Beauty and Fragility:
5 Exhibitions for Earth Day

This April we’re celebrating Earth Month – an annual event dedicated to environmental protection. First started in 1970, this environmental movement annually mobilizes over 1 billion people from over 190 countries towards undertaking positive action for our planet. Here we bring together five exhibitions that highlight the beauty of our environment, such as the exquisite landscape shots now on display at the Sony World Photography Awards, as well as the urgent need for conservation and sustainable practice, as highlighted by solo shows from Edward Burtynsky and Nick Brandt. These exhibitions reflect on our role as stewards of the Earth, drawing attention to issues such as landscape loss and rising sea levels.

Sony World Photography Awards | Somerset House | Until 6 May

The acclaimed Sony World Photography Awards returns for its 17th edition, with this year’s Landscape category providing vital insights into the most beautiful corners of our planet. Winner of the Open Category is Liam Man. whose Moonrise Sprites Over Storr is depicted here. The image depicts Old Man of Storr in Scotland. The artist explains, “This iconic rock formation was illuminated with powerful lights attached to drones, which cut through the darkness to reveal the icy landscape. Blizzards howled for the majority of the night, leaving mere minutes to execute this photograph.” It’s a work that joins a shortlist of mesmerising shots from the mountains of central Bosnia and Herzegovina to the badlands of central Utah.

New Terrain: 21st Century Landscape Photography | Worcester Art Museum | Until 7 July

New Terrain focuses ons contemporary lens-based artists who reinterpret the traditional practice of photography. Meghan Riepenhoff’s series Littoral Drift #3 (2015) draws attention to natural processes such as the transportation of sediment from one coast to another, whilst David Maisel’s Terminal Mirage series examines the impact of human intervention in nature. Maisel traveled around the periphery of Utah’s Great Salt Lake to capture aerial photographs and record the damage and pollution inflicted by humans. The bird’s-eye view is a perspective more and more photographers, including Edward Burtynsky and Diane Tuft have employed to highlight the impact of global industry and human damage on the environment.

Nick Brandt: Sink / Rise: Chapter III | Newlands House | Until 29 May

Nick Brandt (b. 1964) is a British photographer known for recording the world’s rapidly disappearing green spaces. His images show how human environmental destruction has led to the climate crisis. The Day May Break is a series which spans Bolivia, Kenya, Zimbabwe and now Fiji. It portrays animals and people affected by unfolding ecological disasters. The third chapter of the series, Sink / Rise, is now on display at Newlands House and serves as a stark reminder of the looming reality of many island nations. Images shot underwater, off the coast of the South Pacific Islands, represent inhabitants whose homes and livelihoods may be lost in the coming decades as sea levels rapidly increase due to glacier and ice sheet melt.

Edward Burtynsky: Extraction / Abstraction | Saatchi Gallery | Until 6 May

“I have spent over 40 years bearing witness to how modern civilisation has dramatically transformed our planet. At this time, the awareness of these issues presented by my large-scale images has never felt more urgent,” – says photographic artist Edward Burtynsky, whose show at Saatchi Gallery is a major review of his four decades long career. Extraction / Abstraction features 94 monumental photographs as well as 13 high-resolution murals. Besides these iconic snapshots, the public is invited to take part in an augmented reality experience, whilst a dedicated section delves into Burtynsky’s navigation through technological shifts in the photographic medium. The show focuses on the artist’s lifelong observation of humanity’s incursion into the natural world and the environmental consequences of industry. 

Human/Nature: Encountering Ourselves in the Natural World | Fotografiska New York | Until 25 May

Fotografiska New York brings together 14 trailblazing photographers to investigate humanity’s fraught relationship with the Earth. On display are photographs, immersive video installations and sculptures from artists such as David Ụzọchukwu, Djeneba Aduayom, Ori Gersht and Yan Wang Preston. Ụzọchukwu’s images depict the potential of being one with our environment, as seen in the above image Heartstrings, whilst Ori Gersht’s images of exploding bouquets unveil the violent possibilities of exercising control over nature. Elsewhere, Pat Kane documents Indigenousled conversation in the Thaidene Nëné National Park Reserve in Canada whilst New York-based Lewis Miller highlights the impact of nature in urban areas. 

Image Credits:

1. Tabitha Soren, Katie’s Vacation Photo, 2018, detail, archival inkjet print, Chapin Riley Fund at the Greater Worcester Community Foundation, 2021.94 © Tabitha Soren 2024

2. © Liam Man, UK, Winner, Open Competition, Landscape, 2024 Sony World Photography Award

3. Julian Charrière, Buried Sunshines Burn | HZK.B4P, 2023. Heliography on high-polished stainless steel plate, aluminum sub -frame, stainless steel frame, museum glass. Courtesy of the artist and Sean Kelly, New York/Los Angeles.

4. Onnie and Keanan on Seesaw, Fiji, 2023 by Nick Brandt ©

5. Edward Burtynsky, Thjorsá River #2, Southern Region, Iceland, 2012

6. © David Ụzọchukwu, Heartstrings (2018).