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Winning Photos Bring Sustainability into Focus

A sensitive portrayal of Philippine children reclaiming value from garbage floating in Manila Bay won first prize last night in the United Nations Environment Programme International Photographic Competition on the Environment 1999-2000 -- "Focus on Your World."

All the major prize winners were present at a gala awards ceremony held last night in New York City to receive their awards in person, travelling from Germany, Brazil, China and Canada.

A total of 16,650 entries from 7,877 people in 160 countries and states were submitted. People recorded images reflecting the environmental health of the planet, and the linkages between the physical, social, economic and spiritual aspects of life on Earth.

A panel of judges made up of photographers from around the world awarded gold, silver and bronze prizes in adult and junior divisions, together with four special prizes and 110 honorary mentions.

This third environmental photo contest organized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and sponsored by photographic products company Canon Inc., was held from June 1999 to April 2000.

'A Common Language'

In a message to the ceremony, UNEP executive director Klaus Toepfer said, "As we work towards a sustainable future, we need a common language that can instantly touch hearts and minds. Photography is that common language a creative act that gives color, expression and a human dimension to our scientific findings. When used to convey environmental messages, photography can provoke thought, leading to positive action and change."

The $20,000 gold prize in the adult division went to Hartmut Schwarzbach of Germany for a portfolio of three photographs of children who live in Manila's slums, entitled "Floating Kids at Manila Bay." Schwarzbach is a repeat winner, having won a Bronze Prize in a previous competition.

In accepting the award, Schwarzbach said he hopes "people will become more aware of the problematic situation of the living environment in megacities and realize that environment consists of both humankind and nature together and for each other."

The gold prize in the junior division has gone to Miriam Koehler of Germany for her entry "Artificial Nature."

The Canon Special Prize was awarded to Luis Veiga of Brazil; the UNEP Executive Director's Special Prize was awarded to Au Chin Ki of China; the International Photographic Council Scholarship was awarded to Wang Xun, also of China; and the newly introduced Digital Camera Special Prize was awarded to Claudio Bacinello of Canada. To view these images, which are protected by copyright, visit the competition's Web site at

"The 21st century is often called the century of the environment, said Fujio Mitarai, president and CEO of Canon Inc., last night as he presented prize winners with their awards. "Through its photographs that focus on the present and future of our earth, we believe that this contest has been an important way to raise interest in environmental issues. Photography is a universal language. We are confident that these photographs will touch the hearts of people everywhere and convey our hopes for the global environment."

Judging took place in June in Tokyo, Japan. The panel of judges included: Takeyoshi Tanuma, chairman of Japan Professional Photographers Society; James Chung, chairman of International Photographic Council; Susan Meiselas, Magnum Photos; Robert Lamb, president of Television Trust for the Environment, and a representative from UNEP and from Canon.

Speaking on behalf of the panel of judges, chairman Tanuma said, "We were greatly impressed by the entries from Asia, in terms of both quantity and quality. Photography is currently extremely popular throughout Asia and we look forward to further entries from this region in future competitions."

"We were also struck by the fact that a large number of entries expressed relatively negative messages regarding the environment. In future competitions, we hope to see a larger number of photographs presenting positive messages about the beauty of the earth and the glory of nature," Tanuma said.

The 124 prize winning photographs will be on view today through September 22 at New York's Park Avenue Atrium. The exhibition will then travel around the world, with the Japanese leg of the tour scheduled to be staged in Yokohama from October 7 to 22. The exhibition will then move on to Paris, where it is scheduled to be held at Le Carrousel du Louvre from October 26 to November 10.

Other exhibitions in major cities and at the United Nations Headquarters are in their planning stages. More information will be posted as it becomes available at

The competition has been supported by the United Nations Department of Public Information, the Joint United Nations Information Committee and the International Photographic Council, as well as by Japan Airlines, the National Geographic Society, TIME and Television Trust for the Environment.

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