The camera never lies: the climate crisis through a lens

The camera never lies: the climate crisis through a lens

By Jo Dallas, Media Officer (Scotland), Christian Aid 

Photos are a powerful tool for telling stories.  At Christian Aid, photography has always been an important visual way of sharing our work with vulnerable communities in some of the poorest parts of the world.  Ensuring that each image instils Christian Aid’s values - of dignity, justice, equality and love - is paramount.   

When Scotland’s International Development Alliance announced plans to host a digital exhibition on the climate crisis in the run up to COP26, we knew immediately we wanted to be part of it. We thought long and hard about which photos to put forward for the exhibition entitled, ‘Facing the Crisis’.  

We know that the climate crisis is impacting people who have done the least to cause it. But, rather than focusing on the devastation often portrayed in the mainstream media, we were keen to represent the sheer resilience and determination of ordinary people. These are our global neighbours. They have watched their homes being swept away in a storm or their crops being devoured by giant locusts. But they are people who, despite losing everything, have refused to lose hope. 

Taking photos during a pandemic has its challenges, and it was not possible to send our UK comms team to the other side of the world. But it was an opportunity to ensure that the person behind the lens was close to the subject, deeply connected with the country and the local context.  Netsanet Feleke, my colleague in South Omo, Ethiopia, took this photo of Borgodo Tsobe.   

Christian Aid/Netsanet Feleke 

In the image ‘Green fields of hope’, Netsanet has captured Borgodo’s delight at the bright green, lush crops. Desert locusts swept through South Omo in spring 2020, devastating vast swathes of farmland. Thanks to Scottish Government funding through the Humanitarian Emergency Fund, Borgodo and her farming neighbours received emergency seeds to replace the lost harvest.  Here, Netsanet has captured her elation that these have germinated and burst into life.  

Netsanet is not a professional photographer. He takes photos in his role as a humanitarian programme officer but it is an aspect of his job he says he really enjoys. 

The other two Christian Aid photographs which feature in the exhibition document our EU-funded Breaking The Barriers programme in Malawi. The photos, taken by Malawian photographer Malumbo Simwaka, are also featured in our Harvest fundraising appeal. In 2019 Cyclone Idai ripped through villages in Chikwawa District, Malawi and washed away homes, roads and livelihoods. When Malumbo met members of the Tsapa Women’s Group (pictured) he was struck by their determination, hope and ambition. His photo captures their indomitable spirit.  

Christian Aid/Amaru Photography 

If you haven’t yet seen the online exhibition, I invite you to stop what you are doing and take 5 minutes to look at the digital gallery: www.facingthecrisis.scot  

You will feel instantly connected with some of the people and places in the world, many miles from Scotland, who are depending on world leaders to make the right decisions this November. These photos show why the UN climate talks (COP26) are so crucial and why global voices and stories must be heard.