeters of knowledge around visualization and engagement, either by questioning the medium itself, or by using new disciplines and visual arts that go beyond photography.

Aware of the power of visual communication, there’s also a need to move the arts and humanities beyond the usual spaces and channels, as well as giving contemporary photography a social role. Considering the current global crisis, we want to reflect on ways to discover and produce new paradigms for communicating effectively, causes, consequences and solutions for climate change for the present and the future, leading to a long term cultural transition by unifying arts, ecological sustainability and social justice.


Start Time: 15:00 GMT / 16:00 CET / 10:00 EST 26th November 2020

End Time: 17:00 GMT / 18:00 CET / 12:00 EST 26th November 2020

Moderation by Paul Lowe

  • Introduction Maria Teresa Salvati (10 mins)
  • Presentation of the Everything is Connected projects (50 mins)
  • Kublaiklan (10 mins)
  • Shado Magazine (10 mins)
  • Monica Alcazar-Duarte (10 mins)
  • Roundtable (30 mins)

Register here

Maria Teresa Salvati, Slideluck Editorial

Maria Teresa Salvati, founder and director of Slideluck Editorial will present the results and the current ramification of disciplines involved in the ‘Everything is Connected’ call launched back in February. The call focused on climate change, and specifically had the intention to force a reflection on the inextricable connection between human action and the climate crisis and so, on the impact each of us has in carrying out with the way we live; and, not less important, on how the climate emergency is also tethered with the unjust world we live in.

The ten selected projects make us travel everywhere in the world, and through personal gazes, documentation, creativity and inspiration, they try to define new meanings of “connection”.

‘Everything is Connected’ is also an experimentation around participatory narrative, which puts together unusual targets, different media and disciplines, with the aim to reach new and wider publics, hoping to create empathy and inspiring positive actions by touching heart and eyes, and seeing the connection between planetary health and human health.

 Isadora’s project project explores the human presence on the white continent, bringing out the absurdities & contradictions of the human species.
Photo credit: Isadora Romero

Rica Cerbarano, Kublaiklan

Kublaiklan collective explores widely accessible ways of interacting with photography and investigates contemporary visual culture through site specific installations, curatorial, educational and editorial activities.

“Through the eyes of children” is a project by Kublaiklan. In the occasion of the ’Everything is connected’ call, the curatorial collective has developed a version of it on the topic of climate change and environmental issues.

Kublaiklan’s goal is to encourage reflection on the use and perception of images today. How do we look at the images we are surrounded by everyday? To what extent is our gaze filtered by our social beliefs? And above all: is photography enough to express and illustrate the issue of climate change? Starting from these questions, “Through the eyes of children” is a project conducted with children aged 6 to 12, working with the idea of their unfiltered gaze; and, above all, this project wants to underline the ambiguous nature of images and the importance of involving children and young people as active participants in the discourse on visual education.

Hannah Robathan / Isabella Pearce, Shado Magazine

Shado Magazine is a multimedia platform driving change at the intersection of arts, activism and academia. We aim to create a culture-led system change through uniting the work of those working at the frontlines of social, political and cultural change, platforming those with lived experience.

Our response to the theme ‘Everything is Connected’ has been to focus on reframing conversations around climate change as climate justice: that is, recognising that the climate crisis is a social justice issue.

For this to happen, people who have historically been left out of the climate conversation need to be at the forefront of any discussion. This focuses on those who are disproportionately impacted by the physical impacts of climate change – but who, in a twisted irony, are the people who have contributed the least to the crisis yet are impacted the most.

Monica Alcazar-Duarte

Monica Alcazar-Duarte is a British-Mexican multi-disciplinary visual artist. In her projects she seamlessly mixes images and new technologies, such as Augmented Reality, to create multi-layered work. In recent years Monica has mainly focused on the human relationship with Nature and our current use of technology and science as an attempt to gain control over it. Through the use of interactive images Monica’s work engages audiences in the process of producing meaning through seemingly disconnected narratives.

Alcazar-Duarte’s work confronts our obsession with speed, growth and a better future, and highlights our collective failure in accepting Nature’s evolutionary systems and its slow but incremental change.

Climate Visuals Countdown: Open call for photography by TED Countdown & Climate Visuals

We’re delighted to announce that the Climate Visuals programme has partnered with TED Countdown – a global initiative to champion and accelerate solutions to the climate crisis, turning ideas into action – to launch an open call for photography.

Climate Visuals Countdown is a photography initiative created by TED Countdown and our Climate Visuals programme.

The open call in 2021 will source, license and promote 100 powerful images of climate change taken by both professional and amateur photographers from around the world. The final 100 images will be selected by an independent jury, and this initiative will distribute a total licensing fund of US $100,000 directly to the chosen photographers.


 Family in Demak Regency, Indonesia, in their flooded home
Photo credit: Aji Styawan / Getty Images Climate Visuals Grant recipient

Further details on the initiative will be announced in early 2021. Submissions will support the overall TED Countdown objective – to champion and accelerate solutions to the climate crisis. As with TED Countdown, the photography initiative will have five sub-themes that will be phased in during 2021: energy, transport, materials, food and nature.

The call for entries will ask photographers to submit work that embodies the Climate Visuals’ evidence base on how photography can most effectively maximize storytelling, increase engagement and encourage positive behavior change.

To make sure you don’t miss details about this call for photography as they are announced, sign up to the Climate Outreach newsletter!

Getty Images partners with Climate Visuals to launch guidelines helping brands and businesses use visuals which incite change

We’re delighted to announce Getty Images has partnered with our Climate Visuals programme to launch guidelines helping brands and businesses use visuals which incite change. Read Getty Images’ full press release below about this partnership and new research showing climate and sustainability are still a top concern despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

NEW YORK – October 7, 2020: Getty Images has today unveiled new research which shows that climate, and sustainability more broadly, are still key issues for people even amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The findings have been revealed in a second wave of research for Visual GPS, completed in conjunction with global market research firm YouGov.

The updated Visual GPS research reveals that 81% of people globally expect companies to be environmentally aware in all their advertising and communications. Even despite Covid-19, nearly all points on sustainability remained similar, if not higher than from previous data taken before Covid-19:

  • 91% of respondents today said they believe the way we treat our planet now will have a large impact on the future, compared to 92% from July 201
  • 69% of respondents today said they do everything they can do reduce their carbon footprint, an increase from 63% from July 2019
  • 85% of respondents today are worried about air pollution, compared to 84% from July 2019

”It is surprising and heartening that despite the huge change to people’s lifestyles and consumer behavior brought about by Covid-19, the environment and sustainability remain as important to people as they ever were. While interest in the environment waned in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, the environment has become inextricably linked to wellness during the Covid-19 crisis.” – Dr Rebecca Swift, Global Head of Creative Insights at Getty Images

Visualising sustainability guidelines

In response to the Visual GPS research, Getty Images has partnered with Climate Visuals, the world’s only evidence-backed program for climate change photography, to present Visualizing Sustainability Guidelines. The guidelines below are linked to curated imagery of example content and give brands and businesses practical recommendations on how to find and use fresh and relevant visual content to communicate their commitment to sustainability and inspire their audiences to action.

Businesses have sustainability experts and/or Diversity & Inclusion experts but visual content relating to environmentalism and sustainability should not be separated from visual content that is inclusive and diverse. Representational strategies should extend to sustainability.

Climate change affects everyone across the globe, so intentionally include representation across ethnicity, class, age, sexual orientation, gender identification, religion and culture. Empower and feature all underrepresented voices. Break stereotypes of every kind.

Familiar images of melting icebergs and industrial chimney stacks can be popular symbols for signifying climate change, but they lose currency with repeated exposure. In addition to the classic symbolism, try expanding your scope with visuals that illustrate new sustainable concepts such as “circular economy”, “reusable” or “energy efficiency”.

Brands, eager to overcome the sense of helplessness many consumers feel, should focus on visual content that helps visualize the concrete actions, positive steps, outcomes and real solutions that will pave the way to a better, more sustainable future.

Content should reflect authentic stories, including both the positive and negative aspects of outcomes and activities of individuals, communities and businesses who are innovating and collaborating to achieve sustainability. From those who are making small lifestyle changes, to industries who are driving innovative sustainable initiatives and new technologies.

Creative content should show authentic individuals having real impact on a local level. Visuals highlighting individuals and groups at their best, relative to sustainability issues, personalize the stories for your target audience. Think about every aspect of the visual – whether it be an image, video or illustration – plastic straws, disposable coffee cups and plastic bags are elemental but undermine the sustainable message.

”In partnering with Getty Images on these new guidelines, we aim to  help brands and businesses take an evidence-based, solutions-focused approach to the climate crisis, visualizing the actions, objects, and ideas that are paving the way to a greener future.” – Toby Smith, Senior Program Lead: Visuals & Media at Climate Visuals

For more information on Visual GPS please visit https://creativeinsights.gettyimages.com/en/trends/sustainability

Call for Diversity, equity and inclusion specialist(s)


This position is now closed

We are seeking Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) specialists to provide advice on 3 projects under the Climate Visuals programme on a contract basis. These roles are suitable for DEI specialists who are available to work on an ad hoc basis.

This brief includes responsibilities for 3 different projects. We are not expecting one specialist to advise 3 projects. We are looking for the right candidate for each project with relevant skills and knowledge built from academic, professional or personally developed experience.

If you are interested in this role, please send your CV with details of 2 referees to recruitment@climateoutreach.org. In your email please specify the project(s) you are interested in and your price quotation. We are unable to pay above the budget indicated under each project. If you are shortlisted, we will get in touch with you with detailed project briefs and expected deliverables. We are looking to fill these roles as soon as possible, therefore we will close applications as soon as the positions are filled.

Contract type: Consultant contract (Asap in Sept 2020 to 30 Apr 2021). With the right candidate, we see this advisory role extending into other areas of work at Climate Outreach subject to funding

Works with: Climate Visuals Team and Climate Outreach Project Manager

Hours of work: Flexible, various pipeline projects requiring periodic inputs from Sept 2020 to Apr 2021

Available for meetings with at least 3 hours overlap between 9am to 6pm GMT/UK time as the Climate Visuals team work during these hours.

Location: Remote, providing advice primarily to UK/EU-based teams

Pay: Please see below for project budget envelopes

Climate Outreach is a team of social scientists and communication specialists working to widen and deepen public engagement with climate change. Through our research, practical guides and consultancy services, our organisation helps other organisations communicate about climate change in ways that resonate with the values of their audiences. Climate Visuals is a programme by Climate Outreach and it is the world’s only evidence-backed programme for climate change photography.

Climate Visuals is committed to ensuring that the entire programme is inclusive and equitable to everyone. The main focus of this role will be to work with the Climate Visuals Lead, project managers and external collaborating partners to ensure design and execution of projects are equitable and inclusive to a diverse range of audiences. Climate Visuals works with professional & amateur photographers, media specialists, academics, researchers, influencers, climate change organisations and communicators from a diverse range of communities from across the globe.

We are looking for a passionate Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) specialist/s to advise on ensuring that the projects detailed below are equitable and inclusive.

Diversity and inclusion

We are looking for passionate Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) specialists to advise on ensuring that the projects detailed below are equitable and inclusive. Climate Outreach is committed to providing equal employment opportunity in all of its employment programs and decisions. We recognise that a diverse and inclusive movement is critical to solving climate change, and that we must ensure that those directly impacted – particularly those who have been excluded in the past – are at the centre of the movement for change. We do our best to make staff positions accessible to all potential team members, regardless of race, colour, national origin, ethnicity, age, disability, assigned gender, gender expression or identity, sexual orientation or identity, religion or creed, veteran status, and marital or parental status. We strive to recruit team members and consultants from communities most impacted by climate change or impacted by other kinds of environmental, social, and economic injustice. We therefore strongly encourage applications from people of colour, women, LGBTQ people and members of marginalised communities.

Person specification (for all projects)


– Passion for photography and storytelling through imagery.

– Confidence to challenge, disrupt and adapt systemic or established practices with a view to implementing positive change.

– Advocate for equal rights and inclusiveness.

– A passion for climate change engagement, and an interest in learning Climate Visuals’ key principles and in advocating them to others.

– Good computer skills, visual literacy and familiarity with programmes in G Suite and online picture research.

– Excellent at time and task management.

– Verbal, written and presentation skills.

– Understanding of diversity of communications through direct publishing, traditional media, online and social media.


– Experience of issues regarding photographic and media representation.

– Experience in working with the media, non-profit or communication organisations.

– 3 years’ experience in project consultation on diversity, equity & inclusion.

– A masters level qualification in the subject of diversity, equity & inclusion or in a similar/equivalent subject. Alternatively, studying for a similar qualification or doing research work on a similar subject.

Project briefs

Project 1

Budget £1,480

Project period: from September 2020 to April 2021

The ultimate purpose of this project is to connect global media and communications professionals with the most appropriate, impactful and effective imagery on climate change, including those regarding the issues of climate solutions, land use and conservation.

Climate Visuals is producing a co-authored report investigating how the 7 Climate Visuals Principles (CVPs) can be applied or extended to depicting forests, lands, and indigenous rights as climate solutions at a global level, with a particular focus on Brazil and Indonesia. Starting with the original Climate Visuals research and updated evidence from the 2020 “Visualising Climate Hackathon”, the white paper will explore best photographic practice for depicting in a global context:

  • Natural climate solutions, forests and deforestation
  • Indigenous communities and their relationship to climate and environmental issues
  • Land use and land rights issues

The methodology will include, but is not limited to, extending the evidence base of Climate Visuals using the new report, before curating substantial photography collections from major online image libraries. Final deliverables will be agreed following this first phase of the project, and may include producing a public ‘search-engine’ user guide.

Responsibilities / deliverables:

  • Advise on participatory research and drafting process with indigenous peoples, including desk research, online stakeholder interviews and roundtables, and presentation within an accessible format.
  • Advise on curation of substantial photography collections reflecting: land use, land rights issues, forests, deforestation, natural climate solutions, indigenous communities and their relationship to climate and environmental issues.
  • (Subject to definition of final deliverables): Advise on the creation of an online best-practice guide to the use of search engines to identify the most appropriate, impactful and effective imagery.
  • Participate in the evaluation of the overall project to identify learnings to inform future project practices.

Person specification:


  • Understanding of diversity and inclusion issues that indigenous communities in Brazil and Indonesia face, particularly in relation to climate and environmental issues.
  • Understanding of wider diversity, inclusion and representation considerations, including risk issues, in the photographic depiction of land use and land rights issues; forests, deforestation and natural climate solutions; and indigenous communities and their relationship to climate and environmental issues.
  • Experience in guiding the design phase of participatory research (desk research, interviews, collaborative reviews) to ensure inclusiveness and meaningful participation of underrepresented communities.
  • Knowledge in drafting accessible and inclusive online instructional materials or guides.
  • Experience in working with multiple partner/stakeholder projects across time-zones and languages.
  • Experience of online outreach work or digital inclusiveness.


  • Awareness of land use, land rights issues, forests, deforestation and natural climate solutions in Brazil and Indonesia.


Project 2

Budget £2,170

Project period: from September 2020 to February 2021

In collaboration with a major Climate Change and Communication Foundation, Climate Visuals will design and run an ambitious global, public, accessible photography project to catalyse, stimulate, curate and select images to support a major programme of events and public engagement in Climate Change issues. This project will run in the year prior to COP26, with a view to significantly influencing the availability and uptake of imagery by key communications organisations and media outlets. The project seeks to catalyse, find, reward and raise the profile of diverse and representative local photographers from across the globe.

Responsibilities / deliverables:

  • Provide steering advice and methodological review to maximise the inclusivity, accessibility and geographic reach of the overall project design.
  • Review the online Climate Visuals resources and photographic briefs to maximise the accessibility and inclusivity of these materials.
  • Advise on the creation of an independent, diverse and representative judging panel and on the accompanying back-end digital systems to ensure equality and transparency.
  • Assist in identifying appropriate PR organisations to partner with from professional and amateur photography circles.

Person specification


  • Understanding of diversity and inclusion issues at a global level with particular attention to the needs, interests and systemic barriers that photographers (across all levels of expertise) face in producing and publishing images related to climate change.
  • Experience of online outreach work or digital inclusiveness.
  • Knowledge in drafting accessible and inclusive instructional materials, guides, terms and conditions.
  • Experience in a global digitally-based contest design, including jury selection.
  • Experience in working with multiple partner/stakeholder projects.


Project 3 (subject to funding agreement)

Budget £2,450

Project period: from September 2020 to December 2020

Climate Visuals is working to increase and diversify audience engagement with natural spaces in England to better represent contemporary users and uses of the natural environment in England, by providing an evidence-based and representative image library that will enable efforts around engaging people with the natural environment to be more impactful. Through doing so, it will also increase and diversify public engagement with climate change issues.

As an initial step, we will run a stakeholder roundtable in November 2020 to convene senior representatives from UK nature-related organisations and communication teams to test our ideas around users and uses of the natural environment and the degree of representation within the current available image library, and also to scope out how best to approach this work, considering outreach, methods and appetite to be involved.

Responsibilities / deliverables:

  • Design, convene, coordinate, deliver and report on a stakeholder roundtable to explore current diversity issues in UK nature-related photography and assess future directions for collaboration.
  • Contribute fresh ideas on the subject of natural environment users and improving representative images in the space of natural environment.
  • Advise on improving representation of photographers and imagery from BAME communities in the photography sector, with specific emphasis on climate change and biodiversity loss.

Person specification:


  • Experience in designing, convening and facilitating accessible stakeholder roundtables, ensuring meaningful participation and documentation.
  • Understanding of diversity and inclusion issues for BAME groups in equitably accessing natural spaces in England.
  • Understanding of diversity and inclusion issues more widely within photography considering both issues of representation and the industry structure. .
  • Understanding of the interests and barriers for UK-based stakeholders in making use of representative, contemporary imagery to promote increased public access to natural spaces and awareness of climate change and biodiversity loss.
  • Understanding of the barriers photographers from BAME communities face within climate change campaigning space.

The Environmental Sublime

Symposium, Visualizing Climate Change:

Episode 2: The Environmental Sublime

The event is hosted jointly by The Photography and the Archive Research Centre at the London College of CommunicationUniversity of the Arts LondonClimate VisualsSlideluck Editorial and the VII Photo Agency.

The ‘sublime’ is a concept and cultural practice that has influenced the western understanding, engagement, representation, ethic, and aesthetic in art since the seventeenth century. Throughout history, the role of the sublime has influenced how citizens aesthetically view images of pain and horror as interesting and ‘beautiful’, as long as the spectator is safe from danger.

The proliferation of image-making and sharing in the past years have made viewers more accustomed to seeing images of destruction, violence or ice-melting, with the risk of letting the spectators consume the story aesthetically rather than politically.

Has the role of the ‘sublime’ and aesthetics changed in documenting and visualising pain, horror and danger, over the years? Through examples and the witnessing of contemporary photographers, we’ll try to understand and raise questions, hoping to identify a balance between content, ethics and aesthetics, and the fundamental need for documentary photography visualising climate change, to engage, create empathy and inspire positive actions.

This symposium will explore strategies that combine a distinctive visual strategy with a campaigning ethos and examine how audiences might respond to work in spaces outside of mainstream media alone.

  Carbon Pigment Inkjet-Prints from 6 x 6 negatives, 2015. Triptych, 1/5. 112,5 x 337,5 cms. Exhibition view «Daniel Schwartz. Glacier Odyssey», 2018. Courtesy: Bündner Kunstmuseum, Chur, Switzerland, and Calle Services Management Ltd, Zurich.
Photo credit: Daniel Schwartz / VII.  Rhone Glacier. Switzerland. 3 September 2014.


Moderation by Paul Lowe

  • 16.00-16.15 CEST Introduction by Maria Teresa Salvati
  • 16.15-16.35 Klaus Thymann/Project Pressure
  • 16.35-16.55 Simon Norfolk
  • 16.55-17.15 Daniel Schwartz
  • 17.15-17.35 Solmaz Daryani
  • 17.35-18.00 Panel discussion

Klaus Thymann/Project Pressure

Danish born Klaus Thymann is a multi-award-winning photographer, filmmaker, writer and creative director. He has developed an original viewpoint having worked across a wide range of subjects and media, utilising a cross-disciplinary skill-set combining journalism, image-making, mapping, documentary and exploration with a focus on contemporary issues and climate crisis. Delivering original content and installations across multiple platforms for Institutions, brands, NGOs and media.

Project Pressure is a charity with a mission to visualize the climate crisis. We use art as a positive touch-point to inspire action and behavioural change. Unlike wildfires and flooding, glaciers are not part of the weather system and when looking at glacier mass loss over time, one can see the result of global heating. This makes glaciers key indicators of the climate crisis and the focus of our work.

Since 2008 Project Pressure has been commissioning world-renowned artists to conduct expeditions around the world for the purpose of creating an exhibition visualizing the climate crisis. The artists represented in the exhibition have taken on the role of investigators of Earth’s increasingly unstable environment – creating eye-opening work that endeavours to incite social and political change. The projects were developed and executed with scientists to ensure accuracy, resulting in work from every continent on the planet.

Project Pressure has pioneered innovative, new technological strategies and forged partnerships with the World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). In 2011, Project Pressure was recognized as an official contributor to the Global Terrestrial Network for Glaciers (GTN-G).

With more than 30 countries and territories visited, Project Pressure has generated reoccurring media coverage in The Guardian, BBC, NY Times, CNN, Le Monde, Wired and National Geographic amongst many others.

 Photo credit: Simon Norfolk / Klaus Thymann. Shroud, 2018.

Simon Norfolk

In October 2014 Simon Norfolk traced the previous glacial area of Lewis Glacier, Mount Kenya, using fire to show the 1965 glacier extent. The result are comparative images representing the historic as well as the current glacial front. In utilising a dramatic juxtaposition of elements alongside a simple message, Norfolk produced highly potent artwork. This series was the winner of the Sony World Photography Award 2015 (landscape category).

In an attempt to preserve an ice-grotto tourist attraction at the Rhône Glacier, local Swiss entrepreneurs wrapped a significant section of the ice-body in a thermal blanket. In their collaborative work, Simon Norfolk and Klaus Thymann address financial issues as driving forces behind human adaptation to the changing climate. The title Shroud refers to the melting glacier under its death cloak. In addition, a thermal image time-lapse film was created, showing how glaciers compare to the surrounding landscape by only reacting to long-term temperature changes, as opposed to weather fluctuations.

Daniel Schwartz

The presentation will briefly retrace my personal journey of thirty years on humanity’s troubled path of progress, a process to become manifest in the climate crisis. While the Fires Burn. A Glacier Odyssey, begun in 2009, published in 2017 and being the main topic of my presentation leads from the relics of Holocene glaciation in Switzerland into the milieu of the Anthropocene, to collapsing glaciers on three continents. This project is the counterpart and continuation of Delta. The Perils, Profits and Politics of Water in South and Southeast Asia (1997). The early photojournalistic documentation turned out to be »a visual “j’accuse”« (Financial Times). The more recent project on the agony of the cryosphere lead to a “glaciology in pictures,” and a synthesis of scientific observation and artistic action. Here, for the first time, the “explanatory,” geometrically true aviatic perspective shapes the photographic image. Its terrestrial counterpart is the new media experience of exploration on foot and by bicycle (symbolizing a technological advance that is also environmentally sound), which thus become instruments of “walkscapes” and “bikescapes.” These works, viewed in conjunction with the textworks and as a supplement to the (photographically reproducible) landscapes situated firmly in the present, yield an “anticipatory review”: They home in on events and occurrences archived in glacial time that transcend geological strata and human memory spans, and by calling to mind prehistorical glaciation afford a foretaste of the next ice age, some 15,000 to 50,000 years hence. It is in the nature of glaciers to advance and retreat. Today, however, glaciers can lose their gate faster than a child learns to talk, and that can feel like a personal loss. The collapse of the stagnating ice of glaciers, whose reaction to climate change is delayed, means a collapse of the time frozen within it all over again. Not just my own lifetime since those days in the deltas a quarter of a century ago, but also the timespan punctuated by conferences, treaties, and protocols, during which greenhouse gas emissions actually rose by 40 per cent and politicians proved themselves incapable of taking concerted preventative action, while a million fires burn.

Solmaz Daryani

Solmaz is a self-taught Iranian documentary photographer based in Tabriz, Iran and Newcastle, UK. Her personal work explores the connections between socio-economic drought, climate change migration, water crisis, and the environment in her native Iran. She has a Bachelors Degree in Computer Science from Islamic Azad University in Tehran, Iran.

Through her work, she seeks to connect documentary photography and fictional storytelling, by exploring personal narratives that reveal characters and scenes in the communities that she is drawn towards. Her work has been published in National Geography Magazine, Foreign Policy Magazine, Polka Magazine, L’OBS Magazine, British Journal of Photography, Le Monde Magazine, Woman Paper Visa journal, Dutch geography schoolbook de Geo, Télérama Magazine, One World Magazine, The American Scholar Magazine, Emerge Magazine, Kel12 Magazine, Le Point Magazine and other publications.

In 2015, she received the IdeasTap and Magnum Photos Grant while working on the long-term project The Eyes of Earth, an investigation into the environmental and human impact of the drying of Lake Urmia which is one of the most unfortunate environmental disasters of Iran.

Climate Change and the Female Gaze


At this time of crisis, it is important to acknowledge the gendered nuances of the impact of climate change, and how women are playing leading roles in affirmative climate action.  This symposium brings together a range of women producing work that is challenging the stereotypes of the visual representation of climate change.

The event is hosted jointly by The Photography and the Archive Research Centre at the London College of Communication, University of the Arts London, Climate Visuals and the VII Photo Agency. It will include presentations from Nichole Sobecki from the VII Photo Agency, Eva Sajovic and Corinne Silva from Picturing Climate and Maria Teresa Salvati from Slideluck Editorial.

The Climate Visual’s evidence demonstrates that within the criteria for effective climate change visualization there is the need to have images that are emotionally powerful, and mostly representing real people, showing real emotions. Now more than ever we need to be aware of how much we are connected; not only in passively enduring the consequences of climate change and its catastrophic effects but also in the tangible possibility and hope that if we act the other way around, we can impact positively in reversing the trend. The story is making us see how vulnerable we all are.

The effects of the unjust planet we have created are forcing a further reflection on accepting the idea that we are so intrinsically connected with everything, and that we are inextricably part of nature, and in this, we are therefore part of the global problem, as well as the potential solution. As a consequence, it seems important to create empathy with the viewers.

In what ways can creative and personal interpretations of the connections between the self, to others, to animals, to the world around us, the Earth, be inspiring and thought-provoking from a visual storytelling perspective? Is this new perspective of visualizing climate change opening to a softer, kinder, more empathetic gaze, moving from the stereotypes of landscape and environmental photography mostly depicted by men?


14.00 GMT / 15.00 BST / 16.00 CET / 10.00 EDT – Start

16.00 – 16.15 CET

Introduction by Maria Teresa Salvati and Brigitte Lardionis PARC

16.15-16.45 CET

Nichole Sobecki, VII Photo Agency

This is the story of the mother who didn’t flee civil war but fled the drought. The fisherman pushed into piracy by empty nets in a depleted, lawless sea. The young farmer who felt the pull of the militant group Al Shabab when his crops failed for multiple seasons.

A woman walks through a cactus field in a drought-stricken area of western Somaliland, a semi-autonomous region in the north of Somalia, on April 6, 2016.
Photo credit: Nichole Sobecki / VII


Climate change and environmental degradation are transforming Somalia, pushing people to desperate choices and violence. Somalis live and die depending on the amount of rain that falls each year. For generations, they have survived extreme conditions, relying on their traditions and community. A quarter-century of civil war tested those ties and challenged their resiliency. But rain falls less now, and the temperatures are rising.

“With this weather pattern, Somalia or Somalis will not survive,” said Fatima Jibrell, an environmental activist. “Maybe the land, a piece of desert called ‘Somalia,’ will exist on the map of the world, but Somalis cannot survive.”

Through photography, rare archival imagery and a documentary short, “A Climate for Conflict” explores the environmental roots of conflict in Somalia, and the ways its woes spill beyond its place on the map.


16.45-17.15 CET

Maria Teresa Salvati, Slideluck Editorial

Maria Teresa Salvati, director of Slideluck Editorial will present the third biennial global call launched by the platform, on the theme: Everything is Connected. The call is a reflection on how the events associated with climate change are inextricably connected with the way we live, eat, vote, consume, and act, but also with the unjust world we live in. The aim is to reflect on content, aesthetics and dissemination, exploring the social role contemporary and documentary photography can have.

One of the key questions at the moment is: in what ways can photography help to convey powerful messages and draw new perimeters of visions that can help us think, and use its most creative and comprehensive expression as a way to contribute to telling the stories of our times, create empathy, promote positive actions, and define new meanings of “connection”. So, why is climate change still a topic dominated mostly by the male gaze?

Info about the call is available here.

17.15-17.45 CET

Picturing Climate – Eva Sajovic and Corinne Silva

Picturing Climate brings together artists, researchers and grassroots arts organizations to explore the potential of participatory photography and video, narrative storytelling, and theatre as a means to share knowledges and experiences about the current effects of climate change. The first phase (November 2019 – November 2020) took place across Cuba, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jordan, and the UK, culminating in a public program at Tate Modern’s Tate Exchange.

17.45-18.15 CET

Closing Panel Discussion with all the presenters moderated by Brigitte Lardinois PARC

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Covering the Climate Crisis from a Solutions Lens

Climate Visuals has collaborated with the INKLINE and Conservation Optimism on a virtual workshop and summary report  entitled ‘Covering the Climate Crisis from a Solutions Lens’.  Hosted as part of the Solutions Journalism Network’s LEDE Fellowship; the workshop asked a diverse group of climate activists, journalists and scientists;

‘How can we move away from the doom and gloom narrative and embrace a solutions lens?’

From apocalyptic headlines to photographs of forests burning down, the coverage of the climate crisis can leave audiences feeling overwhelmed and prone to burnout.’  This problem was approached collaboratively by looking at how we can facilitate greater knowledge exchange between diverse communicators to help make solutions more prevalent in the UK’s media landscape.

Eric from Repowering sat next to the solar panels on top of the Bannister House estate. Repowering London – 2016 Ashden Award winners.
Photo credit: Ashden

When asked why climate change solutions are not more prevalent in the news, attendees identified the following points as playing a key role:

  • Challenges of covering solutions: Many solutions are systemic, have long development timelines, and often require high-level policy and/or institutional interventions.
  • Limitations of the journalism system: Good news is often considered to be ‘fluffy journalism’ and solutions journalism is not yet embedded within the system.
  • Issues of clarity: Climate scientists are working with many nuances and complexities so it is hard for them to simplify multifaceted issues into potential solutions for journalists to cover effectively.
  • Limitations of the academic system: Academics and scientists can be isolated in their research and often do not have the time, skills, resources or connections to communicate to members of the media.
  • Commercial aspects of the journalism sector: From a commercial perspective, newsrooms/marketing teams often argue that solutions stories do not proliferate as well as other types of stories.
Barry Aliman, 24 years old, bicycles with her baby to fetch water for her family, Sorobouly village near Boromo, Burkina Faso.
Photo credit: Ollivier Girard / CIFOR

The group then decided to focus on finding ways to mitigate the first two points (Challenges of covering solutions and Limitations of the journalism system) and identified a series of ways to address those challenges to help make solutions more prevalent in the UK’s media landscape.

Workers using new spinning wheels to make silk. Resham Sutra – 2019 Ashden Award winners.
Photo credit: Ashden

The full report, drafted by Julia Migne (Conservation Optimism) with inputs by Josh Ettinger (University of Oxford) and Toby Smith (Climate Outreach) is available to read and download below

Why Can’t The Media Visualise Climate Solutions?

This story is a part of Covering Climate Now’s week of coverage focused on climate solutions. Covering Climate Now is a global journalism initiative committed to strengthening coverage of the climate story. As a partner, Climate Visuals curated a library of solutions imagery made available to the 400 news outlets participating.

The hunger for images that show new and existing solutions to the climate crisis continues to grow exponentially as our collective awareness deepens.  But relevant and engaging imagery is hard, or even impossible, to source.

As a career photojournalist focused on environmental stories – researching, finding, chasing and shooting climate solutions is a provocation and frustration I have wrestled with personally for over a decade. Since August, I have also been consulting and editing professionally as I head-up the Climate Visuals programme (part of the non-profit Climate Outreach) that researches, advises and curates climate photography. Working with news editors and journalists on a topic that is under-reported at best has helped me better understand why climate solutions imagery is so stubbornly absent from the news stream.

The dominance of negative and even distressing content, which makes for popular and powerful news, can leave audiences with a sense of hopelessness. The stubborn dominance of clickbait and disaster coverage of climate is not a new observation. However, social science has long purported that promoting actionable solutions, particularly coupling them with these emotionally arresting stories of negative impact, helps promote a more effective and lasting positive reaction in readers.

Earlier this year, we hosted a Hackathon in conjunction with Exeter University convening a dozen academics specialising in climate change imagery, as well as industry professionals from both Getty Images and the World Press Photo Foundation. All are leading experts committed to refreshing and collating further evidence into what makes editorial climate photography not just illustrative but also impactful to viewers.

One of the key takeaways:  News and social media using high quality, relevant photography increases viewer engagement, saliency and likely its onwards sharing. However, save for the dwindling clutch of premium news titles, the ability to commission quality, new photography is made unaffordable against established and continuing cuts in publishing ad spend and funding. Lens-based reportage unequivocally requires the camera to travel to its story and has suffered disproportionately. The start of this unconcluded race to the bottom of image pricing was the debut of free online news.

The solar power is providing water purification, refrigerator for food and medicines, a computer for the community, and lights to frighten away the hyenas.
Photo credit Morgana Wingard / USAID / CC BY-NC 2.0

Confusingly, over the same period, photography has enjoyed rising cultural importance, becoming a ubiquitous medium and universal communication tool throughout society globally. Every graphical magazine, any branded news layout and every social media author requires and will include the strongest imagery they can afford or source – but not always legitimately. Recent analysis of news illustration suggests that the most popular and effective type of illustration for climate narratives is still traditional, authentic editorial photography.

Photography as a documentary medium cannot easily travel beyond the present as literature, interviews, opinion pieces or statistics on climate change delve into predictions. In order to talk in the future tense, photographers or editors must lean on illustrative or conceptual photography, without the gravity or authenticity to convince viewers. Worse still, news teams are often forced to illustrate climate solutions with the climate causes or impacts that  the solutions are designed to counter. This clash of tone between image and their headline is proven to undermine an article.

When turning a camera backwards on science, wielding the latest digital camera technology is ironically problematic. If a company is innovative and genuine, the positive benefit of granting access to a journalist is undeniable, but a camera’s high resolution mechanical eye risks espionage. If Musk, Bezos or those based in Cupertino were designing a solution to climate change, the first visual results would inevitably be released at a highly choreographed and scripted, share price-boosting stage show. These visuals are the bland, carefully choreographed and airbrushed lifestyle scenes designed to sell us a finished technology ‘solution’ once it is available on the market. Commercial imagery can reek of constructed values and veiled attempts at authenticity that feel contrived. Without real integrity, these images rarely ascend into the journalistic domain, nor buy our long term behavioural trust. The more interesting and believable stories on the details, endeavours and failures of climate solutions and those working to develop them remain hidden in research basements or patent applications.

 A technician makes adjustments to a wind turbine at the National Wind Technology Center in Boulder, Colorado. Technological climate solutions can lack emotion but revealing boththe engineering scale, human endeavour and dramatic interactions between them willresonate with a broader audience.
Photo credit: Dennis Schroeder / NREL / CC BY-NC 2.0

Many accepted and actionable climate solutions rely on personal or societal behaviour change, much of which is reductionist or physically subtle. Photography uniquely documents only a tiny chronological slice of shutter speed selected reality, and so struggles to convey any concept expressed as a change in frequency as opposed to static volume or scale. Part explaining why cyclists have long represented sustainable behaviour, dense gridlocked traffic indicates pollution and all environmentalists eat greens when interviewed over lunch. More natural or forest solution efforts, if implemented correctly, return habitat to its original, arguably undramatic, state.  Photographers and clients alike are seduced by images of tree planting as remedy, the well worn, critical moment when a sapling is placed back into the earth with human hands.


 Every Sunday, in Bogota, main roads are closed to vehicles.  Cycling is an obvious, aspirational solution with multiple climate and societal benefits but should be used to illustrate stories correctly and not over-used as a lazy metaphor for sustainability at large.
Photo credit: Plan Bici / Ashden 


In considering how to push past such clichéd traps, photographers need to remain patient, research more deeply and work in a manner closer to that of the written journalists they are drafted to support. As both transport and time are costly units we have all the more reason to empower local storytellers, ingrained with the values and sensitivities of their subject matter. Yet there are systemic failures of the photography industry to use local, ethnic or gender-balanced voices in reporting real global solutions. The issue is often one of connectivity and trust in the broadest sense. Localised professional news photographers in emerging economies, where many climate solutions are also emerging most organically, are often focussed on local or political reporting. We cannot assume they are free or even be able to work safely near state-controlled news agencies. The battle lines of the free press often track closely to the boundaries of the climate justice nexus.

 Afghan technicians are finishing installation and testing of the solar array. Local voices and photographers intuned with the culture and values of their subjects will generate more intimate images with integrity whilst being able to access closer and stay longer with a story.
Photo credit: Robert Foster / Winrock International / US AID / CC BY-NC 2.0


Citizen reporting and user-generated photography has also grown globally with the proliferation of smartphones. The billions of images and climate stories that are captured, and no doubt proliferate locally on closed peer-to-peer apps, rarely make it into international publications unless they are truly exceptional. The barriers to distribution and verification are complex, and even if a story idea could be framed or connected internationally, the presentation style and resolution of smartphones rarely match the expectations required by professional news agencies. Only the most viral, and therefore most valuable content, is ever verified, with none of that value or story drivers trickling back to the original source in the field.

 The GEF Blue Forest project`s aim was to improve understanding of the valuable ecosystem services that coastal blue carbon ecosystems provide. Restoring diverse types of habitat, as a climate solution, has a multitude of stages that  depend on work and collaboration between scientists and land-owners,all of which provide multiple opportunities for photography beyond the cliche of planting itself.
Photo Credit: Rob Barnes / Blue Forests / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

It is tempting, in conclusion, to suggest the need for a radical overhaul, a new way of working or a magic bullet funding model to reinvigorate or democratize  photojournalism at large. However, this would be an unrealistic goal given the rapid, unpredictable evolution of news media reporting, and how utterly fragmented, digitized and unmappable the future content creator and agency network is. However, raising resources for targeted geographic and systemic interventions –  for the current state of play – is a unique and urgent cause for optimism. Seizing a chance to build photographic capacity where it is most needed; with climate solutions in frame. These new unseen images and stories, could intrinsically possess a value, quality and uniqueness that cuts through and exploits the broken, unrepresentative visual index, and sees them easily proliferate as intelligent, fresh and inspirational metaphors. Only then can we trace the eloquent and clear theory of change shared by the solutions journalism network, offering empowerment and creating more discerning actors capable of shaping a better society.

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The vital role of photography in driving climate narratives and positive change

Within the proposals and image portfolios submitted for the Getty Images Climate Visuals grants lie dozens of untold climate narratives from over 40 countries. The 144 applicants presented an incredible snapshot of our human and local climate reality; a collective distillation of emotionally-charged impacts, inspiring examples of resilience or adaptation and the optimism of solutions.

Today, approximately 2.4 billion people around the world live within 100km of a coastline. Almost two thirds of the world’s cities of 5 million or more inhabitants are located in areas at risk of sea level rise. In partnership with Getty Images, we are very proud to be able to support Aji Styawan and Greg Kahn, recipients of the Getty Images Climate Visuals grants, to continue their projects as soon as it becomes safe to do so, working independently on opposite sides of the world at the intersection of humanity, climate, land and sea.


Syakir (26) is watching TV inside his flooded home due to rising sea levels. Local villagers learn to survive even though their lives are threatened by rising sea levels.
Photo credit: Aji Styawan/Getty Images Climate Visuals Grant recipient
Don Wharton, of Crisfield takes a smoke break while shucking oysters at MeTompkin Seafood in Crisfield, Md. Wharton, who has been shucking oysters for 31 years, said he used to make about $210 per day, but now only earns $80 for putting in the same amount of work.
Photo Credit: Greg Kahn/Getty Images Climate Visuals Grant recipient

2019 hosted a global, cross-media surge in the intensity and frequency of international climate change coverage, which fueled greater public and political awareness. This momentum was underpinned by powerful new voices, as well as a series of dramatic and wide-reaching climate impacts affecting communities and our natural world on both a local and national scale.

2020 began with expectations of continued momentum and potential for real change to be harnessed within our behavioural and political systems. Yet, COVID-19 has unexpectedly – and rightly – dominated both our consciousness and communications in recent months, whilst grounding photojournalists and limiting environmental coverage. Now, several weeks into the pandemic and social lockdown, we can share a thirst for new environmental narratives. Then, from within this new abnormality, we can perhaps gain the confidence to plan for the future, and to hope that the recovery and bounce back of our societies and economies happens swiftly but responsibly.

At Climate Visuals, we aspire to document, distribute and support the climate narrative, but also use social science and behavioural research to uniquely offer advice on how image selection can significantly increase the rate of positive change.  Our aim is to ensure that the visual language of climate change continues to evolve with the rapidly expanding written narrative, and to engage and motivate the public audience which is increasingly well informed on the subject.

Climate Visuals’ parent organisation, Climate Outreach, has long recognised and collaborated with our partners to communicate and work across political, demographic and cultural interpretations of climate change. Climate is a truly intersectional issue, and must be framed in the values and language – in a broad and non-judgemental sense – of communities and their trusted messengers. All of the shortlisted photographers highlighted within the grant application process work professionally, diligently and consistently within these shared values through the medium of photography.

Family members do the tradition of ‘unjung-unjung’. The young will visit the older relatives to see each other in celebration of Eid Al-Fitr.The house might be flooded due to rising sea levels but these traditions will still take place.
Photo credit: Aji Styawan/Getty Images Climate Visuals Grant recipient

The two selected grant recipients – photographers Aji Stywan and Greg Kahn – both bring to their portfolios and proposals an indomitable personal commitment as well as a deep understanding through local connections, robust research and a honed aesthetic. These two photographers, on opposite sides of the world, are devoted to comparable stories of the impact of rising sea-levels in both Indonesia and the US, and capturing community resilience in response to it.

Aji and Greg’s local knowledge, individual photographic style and cultural sensitivity shone through to the grant judges for their ability to amplify and inform their messaging. Both reveal an uncannily tense atmosphere, restrained emotion and surreal sense of place in the scenes they document. The delicacy and quiet intimacy of their portraits, paired with beautiful but disfigured landscapes, is made evermore haunting and affecting in series.

The landscape, communities, political structures, religions and people these photographers work within – and hope to support – are truly diverse. Their proposals and photography work (profiled in full below) unanimously impressed the jury, whilst organically embracing all of the Climate Visuals seven principles for impactful photography.

Luther Cornish, 84, sits in his living room across the street from New Revival Methodist Church in Madison, Md.The historic church is now threatened by sea level rise, and the older members aren’t sure it will survive much past their lifetime.
Photo Credit: Greg Kahn/Getty Images Climate Visuals Grant recipient

Finally, an honourable mention went to Alaskan photojournalist Acacia Johnson.  Since 2014, Acacia has been dedicated to covering the now familiar narrative of how melting sea ice is drastically affecting the Inuit peoples. Acacia’s new story focuses on the complex facets of a culture and community having to adapt rapidly and possess a unique resilience, thus advancing the well-worn Arctic narrative from one of victimisation and distance, towards one of personal pride and human connection.

Visualising Climate Change 2020 Hackathon

How has the evidence base for what constitutes effective, powerful climate imagery evolved since our original 2016 Climate Visuals research?

Earlier this month, Climate Visuals and Saffron O’Neill, Associate Professor in Geography at Exeter University, organised the ‘Visualising Climate Change 2020 Hackathon’ to critically update and expand the evidence base for how to effectively communicate climate change through imagery.

Together we convened  a dozen academics specialising in climate change imagery as well as industry professionals from both Getty Images and the World Press Photo Foundation. Members of the Climate Visuals team included Toby Smith, Adam Corner and Joel Silver.

The starting point of this proactive Hackathon was the 7 Climate Visuals principles which in practice are fused collaboratively by the Climate Visuals team with observations and critiques of newsroom and image sourcing processes.  The Hackathon brought together the latest insights of the room, promoted critical dialogue and identified gaps in knowledge requiring new research. It also reflected on the rapidly widening and intensifying coverage of climate change throughout 2019.

The immediate results of this Hackathon include a sense of community and reinforced connections among practitioners and academics within what is a niche and specialist area. The informal notes, documents, references and discussions were collated live and will be edited into an accessible report to be co-authored and published by Climate Visuals and Saffron O’Neill in the next few months.

The 7 Climate Visuals principles published in 2016 were critically tested and scrutinised but reassuringly, came away unscathed as an accessible and robust guide to editing and commissioning Climate imagery for 2020.  It was gratifying to learn that everyone attending left with an accelerated understanding of the state of climate imagery and a sense of purpose for the challenge ahead.

Both Saffron O’Neill and the Climate Visuals team would like to thank everyone who attended and those on our guest list who, although unable to attend, have already kindly offered to help review the draft report before publication. We would also like to thank the ESRC (Economic Social Research Council) for their funding as part of an Impact Acceleration Grant.


Dr. Adam Corner, Research Director, Climate Visuals

Dr. Antal Wozniak, Communication and Media, University of Liverpool

Prof. Birgit Schneider, University of Applied Sciences in Potsdam

Prof. Brigitte Nerlich, Sociology and Social Policy, University of Nottingham

David Campbell, Director of Programs and Outreach, World Press Photo Foundation

Dorothea Born, Science and Technology Studies, University of Vienna

Prof. Ed Hawkins, Public Engagement, University of Reading

Esther Greussing, Communication and Media Studies, Technische Universität Braunschweig

Fiona Shields, Head of Photography, The Guardian

Associate Prof. Hywel Williams, Computer Science, University of Exeter

James Painter, Reuters Institute / Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford

Joel Silver, Partnerships Manager, Climate Visuals

Dr. Jordan Harold, Psychology, University of East Anglia

Dr. Kate Manzo, International Development, University of Newcastle

Kirstin Kidd, Picture Editor, The Economist

Laurie Goering, Climate Change and Development, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Dr. Martin Mahoney, Environmental Studies, University of East Anglia

Niall McLoughlin, Psychology, Bath University

Paul Heinicker, Interaction Design Lab, University of Applied Sciences in Potsdam

Dr. Rebecca Swift, Head of Creative Insights, Getty Images

Associate Prof. Saffron O’Neill, Geography, University of Exeter

Sylvia Hayes, Geography, Exeter University

Toby Smith, Programme Lead, Climate Visuals

Dr. Travis Coan, Politics, University of Exeter

Dr. Warren Pearce, Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield

Climate Visuals collaboration with The Guardian

How our Climate Visuals project is helping The Guardian rethink the images they use for their climate journalism.

The Guardian is rethinking their use of climate imagery in line with our Climate Visuals insights, following a collaborative workshop we ran with over 20 Guardian representatives.

As part of the Climate Visuals project, we’re collaborating with The Guardian to help them better understand how to visually communicate the impact the climate emergency is having across the world.

The Guardian newspaper, as part of its 2019 climate pledge, has just published an editorial titled ‘Why we’re rethinking the images we use for our climate journalism’.

The Guardian’s new internal, public and media facing photographic guidelines were produced after consultation with the Climate Visuals team utilising the project’s unique research, expertise and evidence base.

Climate Visuals is a Climate Outreach programme based on international social research and a set of seven core principles to catalyse a new visual language for climate change.

We presented our peer-reviewed narrative evidence, coupled with direct insights and recommendations for Guardian journalists, in a collaborative workshop following an invitation by Fiona Shields, Guardian Head of Photography.

“The concern over how best to depict the climate emergency led us to seek advice from the research organisation Climate Visuals, who have found that “images that define climate change shape the way it is understood and acted upon”.

Fiona Shields – Guardian, Head of Photography

Over 20 Guardian representatives attended our collaborative workshop, representing the full diversity of Guardian staff, from the sports desk to social media and commissioning editors.

Toby Smith, Climate Visuals Programme Lead, and Joel Silver, Partnerships Manager, discussed the opportunity and trends within the current media landscape, presented new climate narratives, and lead a constructive criticism of the current approach, with a view to improving audience response.

The consultation was followed up with specific recommendations around scenarios of extreme weather, social media integration and consideration of the wider systemic change required within the photography industry.

“The Guardian are Europe’s most distributed, impactful, and leading news source for climate change coverage, and are an exemplary media partner for us to work with. Fiona Shields has distilled the entire process, with excellent photographic examples, in the recently published online article. This editorial, and the wider Guardian climate pledge, demonstrates how insights and changes to communication can catalyse environmental impact within an organisation, the media industry at large and their substantial audiences.” 

Toby Smith – Climate Visuals Programme Lead

Building on the example set by The Guardian, the Climate Visuals team, supported by the KR foundation, is strategically looking to engage with organisations from across the media and photographic spheres to continue pushing the vitally needed shift in climate change’s visual language.

Climate Visuals hosts a growing library of photography and evidence that provide inspiration and guidance for campaigners, picture editors and visual communicators on selecting and commissioning climate change imagery.

The Climate Visuals team and insights are also available for a number of services including bespoke photography and visual editing, direct consultancy or long-term partnerships. If you would like to get in touch, please contact Joel or Toby at the address below.

Toby Smith – Climate Visuals Programme Lead and Media Liaison

Joel Silver – Partnerships Manager


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