6 September 2016

A dramatic flooding image got a Lancaster University photographer shortlisted for the Environmental Photographer of the Year

Devotion to duty during a Boxing Day meal gave a Lancaster University photographer the shot he needed and gained him a place in a prestigious exhibtion at the Royal Geographical Society.

“My wife Paula and I were staying in Manchester over Christmas with our daughter whose flat is next to the River Irwell,” said Simon Chew, who works as a graphic designer and photographer for the Lancaster Environment Centre.

“We’d never seen the river so high before. I knew we needed some bad weather photos for the Lancaster Environment Centre website and publications, so I went out,” said Simon, who had been away from Lancaster when bad flooding hit the city in early December.

“So when I should have been having Boxing Day lunch with the family, I was down on the river taking pictures for work.

“The thing that struck me was the sheer volume of water, the speed of it was quite frightening, with large chunks of debris coming down. You see flooding in the countryside, but it was something else to see it in a city setting.”

Simon decided to enter the resulting image for the Environmental Photographer of the Year competion, which aims “to encourage awareness and understanding of the causes, consequences and solutions to climate change and social inequality.”

He was delighted to be one of 60 photographs shortlised, out of 10,000 entries, from professional and amateur photographers worldwide.

He and Paula were invited to the awards ceremony, including a private view of the exhibition, which includes his photograph.

“There were some amazing photographs, along with three films. I see the competition as a wake up call. It gets a lot of media coverage so it’s a good way of getting messages out about the environment: it really does ram home the problems we face.

“I wanted my Manchster image to put across that floods can happen on our doorsetp. It’s not happening somewhere else in the world, but right in front of us.”

Simon, who is art school trained and loves the immediacy of taking photos, wants to encourage Lancaster students to enter the competition next year.

“I see a lot of stunning images by students, and by members of staff, that could go forward.”

The exhibition was on show at the Royal Geographical Society headquarters in London and is now showing at the Grizedale Forest Visitor Centre in Cumbria until 1 January 2017. Opening times September - October 10am to 5pm; November - January 10am to 4pm.