Text Amy Schoeman
Namibia is a country that asks if not demands to be photographed, as was borne out by the record number of entries received for the Our Coast, Your Photo Competition earlier this year.
Over 600 entries were received, which augurs particularly well for the objective of the competition, namely to generate awareness of the importance of coastal conservation, and to engender concern about the environmental effects of the envisaged industrial park on the coast north of Swakopmund.
The competition made for further superlatives insofar as the two exhibitions of the top fifty images ran for virtually three months in Windhoek and Swakopmund – most exhibitions run for about two or three weeks – and in local terms the prizes were substantial, the overall prize being N$10 000, with category winners each receiving N$1 000. All the prize money was donated spontaneously by concerned individuals.
While many of the images reflected the legendary atmosphere, beauty and mystique of the coastal Namib Desert, there was an encouragingly large number in which the photographer had delved deeper and addressed the environmental threats posed to the coastal environment by industrial development and mining enterprises. In addition to how well the photographer had conceptualised the theme, judging criteria were the overall impact of the image, its composition, aesthetic appeal, originality, staying power, use of colour/range of black-and-white tones, if and how well it had been photo-shopped or otherwise worked on. The four categories were Landscape and Wildlife, Sport and Recreation; Mobile Phone; and Negative Impact.
The overall winner of the competition was Michelle Swanepoel for her image entitled A Cry for Help. Category winners were J F Steyn (Landscape and Wildlife), Jean-Paul Roux (Sport and Recreation), Frieda Ashipala (Mobile Phone) and Hans Rack (Negative Impact), while artist Imke Rust received a Special Mention for the originality of her three evocative and creatively photo-shopped images.
Whereas many viewers were initially somewhat nonplussed by the choice of A Cry for Help as the overall winner, on reflection its strong message soon surfaced as a lasting statement. It is by no means a ‘pretty image’; its value lies in its unequivocal interpretation of the theme, living up to the judges’ criteria and its undeniable staying power. In the words of the photographer: “I found this piece of wood that resembles a human hand that seems to be crying out for help, like someone who has been thirsting for water and has possibly seen a glimmer of hope – and extends its fingers, hopeful for some replenishment and life-giving substance. I believe nature is crying out to us as the original caretakers of creation with its animals, plant life, asking us to save our natural heritage from destruction and despair.”
The competition was the brainchild of Dr Rodney Lichtman, and was co-sponsored by Tony Figueira of Studio 77 and The Namibian newspaper under the auspices of Head of Marketing, Anita Witt.
This article appeared in the May’12 edition of FLAMINGO Magazine.