How to use images from the Climate Visuals library on social media

In our ever increasingly visual world, we interact with huge numbers of images online and on social media. How can you use images to help your content stand out?

Choosing your images

Climate Visuals Principles

The Climate Visuals evidence base and guidance is a good starting point when thinking about what images to use, be it on social media or in other contexts. You should be looking to show real people, avoid visual cliches by telling new stories, and as always, understand your audience.

View the rest of the Climate Visuals principles and our other evidence based guidance here.

Thinking about your audience

It is vital to consider your audience when choosing and using photographs. Who are you trying to reach and engage?

When thinking about images for social media make sure to also consider how your target audience will interact with an image, in what context they will see it, and on what specific platforms.

Think about how they will displayed

When looking for potential images to use, you should also consider how your image will be shown to your audience.

For example, will lots of your audience view the image on a mobile device rather than a computer screen? If so, your image needs to be effective at a much smaller size, communicating all the essential information in a small space. You will also need an image that works in a portrait crop.

Different social media platforms require different aspect ratios (shapes) of images. With some images it is possible to crop images to a variety of shapes within the original frame and still convey all of the information. For example, in the below image you can see how each different crop, whilst changing the content of the image, is still impactful and effective at communicating the scene to the viewer.

Three different image crop sizes are shown in coloured squares on top of an image of fishermen praying on a beach in Bangladesh.

However, in the next image it is clear that much of the crucial visual information is lost from the image in the red and green crops, making it significantly less effective.

Three different image crop sizes are shown in coloured squares on top of an image of a mother and child sat in their flooded home in the Bay of Bangal.


Some key crop aspect ratios - 

  • Instagram
    • Stories = 16x9 (above in red)
    • Posts = 4x5 (above in green)
  • X / Twitter
    • ‘In feed’ = 9x6 (above in orange)

These shapes govern how users will see your images. As you are researching images, think about how these crops will be applied to your selection, particularly paying attention to the size of display too. Does it work in every shape that it is going to be used in? If not, is there an alternative that does?

You may also want to overlay text on an image, displaying further information to engage your audiences. This adds another layer of detail to think about when researching images for different crops and platforms. Look for images with negative space, or an area with less detail  to place your text. Make sure to keep in mind what you might be obscuring in your image by adding these details. Does the image still convey all the information you need it to? And does it do this effectively at all the different sizes it will be viewed at?

In the below example that uses two crops from the image above, the difference in clarity between the text in the image on the left vs. the image on the right is clear, and this difference will only ever become more stark as screen size is reduced.

It is also important to have in mind more general accessibility considerations when using images and text on social media. Some useful resources on designing and publishing accessible social media content -

Two different crops of an image of fishermen praying on a beach in Bangladesh showing different places to overlay text.

Captions and crediting

We like to talk about pictures speaking a thousand words and telling stories, but a few more words in the form of a caption can be really important and add a huge amount of context and nuance to an image. Also, as AI image generation tools develop, comprehensive and accurate captioning is evermore vital in helping viewers critically assess the images that they are looking at and allowing photographs to communicate detailed, engaging, real world stories to viewers.

If you can, adding more information for your viewers through a caption can really add to your images’ ability to tell a story. Rather than only describing what an image shows (this is what the Alt-Text feature is for) use a caption to add contextual details, more about the story, and important nuance.

When you are choosing images for social media you should consider how a caption would be displayed alongside it - can you guarantee that a caption will be included in the post or should you include a caption designed into the image itself? This will depend on the platform that you will be sharing the image on. If you think that your image needs a caption to explain it, but can’t guarantee that it will be displayed with one - is there another image you could use instead?

Most images will require you to credit the photographer or copyright holder alongside the image as part of the licence terms of use (more on this below). Crediting photographers also helps viewers to find out more about an image and opens up the possibility for them to engage further with an image and the story that it is telling. It is your responsibility to ensure that the image credit will travel with the photograph in your use - is it best displayed as text alongside the caption, or added as an overlay to the image to be displayed there?

Images licensing and rules

As with any image use, you must ensure that you have the right to use your chosen image. This can take the form of a variety of different licence types, from images registered as in the Public Domain to commercial Rights Managed licences.

You must ensure that you have permission to use any image that you post on social media. The fact that an image has already been published online by someone else does not mean that you can publish it yourself.

Some licences will require a fee to be paid, others might be free. All image licences will have requirements that you must fulfil for your image use to be compliant. As the user, you must ensure that your use meets the requirements of your licence to use, for example by crediting the image as required.

Images in the Climate Visuals library have a variety of licences. These include:

  • Images with Creative Commons (CC) licences
    • Including those which Climate Visuals has licence to distribute and those where others have the licence
  • Images with Rights Managed (RM) licences.

Information about each image’s licence type is displayed alongside the caption information in the image preview display, as well as via a watermark across the image preview.

There is more information on image licences and how to use them in our 'how to' page below.


Follow Climate Visuals on Instagram and X / Twitter.





On AI images and climate change photography

I am sure you will by now have seen multiple excited headlines about AI image generation. You may also have used at least one of the now numerous publicly accessible AI image generation tools. But what does this new, and undoubtedly exciting, potential for imagery mean for the visualisation of climate change? Note: this piece contains images that, whilst generated by AI, may be distressing to some viewers.

Over the last two years, text-to-image AI models such as OpenAi’s DALL-E, Midjourney and Microsoft Bing’s Image Creator tools have exploded in popularity. The tools are capable of generating images from text prompts inputted by a user. These prompts can be anything from simple descriptors, to complex instructions on content and style. When the technology first emerged, the images generated were heavily stylized, often fairly obvious ‘AI images’. Most were interesting for their combination of technical excitement and humour. However, as the technology has developed, the quality of the imagery has dramatically improved. We are now at a point where AI generated images can convincingly pass as photographs, including photojournalistic images. In our ever-increasingly visual media environment this poses a new and developing dilemma for photography producers and consumers.  

The need for authenticity in climate change photography

Climate Visuals’ evidence base stresses the importance of authenticity in photographs of climate change. Our guidance highlights the need to show real people, to avoid using the same familiar visual metaphors and the risks of an over-reliance on staged imagery and protest photographs. Polar bears clinging to ice is a common example of a visual cliche in climate change photography. We know that whilst these familiar images can be effective in signalling to the viewer that a story is about climate change, this might not be a story that they want to read. They are hard to relate to and miss the opportunity for deeper understanding. Audiences also respond poorly to staged photo-opportunities, particularly those involving politicians, and the use of protest imagery can be very divisive. Instead of visual cliches, photographs should communicate new, relatable and detailed stories about real people. When tasked with generating “the best image of climate change", an early version of MidJourney AI’s image generator produced these four images:

AI generated image. Prompt: "the best photograph of climate change". Midjourney. March 2023.

The top left frame appears to be an interpretation of a photomontage, and is quite visibly a non-real image. However the other three, whilst having a number of visual elements that help to identify them as not photographs (for example the ice in the reflection of the bear in the bottom-right image), are clearly mimicking the classic visual stereotype of a sad polar bear on melting ice. The issue here is not just that the polar bear is not a real one. More, that the AI model has interpreted the prompt with a highly cliched output, a visual representation that we know from our research prompts cynicism and fatigue in audiences. Whilst the images are of interest by virtue of their generation (the medium) they are examples of known ineffective visual representations of climate change (the message). This, even aside from the fact that the bear is not real, should be a guiding reason to avoid using them.

The potential for harmful visual stereotypes

Polar bear images are a familiar example of visual cliches and stereotyping in climate change photography. However users should be aware of the potential for AI generated images to perpetuate visual stereotypes in much more subtle, but significant ways. When asked to generate “an award winning documentary photograph of climate change” Midjourney’s AI delivered these four images:

AI generated image. Prompt: “award winning documentary photograph of a victim of climate change”. Midjourney, February 2024.

Similarly when asked for “climate change photojournalism” these images were generated:

AI generated image. Prompt: “climate change photojournalism”. Midjourney, February 2024.

In both of these examples the images generated mimic a number of classic visual stereotypes - lone victims in the face of catastrophic climate change impacts, an overwhelming sense of disaster, destruction and death. The images are hopeless and devastating. If we consider the images as photographs, the people featured lack any agency in their fate, they are powerless, anonymous and presented only for the sympathy of the viewer. Significantly, often the images appear to depict non-white figures as victims. In contrast, responding to the prompt “photograph of a climate scientist at work” the images generated often feature white figures:

AI generated image. Prompt: “photograph of a climate scientist at work”. Midjourney, February 2024.

A major concern generally with AI generated images is that we don’t know what images they are trained on. We therefore don’t know what representations of climate change the models are drawing on to generate new images, or how this material is interpreted. Anecdotally it appears that AI generated images will often repeat common visual representations. Whilst the images may be new, the content regularly appears to be an imitation of visual cliches and has an overreliance on damaging, ethically troubling visual stereotypes. With photography we must move away from these stereotypes, such as those perpetuating victim narratives, and instead centre dignity and ethical storytelling and prioritise diversifying those behind, and in front of, the lens. With AI generated images now having the potential to be used in place of photographs, it is vital to consider them as critically as photography.

Real stories are important

Central to the Climate Visuals guidance is the need to show real people and tell real stories in images of climate change, be it in relation to causes, impacts, or solutions. Before the emergence of generative AI images this would have been interpreted to mean avoiding staged photocalls, including those of politicians, and images that are clearly staged for the purposes of a photograph. There has always been some nuance to this; not all ‘stock’ photography as illustration is bad by default, but with the development of AI image generation this takes on a new significance. There is no depth to the story of an AI image, no detailed story or narrative for a viewer to engage with and hopefully relate to. Photography has the potential to communicate detailed, complex narratives, particularly in photojournalism. Images generated by AI are immediately reduced to purely illustrative, surface level, content. We know from our evidence base that images of real people are favoured by audiences. We also know viewers shouldn’t be underestimated in their ability to see through inauthentic, staged images. We need to prioritise telling real, diverse, stories that are relatable to wide ranging audiences - AI generated images ignore the potential of this photographic storytelling and instead settle for surface level illustrations not grounded in real experience. As AI generated images become increasingly realistic, the need for transparency and honesty in their use is paramount. We have already seen the damaging potential of political AI generated images, as well as the debate around these images posted, and then deleted, by Amnesty International. If AI-generated images are used in the context of real events and presented as photographs, reality or without obvious labelling, then their use moves into the territory of being actively misleading to audiences. The images contain no reality, and should be considered more akin to artist representations, of which the creator has minimal input control, than photography.

Legal issues and unknowns

Away from the ethical and moral issues of using AI generated images, there is also the potential for legal issues. As a developing technology the legal framework surrounding generative AI imagery is incomplete. The copyright status of images generated by a variety of AI tools are subject to multiple court cases globally. Similarly, there is a significant debate around the legality and fair-compensation of those whose work has been used to train the AI models. The images and data used to train the models are almost entirely unknown, and any compensation to those whose creative works have been used in this way is mostly non-existent. Academics have also found that it is easily possible to generate plagiaristic outputs with AI tools. In one major case, Getty Images, one of the largest imagery providers in the world, is currently pursuing legal action against Stability AI (whilst also introducing an AI generation tool itself). The temptation to use AI to generate ‘free’, increasingly high quality images, is clear, but the reality and ethics of this is far from it. As the legal arguments develop, and as more commercial AI image generation tools become available these grey areas will develop clarity, but currently this is an area of significant uncertainty.

The importance of compelling, detailed, and ethical photography has never been greater

Photography can tell compelling, detailed stories, and presents a vital opportunity for real and lasting public engagement. The development of generative AI imagery is undoubtedly a huge moment in how society produces and consumes images. However, the potential issues and pitfalls of using AI images in place of photography must be taken seriously. In visualising climate change through photography we should be seeking to tell real, compelling, relatable stories to our audiences. This is not possible through AI generated images, which construct scenes from unknown input datasets and are more closely related to digital art than photography. As AI generated images become more able to mimic photographs, thorough, ethical, photojournalism, comprehensive captioning and detailed and transparent crediting of images becomes ever more urgent and essential.

Talking air pollution photographs on the TedX London Climate Curious podcast.

Climate Visuals manager Alastair Johnstone spoke to TedX London’s Climate Curious podcast about our new collection of air pollution photographs.

The conversation covers the reasoning behind the project, some of the stories behind the photographs and why compelling visual stories of air pollution, and climate change, are vital.


5 highlights as Climate Visuals passes 10,000 registered users

Since our launch in 2016, Climate Visuals has been a trusted resource of guidance, evidence and images for users around the world, and we are excited to celebrate the milestone of 10,000 registrations.

The library now contains over 1500 images, including over 1000 that are available with Creative Commons licences, helping to make compelling, exemplary climate change photography widely available. Images from the library have been used globally and by a wide range of individuals and organisations, from local community publications to international media houses and NGOs.

As our user base has grown, so too have our guidance and evidence resources, building on the original 7 Climate Visuals principles with work on representing indigenous people in images, promoting diversity in outdoor photography, and the effective photography of the links between ocean and climate. This evidence base underpins the images in the library as we advocate for a human centred, impactful and constructive visual language for climate change.


At night, and lit by a handheld light, a man digs for razor clams.

It is not yet dawn, but Mike Winkler, a Quinault Indian, has already been digging in the wet sand along the edge of the ocean for hours. He is looking for razor clams, a protein staple that the Quinault Indian Nation have been harvesting from these coastal flats for over 10,000 years. Just last year the Tribal Council voted to permanently relocate the village of Taholah away from the coastline and the mouth of the Quinault River. The growing risk of inundation had become too great.

Five highlights from our work so far:

Two global open calls for photography

At the heart of the library, and forming a key resource for our users are the images in the Visualizing Climate Change and Ocean Visuals collections. These 193 images, selected from thousands of submissions from around the world, have had significant impact as a resource of compelling, impactful, photography, freely available to users in the non-profit, educational and editorial sectors.

The Guardian rethinks the images they use for their climate journalism

In 2019 Climate Visuals collaborated with The Guardian to help them better understand how to visually communicate the impact the climate emergency is having across the world.

The newspaper, as part of its 2019 climate pledge, published an editorial titled ‘Why we’re rethinking the images we use for our climate journalism’ and produced new internal, public and media facing photographic guidelines after consultation with the Climate Visuals team utilising our unique research, expertise and evidence base.

Climate Visuals’ images displayed at multiple COPs

Images from the Climate Visuals library were displayed prominently at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, and COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. These displays were an exciting opportunity to promote the collection as a usable resource, particularly in the non-profit and educational sectors, and QR codes displayed with the images helped viewers to navigate through to the library from the images and find out more.


Maria Nkosi* demonstrates how she uses a few times a week for her asthma at her home which is a street away from a mine in Clever, Witbank, Emalahleni, South Africa, on November 28, 2023. Just nineteen months ago the High Court in Pretoria confirmed a judgement in what was called the Deadly Air Case, that the poor air quality over the Highveld Priority Area is a breach of residents’ section 24(a) constitutional right to an environment that is not harmful to their health and well-being. *not her real name

New commissioned photography

We have recently launched a new collection of over 200 images of air pollution, produced in collaboration with Clean Air Fund. The images were commissioned in response to the scarcity of accurate, compelling and accessible photojournalism highlighting the impacts of air pollution alongside solutions. The photos were taken in Indonesia, Poland, South Africa and the UK, and are freely available for use in the non-profit, education and editorial sectors. The images embody the Climate Visuals evidence base and best practice guidelines, and form a new practical resource for users of the library.

Climate Visuals images, guidance and evidence published globally

Climate Visuals images have been published in a wide variety of contexts globally, including uses by The Guardian, The Times, BBC, the UN, Unesco, World Economic Forum, ABC News Australia and many others.


Looking ahead to the next 10,000 users…

We will continue to develop Climate Visuals as a resource, adding new images and developing the guidance and evidence base that underpins them. In an ever increasingly visual world, and with new technologies such as AI beginning to break through, the need for detailed, ethical, compelling photojournalism that tells real climate stories through images has never been greater.

We are always interested to hear from users of the library about how we can better cater for their image needs - please do get in touch.

Climate Visuals launches a new collection of air pollution photographs

Clean Air Fund and Climate Visuals have launched a new collection of air pollution photographs, free for non-profit, educational and editorial use.

The new collection of over 200 photographs of air pollution and communities affected by dirty air is now available to browse and download on the Climate Visuals library. The photographs, taken in Indonesia, Poland, South Africa and the UK are freely available for use in the non-profit, editorial and educational sectors and were commissioned in response to the scarcity of accurate, compelling and accessible photojournalism highlighting the impacts of air pollution alongside solutions to the problem.



Air pollution is the largest environmental threat to public health globally, and it’s getting worse. Most of the world’s population live in places that exceed the World Health Organization’s air quality guideline limits.

Climate Visuals worked with four photographers, Aji Styawan in Indonesia, Anna Liminowicz in Poland, Gulshan Khan in South Africa and Mary Turner in the UK as well as individuals and community organisations in each location to develop stories and produce compelling, detailed photojournalism. The photographs embody the Climate Visuals evidence base and best practice, and form a substantial new resource within the library.

Over 8 million people die prematurely each year because of air pollution. It’s the second leading cause of deaths from non-communicable diseases after smoking. Invisible particles penetrate cells and organs in our bodies – our lungs, heart, blood and brain. This leads to millions suffering with diseases like asthma, strokes, heart attacks, cancer and dementia. Babies, children, older people and those with existing health conditions are most severely affected by polluted air.


Maria Nkosi* demonstrates how she uses her inhaler for her asthma, at her home which is a street away from a mine in Clever, Witbank, Emalahleni, South Africa. *not her real name

Gulshan Khan/Climate Visuals


The impact of air pollution is also unequal. The most disadvantaged communities tend to bear the brunt of polluted air. They are the most likely to live in polluted neighbourhoods and work outside or in settings more exposed to dirty air. This means society’s most marginalised experience the triple burden of poverty, poor quality environment and ill health.

90% of premature deaths attributed to air pollution are in low- and middle-income countries. From Bangladesh to Indonesia, people on the lowest incomes are hit the hardest. So the people least responsible for dirty emissions are the most exposed, and tend to have less power in political decision-making.


Morning commuters arrive at Manggarai train station in Jakarta, Indonesia, on November 6, 2023. Millions of residents of Jakarta have for the past several months suffered from some of the worst air pollution in the world

Aji Styawan/Climate Visuals


Improving air quality is essential for addressing racial, gender and income inequalities. It is vital that the voices of people most affected by air pollution are included in campaigns and policy debates on air quality and climate change.


Sports pitches in the neighbourhood of the Belchatow coal-fired power plant, Poland.

Anna Liminowicz/Climate Visuals

Paweł Wyszomirski, left, and Kamil Szewczyk, right, prepare for a workshop they are organising for students in schools in Katowice and the surrounding area under the motto 'School Climate'. They teach students how to improve indoor air quality. Among other things, they use a pyrometer to remotely measure temperature in exercises.

Anna Liminowicz/Climate Visuals


The causes of climate change are often the same as the causes of air pollution: transport, the power sector, industrial emissions and crop burning. Over 140 governments signed a declaration at the recent UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) to address the interrelated issues of climate change and health together. As air pollution and climate change are mainly caused by burning fossil fuels, these two challenges share many of the same solutions. Clean air measures are one of the most immediate ways to protect the planet and people.

Clean air has the transformative potential to improve systemic health and climate issues. But political and public awareness and support for improving air quality does not match the scale of this global crisis. Through a new collection of compelling photography, Clean Air Fund and Climate Outreach seek to accurately and persuasively portray air pollution and the communities affected by dirty air.


Murray Chalmers, a bicycle courier for delivery service Cargodale, is pictured arriving in Hebden Bridge with a delivery for a local shop, on December 18th 2023, in Hebden Bridge, England.

Mary Turner/Climate Visuals

About Climate Visuals

Climate Visuals is the world’s only evidence-based programme for climate change photography. It is run by Climate Outreach, a team of social scientists and communication specialists who work to ensure people trust, support and have a say in the changes we must make to address climate change. Through research, practical guides and consultancy services, Climate Outreach helps organisations communicate about climate change in ways that resonate with the values of their audiences and leads to action.

Register for and browse the Climate Visuals library here.

For more information contact:

About Clean Air Fund

Clean Air Fund is a global philanthropic organisation that works with governments, funders, businesses and campaigners to create a future where everyone breathes clean air.

For more information contact:


Climate Visuals featured on Google Arts and Culture

Photographs from the Visualizing Climate Change open call, along with the seven Climate Visuals principles, feature in a new microsite on Google Arts and Culture that is launched today.

This site forms a new, immersive and shareable resource for communicating the images in the collection and the evidence base behind them. All too often, climate change imagery is ineffective at driving change – it may be aesthetically pleasing and illustrative but not emotionally impactful. The Climate Visuals evidence base proves that imagery needs to embody people-centred narratives, local impacts and positive solutions, and must resonate with the identity and values of the viewer.

Viewers can see the 100 images in the Visualizing Climate Change collection, scroll through the seven principles, and follow direct links to the Climate Visuals library where registered users can download images in the collection free for use by non-profits, educators and the editorial media.



About Google Arts & Culture 

Google Arts & Culture puts the treasures, stories and knowledge of over 3,000 cultural institutions from over 80 countries at people’s fingertips. GoogleArts & Culture's mission is to make the world's culture accessible to anyone, anywhere. It’s a doorway to explore art, history, and wonders of the world, and discover stories about cultural heritage ranging from Van Gogh’s bedroom paintings, Puerto Rico’s heritage, sports in Australia or the women's right movement to ancient Maya temples, Japanese food and Indian railways.

Climate Visuals contact

For further information please contact visuals[at]

A new collection of Creative Commons images for Wikipedia and beyond

The Climate Visuals library has a new curated collection of images available to use with a wide range of Creative Commons licences. This collection contains over 300 images of climate change causes, impacts and solutions from around the world, bringing the total number of Creative Commons images in the library to over 800.

Technician working on a solar panel installation. Renovus Solar offers affordable solar solutions for everyone who pays an electric bill in upstate New York, including residential and commercial clients.

Night operations on the Pine Gulch Fire in Colorado, USA. August 2020.

The new collection is the result of a project to analyse and expand the Creative Commons images within the Climate Visuals library, with specific focus on images available for use on Wikipedia, where images are only accepted if the image licence allows commercial re-use and modification.

Following analysis of existing images in the library, the Climate Visuals team carried out targeted picture research to add images to the library that cater to known content gaps on Wikipedia, as well as those identified by Climate Visuals’ work in other contexts and user feedback. Some of these content gaps included; renewable energy solutions and the associated industry, images visualising the relationship between agriculture and the climate, and heatwaves and the management of heat and other weather events in urban areas.

Agroforestry (main species silvopastoral system) at Bolfracks Estate, Upper Farrochil, by Aberfeldy, Scotland.

A Tesla electric car is driven past a sign warning of extreme heat and the need to save power between 4-9pm. Los Angeles, USA. September 2022.

As well as being accessible via the Climate Visuals library, the images are hosted on Wikimedia for use in Wikipedia articles, forming a collection of high quality, effective, and compelling climate imagery available for widespread use. So far, images from the collection used in articles across the topics of exercise, organic farming, and on Cyclone Idai.

Registered users navigating the collection in the Climate Visuals library will see an ‘obtain the image’ button in the bottom right corner of the image preview window. Clicking this link will take the user to the image source where it will be available to download for uses compatible with that image’s licence. Not registered yet? Register here - it’s free and takes only a few minutes.

An image from the collection in use on Wikipedia.

Ocean Visuals exhibition at TED2023 in Vancouver

Images from the Ocean Visuals collection are being exhibited at TED2023 - POSSIBILITY in Vancouver, Canada, April 17-21.

Daniella Zalcman, a member of the Ocean Visuals advisory board, will be in attendance and available to discuss the collection and the wider Climate Visuals project.


Photo credit: Daniella Zalcman


The Ocean Visuals collection of 93 images is accessible and free to use by the media, journalists, non-profit sector, campaigners and educators in articles and communications.

Ocean Visuals is a response to the urgent need for more impactful, diverse and equitably accessible ocean-climate imagery while ensuring ethical and fair payment to photographers. The project is a partnership between Climate Visuals and Communications Inc, funded by Erol, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch) and Macdoch Foundation / NPT Transatlantic.

Ocean Visuals is a thematic extension of the Visualizing Climate Change open call, an equitable participatory concept originally conceived by Climate Visuals and TED Countdown ahead of COP26.

Contact Climate Visuals for further information.



Ocean Visuals Exhibition at the Sydney Opera House

Ocean Visuals has arrived at the Sydney Opera House, with a free exhibition along the Western Broadwalk from 29 March to 7 April.

Visitors are invited on a visual journey into the critical - but often poorly understood - connections between climate change and oceans.

The ocean plays a vital role in regulating the climate and in doing so protects us from the worst impacts of climate change. Despite this, the links between the climate and the ocean are not commonly understood, talked about or integrated into the way we tackle the climate crisis. Ocean Visuals aims to better incorporate the ocean and be inclusive of the diverse experiences of coastal communities including estuaries, rivers, inland waterways, urban, rural and remote environments, into global communications about climate.

The exhibition showcases 32 images from the Ocean Visuals collection, which was generated through a global call in partnership with Communications Inc. The full collection of 93 images, available through the Climate Visuals library, provides visual stories of climate change causes, impacts, solutions, resilience and justice.

This Climate Visuals exhibit is a collaboration between the Macdoch Foundation and Climate Outreach, with the support of the Sydney Opera House who is hosting the exhibit.



Anna Kucera

Anna Kucera

Anna Kucera


The photographers whose work is included in the exhibition:

  • Moniruzzaman Sazal - Image ID 3849
  • Michael Snyder - Image ID 4015, 4016
  • Nuno Rodrigues - Image ID 4047, 4050
  • Jashim Salam - Image ID 4072
  • Vlad Sokhin - Image ID 4116
  • Adam Sébire - Image ID 4134
  • Lars Engelgaar - Image ID 4183
  • Raunaq Singh Chopra - Image ID 4203
  • Nicole Holman - Image ID 4267
  • Beau Pilgrim - Image ID 4278
  • Lachlan Gardiner - Image ID 4299
  • Alain Schroeder - Image ID 4316
  • David Menzel - Image ID 4345
  • Tom Vierus - Image ID 4369, 4371
  • Joan Sullivan - Image ID 4380
  • Jerry Chidi - Image ID 4396
  • Maurizio Di Pietro - Image ID 4416
  • Adam Sébire - Image ID 4444
  • Milos Bicanski - Image ID 4450
  • Michael Hall - Image ID 4467
  • Amitava Chandra - Image ID 4472
  • Rodney Dekker - Image ID 4478, 4479, 4484
  • Nelly Georgina Quijano Duarte - Image ID 4495
  • David Alfaro - Image ID 4507
  • Adam Hill - Image ID 4512
  • Giuseppe Suaria - Image ID 4519

The Ocean Visuals collection is freely available to the media, non-profits, campaigners and educators to download and use in their communications.


Grassroots Storytelling: Clean Energy & Climate Justice

Climate Visuals and The Sunrise Project, funded by the European Climate Foundation (ECF), are working on a storytelling project in three countries across Europe; Poland, Germany and the UK, to document and amplify the impacts of the cost of living crisis, with a specific focus on the solution of a just transition to clean and affordable energy. It is the aim that the project will include both impacts and solutions to the above issues.

The Sunrise Project’s mission is to scale social movements to drive the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy as fast as possible. Climate Visuals are creating a new visual language for climate change. Our approach, based on evidence and experience, is that imagery needs to embody people-centred narratives and positive solutions and resonate with the identity and values of the viewer – not just environmentalists.

Putin's ongoing invasion in Ukraine highlights the urgency to transition the energy system to address both the climate and cost of living crises. We're collaborating on this project to support more people-centred storytelling showing the impacts of the energy and cost of living crises alongside the organising and solutions that are being promoted by communities and civil society to drive the transition away from fossil fuels to clean energy.

Roman Gorczyca and his partner Ilona Nowak are one of the few remaining people still living in the buildings at Zwirowa street. Despite legal restrictions, Gorczyca installed a small oven in their room to be able to prepare some food and heat the space that gets quickly cold in winter due to very bad thermal conditions of the building. Rybnik, Silesia, Poland. Photo credit: Kasia Strek/Climate Visuals

Through this storytelling work we hope to create content and resources for organisers and campaigners to use to bring people together, build community power and pressure those with financial and political responsibility to support a just transition to renewable energy.

The objectives of this project are:

  • To uplift the voices of the unheard communities most affected by rising energy prices, from families to small business owners, then call for a bold energy vision and a swift transition towards climate solutions and renewables
  • To build awareness, relationships, insights and trust with communities and people at the intersection of the energy cost and climate crisis

The resulting image collection will be shared through press and social media placement, as well as designed into campaign material. It will also be hosted on the Climate Visuals library, making the images available to registered users in the non-profit, educational and media sectors.

Climate Visuals featured by World Press Photo on Instagram

Climate Visuals is featured on World Press Photo’s Instagram feed today and tomorrow (19 and 20 December).

We will be sharing photographs from Ocean Visuals and Visualizing Climate Change, as well as elements of our guidelines on ethics and values, photography briefs and evidence base with World Press Photo’s 1.6m Instagram followers.

View the posts here and share to amplify the resources.

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Ocean Visuals collection featured in The Times

The Times featured the Ocean Visuals collection in a gallery - "What oceans tell us about a changing world — in pictures"

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Climate Visuals at COP27

The Ocean Visuals collection was exhibited at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

The collection could be found within the COP27 Blue Zone in the digital exhibition programmes of the Nature Zone pavilion.

Noora Firaq, Interim Executive Director & Operations Director of Climate Outreach, spoke on the panel and sharing insights on the Ocean Visuals project at the Communicating Ocean Science for Climate Action event in the UNESCO pavilion at 15:45-16:45 Egypt time (13:45-14:45 GMT) on Wednesday 9 of November and also at Communicating Science for Policy: the challenge and opportunity in the Nature Positive News Room, Blue Zone. 11.15-11.30 Egypt time (9:15-9:30 GMT), Friday 11 November.

Noora was also available to discuss the Ocean Visuals project, Climate Visuals and Climate Outreach, on a drop-in basis between 11:45 and 13:45 Egypt time (9:45-11:45 GMT) on Friday 11 November in the Nature Zone pavilion.

Please get in touch with any queries.

More information here on Climate Outreach at COP27.

Ocean Visuals images on display as part of the digital exhibition programme in the Nature Zone Pavilion, COP27, Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. November 2022.

Photo credit: Sophie Hulme / Communications Inc

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Amplify the Ocean Visuals story

Amplify the Ocean Visuals story and share the collection with your network.

    • 93 evidence based photographs selected by an independent jury
    • Freely available to the media, non-profits, campaigners and educators
    • Increasing the diversity and impact of climate and visual communications 

The Ocean Visuals collection is a unique, freely available, evidence-based collection of impactful and diverse imagery of ocean, coastal and climate stories.

Amplify the project, and support ocean-climate communication at a global scale during COP27 and beyond.

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Ocean Visuals collection featured in The Guardian

The Guardian published a selection of photographs from the Ocean Visuals collection in a gallery entitled “The profound link between the climate crisis and the ocean - in pictures”.

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Climate Visuals releases the Ocean Visuals collection

A new evidence-based collection of impactful and diverse imagery of ocean, coastal and climate stories has been released by Climate Visuals ahead of COP27. The Ocean Visuals collection is accessible and free to use by the media, journalists, non-profit sector, campaigners and educators in articles and communications. 

“This collection will support communications impact whilst diversifying climate and ocean imagery on a global scale”, explains Climate Visuals Programme Lead, Toby Smith.

“Thousands of photographers spanning 102 countries participated in an open call in September. Our independent jury have made their combined decisions and with the advisory board prioritised values and ethics to only select images that reflect best practice”.

Ocean Visuals is a response to the urgent need for more impactful, diverse and equitably accessible ocean-climate imagery while ensuring ethical and fair payment to photographers. The project is a partnership between Climate Visuals and Communications Inc, funded by Erol, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch) and Macdoch Foundation / NPT Transatlantic.

"It was a pleasure to watch this collection come together from every corner of the globe, and explore the vast range of narratives, geographies and storytellers represented. We all hope for these images to be used to represent the mounting threats to our planet with depth and nuance", says Ocean Visuals advisory board member, Daniella Zalcman.

Ocean Visuals is built on strict guidelines for ethics, values and image manipulation. Combined with eight ocean-climate photographic principles, derived from a review of evidence and research into ocean imagery, it will raise the bar on visual communication at COP27 in the ’Ocean Super Year’ and into the UN Decade of Ocean Science.

Use of the collection will increase the breadth and impact of media and campaign coverage at COP27 - particularly given the predicted focus on oceans, finance, loss and damage - while also ensuring that all communicators can access quality, verified imagery equitably.

The eight principles of effective ocean-climate photography are:

  1. Show people in ocean and coastal regions with authenticity
  2. Visualise the diversity of people-and-ocean connections
  3. Tell new stories
  4. Find ocean and climate causes, impacts and solutions at scale
  5. Pair emotionally powerful impacts with positive actions
  6. Develop ideas to invite curiosity and foster engagement
  7. Prioritise ethics, safety, wellbeing and prevention of harm
  8. Be aware of problem narratives


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About the research

The ocean plays a vital role in regulating the climate and in doing so protects us from the worst impacts of climate change. Despite this, the link between the climate and the ocean is not commonly understood, talked about or integrated into the way we tackle the climate crisis.

Ocean Visuals hopes to better incorporate the ocean and be inclusive of the diverse experiences of coastal communities, including estuaries, rivers, inland waterways, urban, rural and remote environments, into global communications about climate. Climate Visuals and Communications Inc have developed the guidance and briefing note for the Ocean Visuals Open Call based on industry best practice, published research and evidence on people’s responses to imagery. The aim of the research report is to guide civil society, campaigners, media, educators and scientists on the use of visuals to communicate ocean-climate issues more effectively.


About the Ocean Visuals open call 

A global, equitable and open call for photography took place from 1-14 September, 2022. The call highlighted and heard new narratives and voices direct from communities around the world. The objective was to source and licence 100 powerful images taken by both professional and amateur photographers. This open call distributed a total licensing fund of US $100,000 - with all final images selected by a diverse and independent jury, before professional verification and advisory board review including the removal of images that contradict beyond best-practice regarding representation.

Ocean Visuals  builds on a previous initiative delivered by Climate Visuals and TED Countdown, whose participation phase reached 5.2M users on social media and generated 5,500 gender-balanced submissions from over 140 countries worldwide in 2021. The collection released during the impact phase is regularly accessed by a growing user group of over 5,600 communicators and editors resulting in thousands of editorial, campaign and social media usages of the imagery.


About Climate Visuals 

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

The visual narratives in circulation must move from illustrating climate causes and impacts to climate justice, solutions and positive change. Ocean Visuals’ online submission and licensing process will consider a broad range of diversity, equity and inclusion factors to ensure that the opportunity is global, accessible, fair, representative, illustrative and impactful. The goal is to provide a platform, amplify voices and serve visual tools to people and communities not yet represented.


About Communications Inc

Communications Inc is a small communications agency with big ideas, which works with non-profits around the globe. We put our specialist experience and wide-ranging network of contacts to work for our clients, addressing social and environmental issues across the globe, yet we remain approachable, adaptable and passionate.

To grab attention, set agendas and change behaviour you need a creative and thoughtful communications strategy, one that is based on a thorough and realistic analysis of your situation and environment. You also need an agency that understands the particular challenges and opportunities of non-for-profits and international communications.


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Germany Talks Climate Visuals

Germany Talks Climate Visuals

For the German language version of this summary click here


Climate change is not just something we know, it is also something we feel and see. This latest iteration of climate visuals research investigates how climate change and climate action are seen in Germany and which images resonate with people with different views in society.

The research formed part of the larger Übers Klima reden (in English: Germany Talks Climate) study conducted in February and March 2022 examining attitudes towards climate change and climate action in Germany. Übers Klima reden is a joint project by Climate Outreach, More in Common Germany and, funded by Stiftung Mercator and the European Climate Foundation.

These results on imagery form the first image research update in Germany since the original Climate Visuals study in 2016. The underlying research was developed in collaboration with More in Common and uses their values-based segmentation approach for the first time in visual research with German society.

Based on the Seven Climate Visuals principles, 17 images were selected and tested with six focus groups in Germany as well as through a representative survey with a sample of the German population. Due to the research design, these findings are mostly based on limited qualitative data. While these insights have been analysed to the best of our knowledge, the study also makes it clear that further quantitative image research is necessary to substantiate the following findings:


    • Images of flooding in Germany are powerful and connect across society.
    • Imagery can be used to tell new stories about heatwaves.
    • Images of families and children can help people relate to climate change impacts.
    • Climate solutions imagery can effectively depict success stories but needs to be contextualised.
    • Images of activists generate mixed and often negative reactions.
    • Images depicting a range of renewables to represent Germany’s energy future are more likely to appeal across society.
    • Images portraying visions of the future have potential, but by definition appear distant.
    • Polar bears are iconic, but not sufficiently compelling.


Top three images

Aftermath of the 2021 floods in Rech, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany

Photo credit: Christof Stache/AFP via Getty Images





A mother and baby sitting on a bed above floodwater in their flooded home.

Mother and baby in their flooded home in Kolkata

What makes these images stand out?

  • a direct connection to climate change
  • emotional impact
  • relatable aspects (local environment; family with children)
  • illustration of an undesirable future (e.g. in the form of air pollution)

Overall, we found many of the seven Climate Visuals principles reflected in people’s responses to the images tested: the importance of localising the issue, showing climate impacts at scale and real people with real emotions responding to the way climate change is affecting their lives, as well as somewhat ambivalent responses to protest imagery. Other areas with significant potential for engaging wider audiences also emerged, such as images depicting visions of the future, both positive and negative. Clearly, more research is needed into how images might affect people’s awareness of climate risks and impacts as well as solutions, and how visual modes of communication influence people’s sense of self-efficacy (or personal agency) in the face of the climate crisis.


The full range of insights, as well as an overview of all the images that were tested, are available in German here.




Mit Bildern „Übers Klima reden”

Mit Bildern „Übers Klima reden”

For the English language version of this summary click here


Animierende Klimakommunikation benötigt nicht nur eine wertebasierte Sprache, sondern fordert ebenso die effektive Nutzung von Bildern. Da die visuelle Auseinandersetzung mit dem Klimawandel und Klimaschutz in Deutschland bisher nur wenig erforscht ist, haben wir im Rahmen unserer größeren „Übers Klima reden”-Studie versucht, diese Lücke in der evidenzbasierten visuellen Kommunikation zu schließen.

Die hier vorgestellten Ergebnisse zur Bildsprache bilden die erste Aktualisierung der Bildforschung in Deutschland seit der ursprünglichen Climate Visuals-Studie von 2016. Unsere neue Forschung wurde in Zusammenarbeit mit More in Common entwickelt und verwendet ihren wertebasierten Segmentierungsansatz, um die Ergebnisse nach verschiedenen Bevölkerungssegmenten aufschlüsseln zu können. Eine nützliche Ressource zur Bildsprache bietet auch das Handbuch von unserem Projektpartner „Übers Klima sprechen" (s. Kapitel 12: Nutze Bilder - aber wähle sie mit Bedacht aus).

Auf der Grundlage der sieben Climate Visuals-Prinzipien wurden 17 Bilder ausgewählt und in sechs Fokusgruppen in Deutschland sowie durch eine repräsentative Umfrage bei einer Stichprobe der deutschen Bevölkerung getestet. Aufgrund des Forschungsdesigns beruhen diese Ergebnisse hauptsächlich auf begrenzten qualitativen Daten. Während diese Erkenntnisse nach bestem Wissen ausgewertet wurden, macht die Studie gleichzeitig deutlich, dass weitere quantitative Bildforschung notwendig ist, um die folgenden Ergebnisse zu untermauern:


    • Bilder von Überschwemmungen in Deutschland sind eindrucksvoll für alle Typen
    • Bilder können neue, anregende Narrative zu Hitzewellen erzählen
    • Bilder von Familien und Kindern können helfen, eine Verbindung zum Klimawandel herzustellen
    • Bilder von Klimalösungen können Erfolgsgeschichten effektiv vermitteln, doch benötigen Kontext
    • Bilder von Aktivist:innen erzeugen gemischte und oft eher negative Reaktionen
    • Bilder, die Deutschlands Energiezukunft als eine Vielfalt erneuerbarer Energien darstellen, sprechen die Breite der Gesellschaft besser an 
    • Bilder von Zukunftsvisionen haben Potenzial, erscheinen aber definitionsgemäß weit entfernt
    • Eisbären haben Symbolcharakter, reichen aber nicht aus


Top 3 Bilder für alle Typen

Folgende drei Bilder wurden im Schnitt aller Fokusgruppen als Top 3 identifiziert:


Militär auf der Ahr vor einem Haus, das bei der Flutkatastrophe im Juli 2021 zerstört wurde

Photo credit: Christof Stache/AFP via Getty Images



Luftverschmutzung durch Kohlekraftwerke im Zentrum von Delhi, Indien



A mother and baby sitting on a bed above floodwater in their flooded home.

Eine Mutter mit Baby in ihrem überfluteten Haus in Kolkata, Indien

Wodurch zeichnen sich diese Bilder aus?

    • zeigen unverkennbar Ursachen oder Folgen des Klimawandels
    • emotionale Wirkung (erzeugen Gefühle wie Schock, Abscheu oder Mitleid)
    • ermöglichen einen Bezug zum eigenen Lebenskontext (lokale Umgebung, Familie mit Kindern)
    • Veranschaulichung einer unerwünschten Zukunft, z. B. in Form von massiver Luftverschmutzung


Insgesamt lässt sich feststellen, dass sich viele der sieben Climate Visuals-Prinzipien in den Reaktionen der Menschen auf die getesteten Bilder widerspiegeln: die Notwendigkeit der Lokalisierung des Klimathemas, die Darstellung der Auswirkungen des Klimawandels, die Abbildung echter Menschen mit echten Gefühlen, sowie etwas ambivalente Reaktionen auf Protestbilder. Außerdem ergaben sich neue Erkenntnisse zu Bildmaterial, das Potenzial hat, ein breiteres Publikum anzusprechen. Vor allem Bilder, die Zukunftsvisionen darstellen, sowohl positive als auch negative, können für verschiedene Menschen durchaus motivierend wirken. Gleichzeitig macht diese Studie deutlich, dass mehr repräsentative Forschung notwendig ist, um herauszufinden, wie Bilder das Bewusstsein der Menschen für Klimarisiken und -auswirkungen sowie für Lösungen beeinflussen können und wie visuelle Kommunikation das Gefühl der Selbstwirksamkeit (oder der persönlichen Handlungsfähigkeit) der Menschen angesichts der Klimakrise beeinflussen.


Die Erkenntnisse in gesamter Länge sowie eine Übersicht aller getesteten Bilder sind hier einsehbar.



Ocean Visuals is seeking audience partners.

Ocean Visuals is seeking audience partners.

Ocean Visuals offers organisations and individuals a unique, free and mutual opportunity to collaborate with Climate Visuals and Comms Inc to engage with supporters and followers. This is an equitable and rewarding moment of participation to improve the quality and impact of Ocean and Climate photography.

Photographers can upload their own authentic narratives, and communicate tangible local stories to international audiences through new imagery.  100 images and photographers will be selected by an independent jury to share the US $100,000 licensing fee. These images will join our evidence-based collection of impactful imagery - all freely available to campaigners, the media and educators.

Your supporters can be rewarded and directly contribute to global communications, helping better integrate the ocean and climate stories.  We encourage and invite new design collaboration with our initiative and ‘Call to Actions’  tailored to the needs and interests of your audience networks.

Read more about what Ocean Visuals can offer you and your audiences.

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Ocean Visuals advisory board announced.

Ocean Visuals advisory board announced.

Climate Visuals is committed to achieving and promoting best practice in the issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, feminist and anti-colonial approaches to image research and photography. Our new Ocean Visuals project, both in structure and public facing content, will be informed, tested and influenced by the comments and lived experience of a paid, advisory board. The members of the board are:

Tahnee Burgess

As Media and Communications Officer with the National Environment Science Program's Climate Systems Hub, Tahnee connects decision makers and Traditional Owners with Australia's best available climate science. With more than 4 years of experience in climate communication with the Monash Climate Change Communication Research Hub and other organisations, Tahnee brings her experience in climate science and environmental security to the board. Tahnee holds a Masters of Environment and Sustainability, specialising in Environmental Security, and a double degree in Arts and Science.

Wacera F.

Wacera F. is a photo editor currently based in Nairobi, Kenya. They produce diverse visual stories & curatorial studio projects at Everyday Africa. Alongside The Everyday Projects Community Team, they have supported collaborative digital reportage and editorial projects exploring layout design with teams at The ICRC, World Press Photo Foundation, Photoville, Pulitzer Center, Code For Africa and others. Their work blends hands-on design for photo, art direction and media project management, utilising varied communication mediums, design disciplines and research techniques. Wacera is also a comic book artist.

Marielle Ramires 

Co-founder of Fora do Eixo and Mídia NINJA, Marielle is currently the coordinator of Environmental Ninja, a journalist and activist of communication, culture and human rights. Mídia Ninja is known for covering acts and protests of social movements throughout Brazil through photos, videos and live broadcasts. It works on the strengthening of groups and collectives that touch on different agendas, especially from deep Brazil.

Neeta Satam

Neeta is a freelance photojournalist, educator, and National Geographic Explorer based in Saint Louis and Mumbai. Her work explores the themes of environmental, racial, and social justice issues. In 2021, she joined the International League of Conservation Photographers as an Associate Fellow. Her personal history and cultural identity have always influenced both the issues that draw her as a visual journalist and her work.

Daniella Zalcman

Daniella is a Vietnamese-American documentary photographer based in New Orleans, LA. Her work tends to focus on the legacies of western colonization, from the rise of homophobia in East Africa to the forced assimilation education of Indigenous children in North America. She is a 2021 Catchlight Fellow, a multiple grantee of the National Geographic Society and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, a fellow with the International Women's Media Foundation, and the founder of Women Photograph, a nonprofit working to elevate the voices of women and nonbinary visual journalists.


The board will input feedback individually, into collaborative documents and have the ability to discuss at virtual board meetings..This is to ensure that our own internal biases are further identified then challenged and that the project is equitably accessible and promoted to communities, geographies and cultures normally excluded from photography competitions, licensing opportunities and/or media exposure.   

During the participation phase we hope to identify and address some of the geographic, financial, language and systemic barriers facing professional, semi-professional and amateur photographers producing images related to climate change. 

During the dissemination phase, we hope the resulting Ocean Visuals collection becomes a valuable asset to communicators globally who cannot readily access or yet afford impactful ocean and climate imagery. 


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Climate Visuals on The Photo Ethics podcast.

Toby Smith, Climate Visuals Programme Lead, in conversation on the Photo Ethics Podcast.

Listen to the episode for a discussion on ethics & equity in photography, including thoughts on what makes for successful climate change imagery, how to invite and give presence to more diverse voices, and the ethical considerations that went into the Visualising Climate Change open call.

Listen to the podcast.

Climate Visuals launches Ocean Visuals at UN Oceans Conference

Climate Visuals launches Ocean Visuals at the UN Oceans Conference in Lisbon, 27 June - 1st July 2022.

The Ocean Visuals project will catalyse a new evidence-based collection of impactful ocean and coastal climate imagery - all equitably accessible to the media, non-profit and education sector in the’ Ocean Super Year’, the run up to COP27 and beyond into the UN Decade of Ocean Science.  

Toby Smith, Climate Visuals Lead, is attending the conference building momentum and seeking new engagement partners to ensure the imminent global open call reaches a wide and truly diverse audience.   Climate Visuals are also contributing expertise to round-tables and events on how climate and ocean action can be accelerated through cross-sector influencing and media engagement.

Register for updates on the Climate Visuals project, including the details of the open call, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

View and download the Ocean Visuals promotional images.

Turpin Samuel / Climate Visuals

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Shifting the sustainability dial through the lessons of D&I

The media industry has shifted the dial in the diversity and inclusion space – but what role does the media and advertising industry have to play in connecting the dots on sustainability?

Climate Visuals lead, Toby Smith, spoke on this panel discussion.

Watch the event recording on the Channel 4 website.

Nature visuals: Diversity in images of England’s natural spaces

Photos of the natural environment do not reflect the social, ethnic or geographic diversity of the country, which may create barriers to some people enjoying and feeling a sense of belonging in  nature. How can we build a better, more inclusive visual language?

Images matter. As people, we need to see ourselves in images relating to the natural environment so we connect with them and see the relevance of them to our lives. The photos we see of natural spaces need to be inclusive, authentic and show people from diverse backgrounds in diverse outdoor spaces. This is also important for connecting people with messages around our big challenges including climate change and biodiversity loss. Experiencing natural spaces in all kinds of ways helps to provide that connection and we know that for some, this is not currently part of their lives.

This matters for climate change too. Spending time in nature is a proven way to engage people with the climate crisis and a lack of inclusive imagery makes it harder to build a diverse climate movement.

Natural England commissioned Climate Outreach to speak with conservation organisations, community groups, online influencers and nature enthusiasts to explore how we can diversify the images of people and nature, resulting in a practical, evidence-based report. Below we highlight its set of six principles, developed to help guide the production of images that showcase the variety of ways that people can connect with and benefit from nature.

Photo credit: Mike Phill /

1 – Use images to tell positive, identifiable stories

Visuals can capture attention, promote interest and motivate engagement. Showing diverse individuals doing fulfilling activities in natural spaces will enhance feelings of inclusion and belonging. These positive representations are critical for reaching out to people who are left out of traditional outdoor narratives

Photo credit: Cheryl Duerden

2 – Create authentic representation, not tokenism

Authenticity is critical to telling an empowering, inclusive story that audiences will connect with. Stock imagery and staged portraits provide a veneer of representation but are not empowering and may backfire if they are perceived as fake or tokenistic. Display real images of diverse individuals enjoying a variety of natural spaces in ways that can connect with them on a personal level.

Photo credit: Joel Redman /

3 – Depict diverse activities in diverse landscapes

The cultural narrative of what it means to enjoy the outdoors is dominated by a narrow subset of landscapes, activities and people. Expand representation to break through harmful stereotypes and embrace new and different visual narratives of spaces, people and activities.

Photo credit: Tasha Thompson /

4 – Connect people to the wonderful diversity of natural places, from urban parks to national landscapes

Most people live in towns and cities and most outdoor experiences occur in urban areas. Yet imagery of natural spaces focuses on the countryside.  We need to show more urban green areas and tell visual stories about people enjoying nature in their everyday, as well as on holidays. This could be walking a tree-lined urban avenue or walking a national trail, a day trip to a city park or to a national park.

Photo credit: Joanne Coates /

5 – Include more real people in images

Images of idyllic countryside tend to dominate the visual story, but they do not fully represent the many reasons people enjoy the outdoors. Broaden the visual narrative and connect natural spaces to peoples’ everyday lives by capturing the many ways people use the outdoors to connect with friends and family, as well as with nature.

Oliver Hellowell is an outdoor photographer who also happens to have Down Syndrome.
Photo credit: Mike O’Carroll

6 – Diversify who is behind the camera and the message

Fixing the ‘who’, ‘what’, and ‘where’ of outdoor imagery is only part of the solution. We also need to diversify who is behind the camera and designing the wider communications, in order to provide greater authenticity and empowerment to those being photographed.

A diverse group of individuals are already harnessing the power of social media to shift the outdoor narrative by documenting their own experiences. Learn from these people and work with them to create new visuals.

Principles at a glance

Watch the webinar

Here we present our report and findings and show visual examples while hearing about the practical changes we need to see around nature visuals from photographer Joanne Coates and  Judy Ling Wong CBE, an environmental activist. Watch the Nature Visuals webinar


BBC Climate Question: Does climate change have an image problem?

Climate Visuals on display at COP26

Climate Visuals images hung on the walls at  the COP26 Climate Talks in Glasgow last year – overlooking world leaders and delegates.

The photography exhibits featured prominently in some of the most influential negotiating spaces at the conference in the so-called ‘Blue Zone’ (the Leaders Lounge; the main thoroughfare connecting delegate meeting rooms; and the Catering and Coffee area) as well as the ‘Green Zone.’

The exhibits showcased impactful, diverse photography showing what climate change really looks like around the world. The collection was curated from several sources, including:

  • our open call for photography in collaboration with TED Countdown which attracted submissions from photographers in over 150 countries and has resulted in 100 images freely available to global editorial media, educators and campaigners
  • our collaborative web resource on Indigenous media presence, which provides 8 recommendations for the media to achieve a lasting, positive, and impactful media presence for Indigenous peoples
  • images from an upcoming project with Natural England aiming to increase engagement with nature and climate through diversifying representation in English nature imagery

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:

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

Climate Visuals Newsletter

Dear Climate Visuals users and photographers,

This is your chance to help us find more photographers and enter your own images into our ‘Visualising Climate Open Call’! Once closed, our judges will convene to select 100 images, each to receive a $1,000 fee, creating an incredible, accessible collection of climate images and global stories.

Shaban Mwinji, a community scout ranger, in Ukunda, Kenya. Standing in a restored Mangrove Forest by Mikoko Pamoja. Mikoko Pamoja is a community-led mangrove conservation and restoration project based in southern Kenya and the world’s first blue carbon project. It aims to provide long-term incentives for mangrove protection and restoration through community involvement and benefit. Photo Credit: Anthony Ochieng / TonyWild / Climate Visual Countdown


We’ve received thousands of incredible images from every corner of the world – with some in this mail – but know there are more incredible images and stories of climate solutions and we’d love to see them!  Our final collection will be featured in an exhibition at TED Countdown Summit and COP26 and made accessible to the global editorial media, climate campaigners, and communicators.


Heihe, China (23rd December 2017): Taking the future for a test spin in one of the coldest regions on earth. This is the site of winter testing for a number of electric-car manufacturers, as this prototype of Chinese Slovenian joint venture APG Elaphe. Photo credit: Matjaz Krivic / Climate Visuals Countdown


This is your opportunity to contribute or share an opportunity to help address climate change using photography.  Share our submissions link, call on Twitter, Instagram or  LinkedIn

My wife and son visiting a melon garden in a glasshouse in Bogor, Indonesia. Sustainable farming such as these have become even more common during this pandemic. We took our son to this place for educating him on fruits and vegetables and how to grow them as online education put a stop to many school-organised field trips.
Photo credit: Pramod Kanakath / Climate Visuals Countdown


Finally, if you have already uploaded images – make sure you click ‘Complete Entry’ and have received the on-screen confirmation. Your images must be both uploaded and fully submitted into the system. 


Thank you and good luck!


Toby Smith


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.

The Lit x Climate Visuals: flash fiction and poetry competition

In August 2020, The Literary Platform asked aspiring fiction writers and poets to submit their response to one of four photographs.

Our Climate Visuals team work with a range of photographers to document the changes, impacts and responses to climate change. Our aim is to inspire visual communicators across the world, to move away from clichéd images of polar bears, melting ice caps and factories, to catalyse a new – more compelling and diverse – visual language for climate change. Together, with The Lit, we selected four images from four different photographers, exploring a variety of regions and communities around the world, and their relationship with the changing climate.

The aim of the competition was to showcase some of the ways in which different disciplines and media cross-pollinate. We are therefore delighted to share the winning and shortlisted entries below.

The work of six winning writers – responding to each of the photographs through storytelling or poetry – was originally published in Issue 3 of The Lit.

Solmaz Daryani, from The Eyes of Earth (The Death of Lake Urmia), Iran

The Eyes of Earth (The Death of Lake Urmia), Iran
Photo credit: Solmaz Daryani
  • Lake Urmia – located in the northwest of Iran – was once the biggest salt lake in the Middle East.
  • Lake Urmia was once home to many birds, ducks, pelicans and flamingoes, as well as a popular destination for visitors.
  • During the past 20 years, climatic changes, intensive agriculture and dam construction have combined to transform the lake; approximately 80% of the lake has disappeared.
  • The Noah’s Ark was once the biggest pleasure boat on the lake.

Solmaz Daryani; Instagram: @solmazdaryani, Twitter: @SolmazDaryani


Greg Kahn, from 3 Millimeters, Maryland, USA

Vanishing forests, growing marsh, and ‘For Sale’ signs in front of homes. 3 Millimeters, Maryland, USA.
Photo credit: Greg Kahn / Getty Images Climate Visuals Grant recipient
  • The Eastern Shore of Maryland is a short drive from Washington D.C. Its position means it was one of the first landed shores for colonial settlers.
  • Sea levels here are rising twice as fast as the global average.
  • Gradient sea walls, vegetation re-nourishment and education are among the efforts seeking to preserve natural habitat and homes in some locations along the coast; in other places along Chesapeake Bay the rising sea levels are irreversible.
  • Property values have fallen sharply in the most vulnerable areas, some have retreated from homes as the marsh land expands.

Greg Kahn, Instagram: @gregkahn, Twitter: @GregKahn


Aji Styawan, from Drowning Land, Demak Regency, Indonesia

  • The majority of the small islands among the 17,000 which make up the archipelago nation of Indonesia are only one meter above sea level.
  • In Demak Regency, Indonesia, local residents will spend around 5 to 10 million rupiahs a year to elevate their homes.
  • The ocean now engulfs thousands of hectares of land in some villages; farmers have become fishermen, as villagers have adapted to survive in different ways.
  • In a flooded public cemetery, the residents buried here are submerged by the rising sea that now surrounds their former homes.

Aji Styawan Instagram: @ajistyawan, Twitter: @adjiestyawan


Sophie Gerrard, The Flows, Caithness and Sutherland, Scotland

The Flows, Caithness and Sutherland, Scotland.
Photo credit: Sophie Gerrard
  • Flow Country is a peatland in the far north of mainland Scotland. Peatlands, a rare and unique habitat across the globe, hold almost 30 per cent of all terrestrial carbon.
  • Scotland’s peatland is widely considered to be the largest expanse of blanket peat bog in the world and the principal terrestrial carbon store in the UK.
  • In the Flow Country, incentives to make productive use of the peatland led to extensive forestry which dried and degraded the ecosystem.
  • Canes are used to create dams that maintain water levels in the Flow Country, helping restore the natural habitat.

Sophie Gerrard Instagram: @sophiegerrard, Twitter: @sophiegerrard_

Winning poet

Michaela Moclair for Abrasion

Winning fiction writer

George Harrison for Holding Out

Shortlisted poets

Clare Dwyer for Flow Country

Keiran Potter for Stolen Sugar

Shortlisted fiction writers

Clare Elwell for Salt Lakes

Sinead Price for Captain of the Sea

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

We’re supporting the Global Climate Strike

As an organisation dedicated to widening engagement with climate change, we’re fully behind the FridaysForFuture movement. Young people have demonstrated the power they have to drive public and political sentiment to back transformative climate action.

In turn, Climate Outreach has supported the movement by providing a training for its national representatives in how to hold effective climate conversations.

We welcome the opportunity to show solidarity with the young activists during the Global Climate Strike on September 20th and are enabling all our staff to support the strikers in whichever way feels appropriate to them. Staff taking part in the strike may for example be offering to support anyone wishing to gain confidence in talking climate – a key action in driving change.

Climate Outreach believes that climate change needs to be turned from a scientific reality into a social reality if we are going to take the necessary steps to safeguard our communities and environment. Public engagement is the key element for building social, political and economic change and requires action across the political and tactical spectrum.

Change often requires disruption. We note that protest movements have often played a critical role in historic system change and the furtherance of human rights – albeit using a wide range of tactics. As an organisation, Climate Outreach recognises and follows the law in all aspects of its operations.

New York Climate Week Event: Climate Visuals Documenting Solutions


The images that define climate change need to be both illustrative and impactful – narratives must move from causes and impacts to real solutions.

For this New York Climate Week webinar: Climate Visuals: Documenting Solutions,Toby Smith, will present the 7 Climate Visuals Principles; an accessible evidence based guide to climate change imagery that can maximise the power of storytelling, increase impact, engagement and ultimately encourage positive behaviour change.  Joining Toby will be Nana Kofi Acquah. Nana is a Ghanaian photographer working across Africa with direct experience of how solutions and positive, participatory narratives can catalyse long term climate and development action.

16th July 2019, Kpatua, Ghana Oxfam built a solar powered pump in Kpatua to help over families become more resilient during dry seasons. Apart from community memberscoming to the pump twice a day, all year round, during the dry season, women use the water from the pump to farm vegetables for sale.
Photo credit: Nana Kofi Acquah

Toby and Nana are currently working together on a project with Ashden to document sustainable cooling solutions in Ghana and India. They will draw on their rich experience, expertise and examples of visual storytelling in a facilitated webinar format with space for audience questions, participation and discussion.

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 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.

Enter The Climate Visuals Photography Award

The images that define climate change shape the way it is understood and acted upon. However, polar bears, melting ice and arrays of smoke stacks don’t convey the urgent human stories at the heart of the issue. Based on international social research, Climate Visuals provides 7 principles for a more diverse, relatable and compelling visual language for climate change.

We want to recognise existing and outstanding imagery with impact at our inaugural Climate Visuals Photography Award.  Entry to our competition is free, democratic, has ethical terms and conditions and a healthy £1000 cash prize.   We are looking for  photographers – amateur or professional – who have successfully engaged audiences with climate change,  its causes, impacts, and/or solutions.

Photographers will be judged on how well their photography embodies the 7 principles of visual climate change communication. The judges will also consider how effectively and widely their images have been published, shared, exhibited or innovatively presented.

A maximum of 5 photographs can be submitted. However, they will be scored individually. All photographs submitted will be randomised as single images amongst all other entries and entrants before judging.

Who should apply?

Anybody is welcome to apply – professional or amateur photographer. Applicants must be over the age of 18.

Interested in applying? 

Have a look at the application form, T&Cs and FAQs

Climate Visuals Photography Award Judges

Nicole Itano is the new Executive Director of  tve. Prior to that, she was WWF-UK’s Director of Media and Content, headed Save the Children UK’s creative team, and also spent a decade in international journalism where she reported from more than 50 countries for many of the world’s leading media outlets.

Kirstin Kidd is a Picture Editor at the Economist. She has over 10 years experience working on print magazines, book and online sector.  This includes New Scientist Magazine where Kirstin worked on long-term, in-depth picture research, as well as the fast-paced news agenda that required both commissioning and sourcing photography.

Eric Hilaire is the Environment, Science and Global Development Picture Editor at The Guardian. Previously, Eric lived in Hong Kong, where he began his career as a newspaper picture editor.

Toby Smith is the Climate Visuals Programme Lead and Media Liaison. He has 12 years experience as an award-winning Environmental Photographer who focuses on building innovative, global stories through collaboration and publication in leading editorial outlets.



*This is one of 4 categories being celebrated at Climate Outreach’s Climate Communication Awards.

Global Climate Solutions Imagery from the Ashden Winners

The Climate Visuals image library is built on the evolving evidence of what makes impactful,  not just illustrative, climate change photography.  A rapidly growing collection of over 1200 images are referenced from a broad range of sources and agencies, with a balance between Rights Managed and Creative Commons licensing types to suit different budgets and usages. 

Thousands of communication professionals access the library every month sourcing images for their campaigns, websites, reports and posts on social media. The images are organised into climate causes, impacts and solutions with accompanying text both captioning and placing the context of the image but also expanding on which of the seven Climate Visuals Principles are in action


Birmingham residents using free bikes provided by The Active Well-Being Society, 2017 UK Ashden Award for Clean Air in Towns and Cities.
Photo credit: The Active Well-Being Society / Ashden

The wider climate narrative and global media needs ongoing support to move the needle away from negative stories of causes and impacts to one of optimistic and realistic climate solutions. Explored in depth within our editorial  ‘Why Can’t The Media Visualise Climate Solutions?’  recent efforts to expand the library have since focused on identifying and filling content gaps while prioritising unpublished solution stories.

 Solar panel installation. Renewable Energy 4 Devon –  2009 Ashden Award winners
Photo credit: Andrew Aitchenson / Ashden 

Ashden, a non-for-profit based in London has a mission ‘to accelerate transformative climate solutions and build a more just world.’ Since 2001 the annual Ashden Awards have recognised over 225 global organisations tackling climate change, energy access, efficiency and storage.  All of their winners are clearly catalogued and profiled online which has, behind the scenes, included the building of an incredible, inclusive, diverse and positive photography archive, both with direct commissioning and soliciting or adopting visual content from the winners themselves. Climate Visuals Programme Lead, Toby Smith, was invited to dive into the archive with a view to making the collection a public resource.

“Ashden has long been unearthing, verifying and championing diverse, real-world climate solutions through the organisations and people driving them forwards. Their enormous photography archive is an absolute treasure trove of honest,  narrative-based, visual content that was desperate to be made public.  There was no question or hesitation of an immediate partnership between Climate Visuals and Ashden to host, launch and make their work accessible within our library to support wider climate communication efforts worldwide.”

Toby Smith, Climate Outreach, Visuals and Media Programme Lead

 Woman stood next to her crops in her greenhouse. GERES NGO – 2009 Ashden Award winners.
Photo by: Martin Wright / Ashden 

Ashden Director of Communications Jo Walton said: “Powerful images are a crucial weapon in our fight against the climate crisis. So we are delighted to work with Climate Visuals to share revealing, thought-provoking and inspiring images of climate solutions in the UK and around the world. Like Climate Visuals, we believe that great change starts with great storytelling. And we’re delighted to the tell the stories of front line climate innovators – true heroes leading us towards a low-carbon future”

Climate Visuals have edited over 170 quality images from an archive of over 2000, carefully enriching every frame with detailed factual or contextual captions and supplementary information of how it measures against our research into impact. The Ashden collection is now available on the Climate Visual Library and is technically a Rights Managed collection.  However, Ashden are kindly allowing unrestricted download of images from their Flickr pages, granting permissions for free usage and publication of the content so long as it is ‘for public good and in context of climate change and/or climate solutions.’  Users of the images should also clearly credit the images in the format ‘Photo by:  Photographer Name / Ashden’.

“The next stage of our Climate Visuals collaboration will tackle the urgent need for sustainable cooling in an ever-warmer world. We look forward to producing a series of moving and insightful images illuminating this crucial challenge.” 

Craig Burnett – Senior Communications Officer – Ashden

 Women harvesting crops outside shaded nets. Rajastan Horticulture Development Society – 2014 Ashden Award nominees.
Photo by: Ashden

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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Climate Visuals Joins World Press Photo House Livecast #2


World Press Photo House #2: World Environment Day, Conversations with photographers and organizations that are advocating for a more impactful and engaging environment.

Friday 5th June is World Environment Day, which encourages worldwide awareness and action for the protection of the environment. This year, the main theme is ‘Time for Nature,’ with a focus on its role in providing the essential infrastructure that supports life on Earth and human development.

For the second edition of the World Press Photo House livecast, WPP invited photographers and organizations that are advocating for more impactful, engaging environment and conservation photography to talk about their initiatives and projects.

Toby Smith, Climate Visuals Programme Lead, will present an introduction to the 7 Climate Visuals Principles, an accessible evidence based guide to what makes not just illustrative but truly impactful imagery. This will be demonstrated with curated examples from the past Environment and Nature winners within the World Press Photo Collection. Finally, there will be a short reflection on the phenomenon of environmental photography during COVID and the challenges ahead as we emerge.

Moderated by Lars Boering, managing director of the World Press Photo Foundation, the program includes presentations from the following speakers, in addition to Toby Smith:

Cristina Mittermeier is the marine biologist and activist who pioneered the concept and field of conservation photography. Mittermeier founded the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP) in 2005 to provide a platform for photographers working on environmental issues. In 2015, Mittermeier co-founded SeaLegacy, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the ocean.

In 2020, on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, Mittermeier announced the most ambitious project of her career: Only One, a new collective of organizations that uses digital technology and visual storytelling to catalyze lasting cultural change, with the ultimate goal of conserving the world’s oceans from now into perpetuity. During her presentation, she will tell us more about this initiative and her work as a conservation photographer.

 Cristina Mittermeier, Mexico, conservation photographer, co-founder of Sea Legacy.
Photo credit: Cristina Mittermeier.


Esther Horvath is a Fellow at ILCP, member of The Photo Society and science photographer for Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany. Since 2015, Horvath has dedicated her photography to the polar regions, especially to the Arctic Ocean, documenting scientific expeditions and behind the scene science stories. She follows the work of multiple science groups that are working to better understand the changing polar regions.

In 2020, she was awarded 1st prize, singles in the Environment category of the 2020 Photo Contest for her photo ‘Polar Bear and her Cub’. During her talk, she will tell us the story behind her awarded image and discuss her work in the Arctic Ocean.

In addition, Jerzy Brinkhof, World Press Photo exhibitions manager, will tell the stories behind some of the awarded images in the Nature and Environment categories of the 2020 Photo Contest. Edie Peters, manager of the PhotoQ Bookshop, will present one of the nature and environment photo books to watch out for in 2020.

 The Carbon Threat. Josiah Olemaun, a young whaler, takes a break from stacking whale meat in the family ice cellar in Utqiaġvik, Alaska, United States, on 29 April 2018. Thawing permafrost undermines house foundations, makes the landscape more difficult to navigate and causes ice cellars to flood and provisions to spoil.A single whale can feed a community for nearly a year, if the meat is properly stored.
Photo credit: Katie Orlinsky, United States, National Geographic.

The World Press Photo livecasts showcase the stories that matter to a global audience. Through a rich and diverse program of presentations, talks and discussions, we encourage diverse accounts of the world that present stories with different perspectives, educate the public and the profession on the making of stories, and encourage debate on their meaning.

Learn more and re-watch the first edition here.

Join us on 5 June at 10:00 EDT / 15:00 BST / 16.00 CEST. It’s #TimeforNature.

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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Getty Images and Climate Visuals award $20,000 to photojournalists

Getty Images and Climate Visuals Award $20,000 to Photojournalists as Part of Broader Effort to Advance the Visual Narratives of the Global Climate Crisis

Two recipients awarded for respective bodies of work that document rising sea levels in communities around the world

LONDON April 7, 2020Getty Images, a world leader in visual communications, in partnership with Climate Visuals, the world’s only evidence-backed programme for climate change photography, has named two recipients of the inaugural Getty Images Climate Visuals Grants, with each photojournalist receiving a grant of $10,000 to help advance the visual narratives surrounding this complex global issue.

As media coverage of the global climate crisis intensified through 2019, Getty Images and Climate Visuals understand the need to meet and sustain that growing attention with nuanced photojournalism that advances and localises the world’s collective understanding of the issues at stake. For this inaugural grant, Getty Images received 144 submissions from photographers across over 40 different nations.

The judges awarded two recipients, alongside one honourable mention – all of whom focused work on the rising sea levels in their respective locations and the vast damage this is inflicting on communities worldwide. The 2020 Getty Images Climate Visuals Grant recipients are:

  • Aji Styawan for Drowning Land: Aji, a freelance photojournalist from Indonesia, is committed to documenting the effect climate change has already had on millions of lives. His work focuses on the resiliency of the people in the Demak Regency of Indonesia as they live with rising sea levels in not only their communities, but even inside their homes.
Abdul Muid (60) and his wife Muniah (55) pose inside their flooded home due to rising sea levels. Abdul and his family have been living in this house, and living with the floods for about ten years. He doesn’t have the money to move to another house, further away from the sea.
Photo credit: Aji Styawan/Getty Images Climate Visuals Grant recipient
  • Greg Kahn for 3 Millimeters: Greg, a Pulitzer Prize nominated documentary fine art photographer receives a grant for 3 Millimeters, which explores rising sea levels on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, USA. His project depicts the slow drowning of a historic culture that built an entire cultural ecosystem on the shifting tidal waves. 
Douglas walks to the rear entrance of New Revived United Methodist Church in Taylor’s Island, Md. Decades ago, the church sat in front of forest, now visible open water and marsh come right to the back side of the historic church.
Photo credit: Greg Kahn/Getty Images Climate Visuals Grant recipient

Additionally, Acacia Johnson, a photojournalist from Alaska,  was recognised with an honourable mention for her project Open Water Season: Adapting to an Ice-Free Arctic, which focuses on sea ice melting across the Arctic and the ways in which Inuit communities must adapt to prolonged seasons of open water.

Speaking on the 2020 recipients, Getty Images Senior Vice President and Head of Global Content, Ken Mainardis says: “We are thrilled to support photojournalists who understand that visual content has the power to move the world and redefine the narratives around global issues, like the climate crisis. We were blown away by the quality of the recipients’ work, as well as their vision and commitment to catalyse a new visual language for climate change.”

Submissions were judged by a prestigious industry-leading panel, including:

  • Jay Davies, Director of Photography, Getty Images
  • Dr. Julie Doyle, Climate Communication Professor at Brighton University
  • Dr. Kate Manzo, Climate Change and Development Senior Lecturer at Newcastle University
  • Fiona Shields, Head of Photography, The Guardian
  • Dr.  Susie Wang, Researcher at Climate Visuals

Speaking on the selection process and the awarded work, Climate Visuals Researcher and Judge, Susie Wang said: “We reviewed so many compelling photos of both devastating climate impacts and hopeful climate solutions. Looking through the stories of strong, resilient communities that are living with and adapting to climate change was particularly moving. The two recipients will be supported to continue exploring comparable narratives of sea level rise in diverse and globally distant landscapes, cultures and geography. Their local access and sense of true representation shone through at application.”

Sutarti (33) takes a peek into her refrigerator in the kitchen of her flooded home due to rising sea levels. She has not enough money to move to a safe place.
Photo credit: Aji Styawan/Getty Images Climate Visuals Grant recipient
Phil Jackson, a longtime muskrat trapper, heads out to set traps in Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Feb. 19, 2014. Jackson says the number of muskrats have declined since the salinity of the water in Blackwater has climbed, a result of sea level rise. Scientists predict this area will be underwater in about 50 years.
Photo credit: Greg Kahn/Getty Images Climate Visuals Grant recipient

Since it was founded in 1995, Getty Images has been buoyed by its outstanding, award-winning contributors and is deeply committed to supporting the global photojournalism community. The Getty Images Climate Visuals Grants is part of the wider Getty Images Grants program, which since its inception has donated over US$1.6 million to photographers and videographers around the world.

For more information, or to speak with one of the Getty Images Climate Visuals Grant recipients please contact:

Victoria Gimigliano

Digital Communications Coordinator, Climate Visuals

About Getty Images: 

Getty Images is one of the most trusted and esteemed sources of visual content in the world, with over 375 million assets including photos, videos, and music, available through its industry-leading sites and The Getty Images website serves creative, business and media customers in nearly every country in the world and is the first-place people turn to discover, purchase and share powerful visual content from the world’s best photographers and videographers. Getty Images works with over 310,000 contributors and hundreds of image partners to provide comprehensive coverage of more than 160,000 news, sport and entertainment events each year, impactful creative imagery to communicate any commercial concept and the world’s deepest digital archive of historic photography.

Visit Getty Images at to learn more about how the company is advancing the unique role of still and moving imagery in communication and business, enabling creative ideas to come to life. For company news and announcements, visit our Press Room, and for the stories and inspiration behind our content, visit Find Getty Images on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, or download the Getty Images app where you can explore, save and share the world’s best imagery.

About Climate Visuals

Climate Visuals is a programme of Climate Outreach, a team of social scientists and climate communication specialists building a social mandate for climate change through wider and deeper public engagement. We have 15 years experience helping organisations communicate in ways that resonate with the values of their audiences and create the types of climate conversations that lead to action. Our Oxford-based charity provides evidence-based, practical tools and consultancy to organisations worldwide: governments, international bodies, charities, media outlets, academic institutions, businesses, youth groups etc.

Climate Visuals is the world’s only evidence-backed programme for climate change photography.  Based on international social research and industry insights, Climate Visuals aims to strategically change the working practices of visual communicators across the world, to move away from clichéd images of polar bears, melting ice caps and factories, to catalyse a new – more compelling and diverse – visual language for climate change.  Climate Visuals hosts an evidence-based image reference library based on its publicly accessible 7 Climate Visuals Principles and peer-reviewed evidence which  uniquely positions their team to make informed, accurate and impactful decisions around climate change imagery.

Getty Images Climate Visuals Grant Recipient — Aji Styawan


My name is Aji Styawan (b.1990), I’m a photojournalist and documentary photographer based in Demak Regency, Central Java, Indonesia. I started my career as a freelance photojournalist in 2013 by joining several photo press agencies. While working with different wire services, my work has been featured in local and international news outlets.

Drowning Land

This project documents the resiliency of the people in Demak Regency, Indonesia, as they live with rising seas in their neighborhoods and inside their homes.

A villager throws rocks to fill the foundation for his new house in an effort to elevate it and mitigate the threat of the rising sea. Local residents will spend around 5 to 10 Million rupiahs in a year to elevate their homes and protect it from flooding.
Photo credit: Aji Styawan/Getty Images Climate Visuals Grant recipient

Direct Quote from Aji

As the recipient I am beyond thrilled, this grant is so meaningful to me. As a native photographer in Demak, this grant will help me to continue producing this story over the long term, separate from my daily work as a photojournalist at Antara Foto press photo agency.  

With this project that will be shown in the news, a more appropriate solution might come from the government, or from those organizations and people who care about the climate crisis, to help the people of Demak as they face rising sea levels on a daily basis in their homes, and on their land.

This grant will also open opportunities for me to continue my project in other parts of Indonesia, which are severely impacted by rising sea levels due to climate change, especially on Java. I will also focus and investigate the ways people are working on solutions.

 Villagers performing maintenance work on the so called ‘Low Threshold Breakwater Technology’ construction. It was built by the Ministry of Public Works and Public Housing to slow down the pace of the rising sea impacting their village. Various efforts dealing with the abrasion due to the rising sea have been carried out by a number of environmental organizations and the government. But, land subsidence accompanied by rising sea levels hits double hard and continues to threaten thousands of residents.
Photo credit: Aji Styawan/Getty Images Climate Visuals Grant recipient

Project Proposal

Indonesia is one of the largest archipelago nations in the world with over 17.000 islands. With the majority of the small islands only one meter above sea level, coastal areas are being threatened by climate change. Deforestation, land reclamation and groundwater extraction by the industry on the coasts make these areas even more vulnerable to rising sea levels.

Experts predict that before 2050, thousands of small islands and millions of houses in coastal areas across Indonesia will disappear due to rising sea levels. Data from the Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, show the abrasion rate in Indonesia reaches 1,950 hectares per year. Total land lost between 2000 and 2014 was 29,261 hectares. Abrasion on the northern coast of Central Java reached 6,000 hectares since 2000.

Demak Regency is located on the northern coast of Central Java, about 450 km east of Jakarta. Some areas of Demak, Sayung subdistrict, were ranked the highest impacted by abrasion. The coastline had retreated around 5.1 kilometers from the coastline compared to 1994. Over 500 households were displaced due to abrasion in the the past 20 years and more are following. The ocean engulfs more than thousands of hectares land areas in some of villages where one of hamlets has now completely sunk below sea level.

The villagers witnessed the disappearance of their land, that was once productive land used for agriculture. With the sea rising that land gradually morphed into becoming fish ponds and mangrove forests which are now also submerged. Today it’s all sea, and former farmers are now fishermen. Households are cut off from the land, as bridges and roads sink below sea level forcing the villagers to adapt and survive in the different ways. When alive, the residents live with the seawater, they are surrounded by it, even inside their homes.

When they die they are buried in the land submerged by the rising sea.

 Villagers pray for their family members at a flooded public cemetery due to rising sea levels. When alive, the residents live with the seawater, they are surrounded by it, even inside their homes. When they die they are buried in the land submerged by the rising sea.
Photo credit: Aji Styawan/Getty Images Climate Visuals Grant recipient
A woman praying Maghrib Salat on her bed in the evening, inside her home that is flooded due to rising sea levels.
Photo credit: Aji Styawan/Getty Images Climate Visuals Grant recipient

Principles for Climate Change Communication

I am a native to Demak, I live and work as a photojournalist from there. The people in Demak are my neighbors and their situation appeals to my heart. Being a local photographer, I feel a strong commitment to make their story known, to show people around the world how climate change already impacts people’s lives. If the world does not act it will only get worse, to at least slow down what already is a climate crisis.


Getty Images Climate Visuals Grant Recipient — Greg Kahn


Greg Kahn (b. 1981) is an American documentary fine art photographer. Kahn grew up in a small coastal town in Rhode Island, and attended The George Washington University in Washington D.C.]

3 Millimeters

A look at sea level rise on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and the slow drowning of a historic culture tied to the tide.

 A church on Hoopers Island has waves from the Chesapeake lapping up against the back side of the building during high tide. Every year the water gets a little closer and there are few places left to move.
Photo Credit: Greg Kahn/Getty Images Climate Visuals Grant recipient

Direct Quote From Greg

I’m deeply honored to receive this grant. The funding will be immensely helpful as I continue to document the Eastern Shore of Maryland and the people’s lives that are changing as a result of sea level rise. A lot of this effort takes research and time out on the peninsula, so the grant will go directly to those efforts. When I first began documenting this issue, I talked with a lot of residents in the affected area that didn’t believe the science. As time went on, I think even the ones who were skeptical are starting to open their eyes, which is why it’s even more important to continue the work today.

 Lacolia Alford watches disaster assessment officials check for leaks on her roof from her bedroom window in Crisfield, Maryland. Her home suffered major damage from water after Hurricane Sandy and almost a year later,still needs $7,000 in repairs to the roof and foundation of the house.
Photo Credit: Greg Kahn/Getty Images Climate Visuals Grant recipient

Project Proposal

Three extra millimeters of water every year will make land vanish. It will swallow communities. It will change environmental habitats forever. It will cause record pollution. For townspeople along the inner-coastal region of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, the impact of sea level rise is no longer an abstract worry debated by politicians. They see the land becoming more saturated beneath their feet.

Thirteen of the bay’s southern islands, many of them once inhabited,are gone. “3 Millimeters” explores the waterways of Maryland, where, due to the region’s makeup and Atlantic Ocean flow, sea levels are rising twice as fast as the global average and will leap by as much as five feet by 2100. This will submerge more than 250,000 acres of land, displacing more than half a million people. My photographs will document the

consequences of climate change – a process without emergency brakes. The project considers how a community’s identity, ever tied to the land, is evolving. Generational farms, once fertile and productive, now wilt as mounting salinity levels from rising tides force families to abandon their way of life.

“3 Millimeters” is not about documenting melting glaciers in cold, far away places. It’s not about rampaging storms that inflict swift, sudden and circumstantial devastation on unsuspecting communities. “3 Millimeters” is about the slow drowning of a place, its way of life, and what we can learn from that.

While nothing can reverse rising seas in places like Smith Island or Blackwater NWR, there is hope for others. Gradient sea walls, vegetation re-nourishment and public education are all ongoing endeavors to preserve natural habitat and homes along the coast.  The hope is that it will stop erosion as well as maintain habitat for sea life such as horseshoe crabs and terrapins. “3 Millimeters” will explore what methods are slowing erosion, and what future climate change will mean to this region.

 Waterman Aaron Powley hauls in a net in Fishing Creek, Md., just north of Hoopersville. Young watermen are becoming more of a rarity. Some try to continue the family business, which can date more than six generations, saying they don’t want to be the one to break the tradition.
Photo Credit: Greg Kahn/Getty Images Climate Visuals Grant recipient
A vacant home in Hoopersville, MD decays in the expaning marsh on Dec. 30, 2017. With property values dropping along the most vulnerable areas on the Eastern Shore, some homes are left for the saturated soil to recalim.
Photo Credit: Greg Kahn/Getty Images Climate Visuals Grant recipient

Principles For Climate Change Communication

The Eastern Shore of Maryland is one of the frontiers of climate change in the United States. It is not a far off place with melting glaciers, it is local and happening now. The area affected is a short drive from the seat of power in Washington, D.C. where policy could be enacted to change how we live and fight this unfolding cautionary tale.

The area is also historically conservative politically, but with the rapid loss of land due to sea level rise, even the residents who refused to believe the science are now accepting the truth. This story has the ability to make climate change a local issue for our nation, no longer places on the outskirts that few people live, but a place that has a history back to when settler’s first landed on the shores of America

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.

The Air That We Breathe

How imagery of air pollution can communicate the health impacts of climate change

Executive Summary

  • New survey research – the first of its kind – reveals how the UK public engages with imagery communicating the health impacts of climate change (and the health benefits of low carbon measures).
  • Images showing air pollution (compared to images of floods, heat stress, and infectious disease) were found to be more effective for visually communicating the health impacts of climate change: the health consequences of climate impacts other than air pollution are not yet visually salient in the public mind.
  • While it is crucial to help audiences join the dots between the range of climate impacts and public health – from flooding to heat stress – this survey suggests that information and imagery focussing on air quality could be particularly engaging for UK audiences at present.

Visual communication on the health impacts of climate change should therefore:

  • Build on the salience of air pollution as an issue with links to climate change to create a visual narrative of climate impacts that is people-focused and relatable and which introduces the link between health and other climate impacts.
  • Be clear about the ways in which air quality can be linked to climate change, for example when rising summer temperatures create air pollution hotspots in urban centres.
  • Lead with images that are likely to convey people’s vulnerability and susceptibility to the health risks of air pollution/climate change.
  • Combine these health-impact images with solutions-focused photos that build a sense of ‘efficacy’, and highlight positive social norms (around people taking relevant climate actions).
“Vertical Garden”
Photo credit: Peter Bennett / Citizen of the Planet / Alamy Stock Photo

Climate and health in the UK

The ways in which climate change can affect human health are many and varied. In the UK risks to human health are posed by heat stress and flooding, new and emerging pests and diseases, poor air quality, and reduced food security – with such impacts also increasing negative outcomes for mental health. But although the health and well being of vulnerable groups in the UK is a focus of public concern, the level of knowledge among the general population of the links between climate change and health is currently low.


Adapted from: Climate Impacts and Adaptation / Environment Agency


For a long time, one of the biggest barriers to public engagement with climate change was the so-called ‘psychological distance’ of the issue. With any number of more immediate concerns to focus on, it was easy for people in countries like the UK to perceive the risks of climate change as ‘not here, not now, and not likely to happen to me’.

Despite the sudden political salience of climate change, and daily news reports of a rapidly changing climate, the issue can still seem remote for people in countries like the UK where bushfires and hurricanes are not a familiar threat. Although climate change is getting ‘closer to home’, the UK public still tends to see major climate impacts as something for other people in other places to worry about.

 Climate Visuals 7 core principles: The evidence

As our Climate Visuals research has established, a more people-focused, relatable visual language for climate change can improve communication and engagement on this crucial issue. At the same time, many studies have pointed to the potential benefit of emphasising the health risks from climate impacts and the health benefits of low carbon policies. In recent years, health practitioners have played an increasingly central role in sounding the alarm about climate change, with initiatives like the Lancet Planetary Health Commission making clear that many of the impacts of climate change are experienced by individuals and communities as threats to their physical and mental health.

So can images of the health impacts of climate change – and low carbon measures that can create health benefits – bring climate change home for UK citizens?

A survey of 1000 UK citizens

An online survey of just over 1000 UK citizens was conducted during 2019. Participants viewed a range of images showing different categories of UK climate impacts with direct health implications: flooding, heat-stress, infectious diseases and air pollution. Participants answered a series of questions about these images, and also viewed a smaller number of ‘solutions’ images (i.e. positive societal responses related to climate change health impacts).

         “Air pollution affects us all, normal people in the western world.  The picture clearly identifies with my thoughts on it.”

The survey tested a range of different research questions, and explored a number of different psychological variables – such as ‘perceived severity’ (how serious impacts are perceived to be), and ‘perceived susceptibility’ (how vulnerable people felt toward impacts). For a fuller description of the methods please refer to the appendix below.

         “I am asthmatic, and already struggle to breathe right – pollution levels increasing would drastically affect me.”

Key findings & recommendations

  • Images of air pollution were consistently found to be the most effective for visually communicating the health impacts of climate change. These images produced the highest ratings of concern about climate change and respondents also rated air pollution images as the most ‘representative of climate change’ (compared to the other impacts shown).
  • People reported feeling more vulnerable and susceptible towards air pollution, relative to the other types of impacts explored (flooding, heat stress and infectious disease).
  • Air pollution was also the issue that most people felt they could do something about (a sense of ‘efficacy’). 75% said air pollution was the climate impact they felt they could do most about personally – compared to floods (6%), heat stress (12%), or infectious disease (7%).
  • A smaller set of ‘solutions’ images were also tested – these images, in line with previous research, consistently produced higher levels of ‘efficacy’ (the sense of being able to make a difference) than the images of health impacts. This is important because previous research suggests that potentially threatening information related to health should be matched with appeals to efficacy, to prevent defensive or avoidant reactions.


 “Air Purifying Machine, Glasgow”
Image Credit: Iain Masterton / Alamy Stock Photo
 Adapted from: Health Climate Change Impacts / NERC

                   “I think that air pollution is the most serious one because it would affect everyone indiscriminately. There is no way to avoid it, there is no element of luck involved.”


We recommend that visual communication on the health impacts of climate change:

  • Builds on the salience of air pollution as a climate impact to create a visual narrative of climate impacts that is people-focused and relatable (whilst being clear about the ways climate change can reduce air quality).
  • Foregrounds images that are likely to convey to people their vulnerability and susceptibility to the health risks of climate change.
  • Crucially, combines these health-impact images with solutions-focused photos and messages that build a sense of efficacy, whilst applying other best practices in climate change communication (e.g. highlighting positive social norms relating to climate action).
 “Walking in City Smog”
Photo credit: Kathy DeWitt / Alamy

Appendix – Methods (abridged)

  • An online survey with qualitative, quantitative, and experimental components was conducted with UK participants, with data collection carried out in March 2019.
  • 1004 participants were recruited with representative quota sampling for age, gender and ethnicity. 986 places were matched on 3 stratification factors (age, sex and ethnicity), and 18 places matched on 2 stratification factors (sex and ethnicity) = 99.6% sample accuracy. One participant was removed due to incomplete data.
  • In order to test how public threat appraisals may differ in relation to different impact types, a selection of four impacts were chosen due to their salience within the UK and due to availability of images: (1) floods, (2) heat stress/heat exhaustion, (3) new and emerging infectious diseases and (4) air quality. All participants viewed text content relating to these four impacts, answering questions about the perceived severity of, and their sense of vulnerability towards, the impact.
  • At the same time, an experimental aspect allowed the style of content to be varied as well. This meant participants were randomly split into groups where the content showed either: (a) people with neutral emotional expressions (b) people displaying clear negative emotion (c) no people or (d) a control condition, where only text relating to the impacts was displayed.
  • In the survey there were 12 impact images (3 per impact type) and four solution images (showing: tree planting, cycling in a city, getting information from a GP and school strike demo). All selected photographs were either taken in the UK, or could reasonably be inferred as being within the UK. Impact images were rounded down from an initial shortlist of 60+  through a process of coding and review.
  • Other survey questions included: willingness to carry out climate relevant actions, text responses towards the imagery and content, a forced choice task (where participants selected one of two random images placed side by side), and a ‘heatmap’ task, which required participants to click on the most attention-grabbing part of an image.
  • Toward the end of the survey, participants also reviewed impact and solution imagery (four images for each, presented on separate pages) and answered questions about the images’ effectiveness at generating a sense of self-efficacy.

Contact details and further information

Climate Visuals is the world’s only evidence-based climate change photography programme. Drawing on international social research and a broad network of partners across the campaigning, photographic and media space, Climate Visuals is establishing a new best practice, centred around 7 core principles, to empower climate change visual communication and maximise engagement with the issue. For more information about the Climate Visuals Programme please contact

Further details of the survey design and analysis will become available as part of a more detailed forthcoming write up, and will also form part of the lead author’s PhD thesis. For further information about this study contact Niall McLoughlin – Associate, Climate Outreach & PhD Researcher, Department of Psychology, University of Bath: Niall’s PhD was funded through an ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council) ‘Environment, Energy and Resilience’ pathway PhD scholarship, under the supervision of Dr Ian Walker (Psychology, University of Bath) and A/Prof Saffron O’Neill (Geography, University of Exeter).

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

Getty Images and Climate Visuals Launch New Grant to Evolve the Visual Narratives that Define the Global Climate Crisis

The Getty Images Climate Visuals Grants aim to transform depiction of complex climate issues to ensure greater efficacy, immediacy and drive positive change

The application deadline has now passed.
We are currently judging entries and will announce the winners in April.

London- January 16, 2020: Getty Images, a world leader in visual communications, in partnership with  Climate Visuals, the world’s only evidence-backed programme for climate change photography, has today announced the launch of the Getty Images Climate Visuals Grants, open to photojournalists from around the world who are working to advance the visual narratives that  define the global climate crisis.

Together, Getty Images and Climate Visuals aim to support the creation of new stories with compelling, colourful and emotionally powerful imagery that explores this complex crisis – its causes, effects and solutions. These Grants will enable the production of stories that have the integrity and immediacy needed to both raise awareness and inspire action that is vital in this current moment. As media coverage of the global climate crisis intensifies, Getty Images and Climate Visuals understand the need to meet and sustain that growing attention with nuanced photojournalism that advances and localises the world’s collective understanding of what is at stake. Imagery has the power to document events, communicate ideas, trigger emotion, prompt conversation, reveal truths and inspire real change. Professional image-makers need to harness all these qualities, to meet the challenge posed by global climate change and ensure imagery captured is not just documenting but is also inspiring conversation and driving behavioural change.

Two grants of $10,000 each, totaling $20,000, will be awarded to two photojournalists whose work focuses on the local impacts of- and solutions to- climate change, not simply the causes, which have historically been well represented in traditional news coverage. The photographer’s work must also demonstrate elements of the seven Climate Visuals Principles for climate change communication. Published by Climate Visuals and based on  social research into the efficacy of climate change imagery, the guidance includes: show real people; tell new stories; show climate change causes at scale; show emotionally powerful impacts; understand the audience; show local but serious impacts; demonstrate caution and care with protest imagery.

“Getty Images’ mission is to move the world with images,” said Ken Mainardis, Senior Vice President, Head of Content at Getty Images. “Photojournalism has the ability to not only educate the viewer but also provide a deeper understanding of how the climate crisis is effecting real people around the world in visceral ways. The most powerful photojournalism both tells a story and touches people’s hearts.

Mainardis continues: “We are thrilled to be further expanding our Grants program – even more so with an honorable and committed organization like Climate Visuals, who have already done so much work to strategically change the working practices of influential visual communicators across the world and to catalyse a new – more compelling and diverse – visual language for climate change.”

“The Climate Visuals project was born from Climate Outreach recognising an urgent need for climate images that go beyond illustration to photography with a true and measurable impact on an audience.” said Toby Smith, Climate Visuals Programme Lead.  “The foundation of our work is peer-reviewed evidence proving that the images most emblematic of climate change, such as polar bears and factories, are now broken tropes. Distilled into our seven Climate Visuals Principles we offer guidance on producing new, salient and effective narratives.    This generous, timely and welcome grants partnership with Getty Images is an incredible opportunity for two photographers to produce or finish projects to a global standard with a focus on their audience, local climate issues and solutions – an opportunity to make a genuine difference.

Submissions will be judged by a prestigious industry-leading panel including;

  • Jay Davies, Director of Photography, Getty Images
  • Julie Doyle, Climate Communication Professor at Brighton University
  • Kate Manzo, Climate Change and Development Senior Lecturer at Newcastle University
  • Fiona Shields, Picture Editor, The Guardian
  • Toby Smith, Climate Visuals Programme Lead at Climate Outreach and Environmental Photographer

The Getty Images Climate Visuals Grants is part of Getty Images’ wider grants program, which since its inception has donated over US$1.6 million to photographers and videographers around the world.

The application deadline has now passed.
We are currently judging entries and will announce the winners in April.

For more information, or for imagery requests, please contact:

Press Room at Getty Images or Victoria Gimigliano at Climate Visuals


About Getty Images: 

Getty Images is one of the most trusted and esteemed sources of visual content in the world, with over 350 million assets including photos, videos, and music, available through its industry-leading sites and The Getty Images website serves creative, business and media customers in nearly every country in the world and is the first-place people turn to discover, purchase and share powerful visual content from the world’s best photographers and videographers. Getty Images works with over 300,000 contributors and hundreds of image partners to provide comprehensive coverage of more than 160,000 news, sport and entertainment events each year, impactful creative imagery to communicate any commercial concept and the world’s deepest digital archive of historic photography.


Visit Getty Images at to learn more about how the company is advancing the unique role of still and moving imagery in communication and business, enabling creative ideas to come to life. For company news and announcements, visit our Press Room, and for the stories and inspiration behind our content, visit Find Getty Images on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, or download the Getty Images app where you can explore, save and share the world’s best imagery.

About Climate Visuals

Climate Visuals is a programme of Climate Outreach. Together they are Europe’s leading climate communication organisation – a team of social scientists and climate communication specialists based in Oxford UK, with 15 years of experience helping organisations widen and deepen engagement with climate change. They support their partners in communicating climate change in ways that resonate with the values of their audiences and create the types of climate conversations that lead to action, with world-leading advice and practical tools for engagement, combining scientific research methods with years of hands-on experience.

Climate Visuals is the world’s only evidence-backed programme for climate change photography.  Based on international social research and industry insights, Climate Visuals aims to strategically change the working practices of visual communicators across the world, to move away from clichéd images of polar bears, melting ice caps and factories, to catalyse a new – more compelling and diverse – visual language for climate change.  Climate Visuals hosts an evidence based image reference library based on its publicly accessible 7 Climate Visuals Principles and peer-reviewed evidence which  uniquely positions their team to make informed, accurate and impactful decisions around climate change imagery.

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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