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2022 Banff Centre Mountain Photo Essay Winner Announced

The annual Banff Centre Mountain Photo Essay competition sponsored by Nikon represents the best in mountain adventure photography and storytelling.

2022 Banff Centre Mountain Photo Essay Winner Announced

The annual Banff Centre Mountain Photo Essay competition sponsored by Nikon represents the best in mountain adventure photography and storytelling from around the world. Each year, we invite photographers to submit curated photo essays to illustrate their mountain related stories that fall under the sub-categories of culture, adventure, wildlife, sport, environment, or natural history. After reviewing many diverse and evocative entries, the selection committee and jury selected an entry that conveyed a most compelling story with images strong enough to stand on their own.

This year Banff Centre has announced Emily Garthwaite as the Grand Prize Winner of the Photo Essay Competition for her contribution of 'Guardians of Zagros', telling the story of her trek through Iran to document the nomadic customs of the Bakhtiari tribe. Emily's winning essay will be displayed as part of the 2022 Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival exhibitions in the fall, in addition to receiving the $2000 CAD Grand Prize.

Photo Essay Jury Member, Alex Buisse describes the piece; "Emily's photo essay is a wonderful example of the power of photography as a storytelling tool. In just a few images, it transports the viewer to the distant landscapes of the Iranian mountains and gives a glimpse into its rich culture. It is obvious from the images how much time Emily has spent in the region and how well she knows the local culture. In a world full of photography that focuses on the colorful and exotic through a colonial lens, it is wonderful to see Emily's knowledge and respect for the people in front of her camera."

Emily makes her home in Iraq and has trekked over 1,250km through the country including the Arba'een pilgrimage in the south, the world's largest annual pilgrimage, which she has completed three times. Since 2019, Emily has been documenting a 231km thru-hike across the Kurdistan region, known as the Zagros Mountain Trail.

"The Zagros mountains, in Western Iran, stretch for nearly 1,600km, from the sands of the Persian Gulf northwest along the modern border with Iraq and Turkey, separating the plains of Mesopotamia from the expanse of the Iranian plateau," explains Emily. "Deep gorges and jagged peaks surpassing 4,250m buffered ancient empires from one another-Babylon in the Fertile Crescent and, to the east, the great metropolises of ancient Persia. This forbidding mountain range is also rich in grasslands and rivers fed by winter snows, and for thousands of years tribal groups have migrated through the Zagros with the seasons to pasture their goats and sheep. That grueling, often dangerous feature of nomadic life has evolved, but it has not entirely disappeared. It persists to this day not only for practical reasons but also as a meaningful ritual for people whose history is rooted in the mountains."

Emily's experience tells the story of the Mokhtari family, members of the Bakhtiari tribe, prepared to set out from their summer encampment in Iran's Isfahan Province. Following timeworn paths through the Zagros, allotted by custom to their tribe and clan, they make the two-week journey known in Farsi and the local Luri dialect as Kuch across 150 km of difficult landscape with horses, donkeys, mules and hundreds of goats and sheep.

Emily Garthwaite is an award-winning photojournalist, Forbes 30 Under 30, Leica Ambassador, and storyteller focusing on environmental and humanitarian stories. She has exhibited her work internationally, including at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and EXPO 2020 in Dubai, and in the UK, at Leica Mayfair Gallery, South Bank Centre, Somerset House, and The Natural History Museum. Her work has been published by Smithsonian Magazine, Vanity Fair, The Guardian, The Intercept, WeTransfer, The Sunday Times Magazine, SUITCASE, Vice Media, Adobe, and more.

Her work weaves together themes of shared humanity, displacement, and coexistence with the natural world. She has a Masters in Documentary Photography and Photojournalism from the University of Westminster.




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