Images move quickly showing the effects of climate change

Visualizing the Climate Crisis Through the Lens of Indigenous Photographers

Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting | Indigenous Photograph

In February of 2022, the Pulitzer Center and Indigenous Photograph hosted an open call for Indigenous photographers to submit their work on climate change. Over the course of a month, we received over 90 applications from 24 countries. Our goal in conducting this photo call was to further connect with Indigenous photographers from around the world, in hopes of strengthening our relationship with those on the frontlines of climate change. These photos were also shown at the Coal+Ice exhibit in Washington, D.C., in a night celebrating how we tell stories about our environment.

The selected images illuminate how vastly different climate change presents itself regionally. While photography can be a tool for observational storytelling, it can also serve as an act of individual resilience and highlight the unique bonds of a community. This collection of work illustrates the interconnectivity of Indigenous identity, the land, and the climate crisis. Photography can be most powerful when communities capture their own experience. We can more deeply understand the connection between Indigenous communities and the environment through the intimate lens of insiders who possess the lived experience.

We hope you’ll take time to both read their words about what their work means to them and ponder what the photographs tell us about our world. Many of these photographs reflect larger global problems that we’ll continue to deal with as humanity confronts the consequences of climate change.

A young boy in the water looks at two logging trucks pass in front of him
Eyes from the Amazon: I watch these two trucks move in opposite directions and my cousin Cedrick before them. One truck symbolizes people's decision and greed to extract from the Amazon and the other truck symbolizes people fighting against extraction and the romanization of living off the land. The world is divided, yet we as Indigenous peoples still exist on the outside of these conversations and decision-making processes for what happens to our home. It’s time we have a seat at the table.

Elizabeth Swanson Andi

“My work reflects themes of loss, the bittersweet joy within, and the strength of community during the years 2020 and 2021, which were extremely difficult times as we faced the pandemic and climate catastrophes, including floods and fires, and a sudden increase in extractivism leading to oil and mining contamination of rivers. This work was taken in my own community and in local protests in nearby Amazonian towns in solidarity with Indigenous peoples of various nations and the land we are all connected to. I hope to inspire and evoke empathy, compassion, reflection, and action within those who come across these photos.”

A man sits in a boat in a river surrounded by tall grasses
 Papua, Indonesia
Boi, 32, looking for fish in the tailings disposal area. The depreciation of forest volume due to the tailings disposal stream, and the increase in the number of community members, makes the fish habitat narrower, and creates competition and jealousy between community members.

Albertus Vembrianto

“This work is related to the disposal of tailings (chemical-laden sludge) in Mimika Regency in Indonesia by mining companies. One company built a levee along the riverside that has changed the forest landscape as well as the life of the Kamoro tribes, the Indigenous Papuan community who live in this area. A number of rivers, as a source of food and culture, died because they were closed by levees. Tailings contain hazardous materials such as copper, arsenic, cadmium, and selenium that cause the ecosystem in the area to change.”

Nasarawa State, Nigeria
Truck drivers struggle to pass through a stream due to excess flooding. These are Indigenous people that are paid very little to go into the forests in their communities to cut down trees for charcoal production. Charcoal production is one of the main causes of deforestation in Africa, which in turn is closely linked to a massive decrease in soil quality and a growing risk of crop failure. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization, Nigeria has lost 50% of its forest cover in the last two decades.

Light Oriye

“Charcoal production is causing massive deforestation in Nigeria, and my desire is to bring attention to this issue so that people can be enlightened enough to stop this act that is causing loss of biodiversity and extreme climate change. Due to charcoal production in most parts of the country, the soil is losing its quality and the wildlife is becoming endangered. Indigenous people are tricked into non-sustainable ventures to cut these trees (both mature and immature) to produce charcoal. I hope to continue shining a light on this aspect of deforestation.”

A young boy holds a candle surrounded by other members of his Indigenous community holding candles
The strength of ancestry.

Edgar Kanaykõ Xakriabá

“This work is part of everyday life in the villages and also of the Indigenous movement in Brazil. The objective of which is the struggle to guarantee rights historically usurped by the State, prioritizing the defense of territories, waters, forests, animals, and culture, as this is also what defines us as Indigenous peoples.”

A firefighter stands in front of a forest smoke ahead of him
A young Indigenous man fights to put out a fire that rages through the forest. He sees that the fire will kill numerous animals. He stops to overlook its destruction.

Edivan dos Santos Guajajara

“My photographs display how deeply the Indigenous peoples are connected to nature—our way of life and survival. They demonstrate what we do daily to preserve nature and keep the forest standing. They showcase the daily struggle of Indigenous groups for the wellbeing of Mother Earth, which is the struggle of all struggles. We are the true guardians of this planet.”

A river illuminates the destruction of trees
Destruction from Above

Wayne Quilliam

“In the darkness, sensory cohesion courses through every part of my body, micro-tremors disrupting, contorting the emotion of isolation in a space of embodiment. Light pervades, emotions demystified as the subconscious mind reveals the temporality of exclusion and solitude from Mother Earth. In Aboriginal culture, each person is designated a particular role in the tribal system—a healer, leader, hunter or, in my case, a storyteller. This role is to document and share culture as the Elders have instructed. This work explores the often perceived but not seen realms of Mother Nature and how our peoples are connected spiritually. My work points to the moral imperative for humanity to recognize the continuity of our role as guardians of the land.”

Young children run by homes that sit alongside a river where children struggle to access clean drinking water
 Lagos, Nigeria
Access to clean and drinkable water has affected the Makoko community for a long time, especially during the rainy period. Kids are seen running in search of clean water for domestic use.

Eragbie Joshua

“My images tell the Nigerian climate change story. It's personal to me as an individual and as a photographer. Like every other country, Nigeria is being affected by climate change. These images are part of a documentary to tell our own peculiar issues regarding climate change.”

A man looks into a open water crack in the ice to look for fish
 Nunavut, Canada
Kenneth Kaloon looks for seals in a large crack of ice on the Northwest Passage outside of Gjoa Haven, Nunavut. Kaloon, a young hunter, relies on the ice to travel upon and harvest wild meat from seals, whales, polar bears, and other wildlife. Longer summer months means the ice breaks up earlier and freezes later in the year, which drastically impacts access to wild, culturally appropriate food and also makes traveling on ice unpredictable and dangerous.

Pat Kane

“My work focuses on issues important to Indigenous communities in Northern Canada, including climate change and the relationship between land and identity. The photos show how life in these communities is altered due to climate change, namely how it impacts access to land, wildlife (food), and important connections to traditional ways of life.”

A young Native American protestor stands amidst a protest against Line 3
 Minnesota, United States
Bineshii Hermes-Roach, a citizen of the Bad River tribe of Ojibwe, traveled to the Mississippi River Enbridge Line 3, crossing in Minnesota to join fellow water protectors. The Line 3 pipeline project poses significant environmental risks to sensitive waterways and areas where tribal members hunt, fish, and gather traditional food such as wild rice.

Mary Pember

“These images represent the power of Indigenous agency in uniting their communities and non-Native people to stand up and protect the environment from fossil fuel corporations’ contributions to climate change. Indigenous peoples are countering the corporate-driven worldview that assigns only monetary worth to the earth’s resources, ignoring the inseparable physical and spiritual ties mankind has with the planet.”

Sandbags holding up a sea wall in Alaska as the waves roll up
 Alaska, United States
Kivalina, Alaska - 2007: Kivalina Sea Wall.

Brian Adams

“I began documenting climate change in Alaska in 2007.”

Through the orange haze and trees you can see people walking through the aftermath of a wildfire
In the dry season, our tradition is to hold festivals and welcome neighboring villages as guests. In former times, the dry season was a pleasant time, when fish were plentiful and the air was dry and clear, but now the dry season brings a time of suffering because we cannot escape acrid smoke from wildfires. Our children breathe it and get sore throats and burning eyes. At the lower left of the photo are two chairs set out to welcome visiting dignitaries who are approaching with the other visiting guests, but the chairs—and even the entire landscape—are barely visible under the noxious cloud of thick orange smoke.

Piratá Waurá

“My goal is to show the human cost of the fires, wind storms, and other ecological challenges we are facing. I start this photo essay with a burned out clearing in the woods, as a reminder of what we are losing. I end with a view of the clouds of smoke that hang over our villages, as a reminder of what the future holds for our children if we do not take action.”

A lone goose flies over the open landscape
 Montana , United States
A lonely goose takes off after resting on a lake on the Blackfeet Reservation. For traditional Blackfeet, the return of the geese symbolizes when to start ceremonies for the spring. But climate change has caused the geese to stay in the area later than normal, and in some cases never migrate at all.

Whitney Snow

For the Blackfeet people of Southern Piegan, Montana, two of the most important aspects of traditional ceremonies are berries and waterfowl. Warmer, shorter winters accompanied by longer and dryer summers have caused berries not to ripen and grow a fungus that makes them unusable for the ceremony, whilst some trees stopped producing berries entirely. What was once a thriving resource close to home now requires traveling over an hour to mountain areas to gather the berries needed. Without the berries, the ceremonies can't be performed. A loss of the berries would mean a loss of the ceremony and eventually a loss of the people. Geese symbolize when it is time to start certain ceremonies for the spring.

Two houses sit on a rocky terrain in front of a mountainous region
 Ladakh, India
Old abandoned houses of Upper Kulum village in Eastern Ladakh whose residents migrated to the downstream village due to severe water shortage.

Namgail Angmo

“I was 16 years old in August 2010 when unprecedented flash floods occurred in Leh, Ladakh, India, causing hundreds of deaths. The 2010 winter felt different when the snow level had reduced to a footprint and the barrenness of mountains in April had become alarmingly visible. These photographs are an attempt to show the world what Gyan Chandra Acharya said about how ‘it is the most vulnerable contributing the least to this climate crisis who find themselves on the frontline of its damaging effects.’”

A house falls into the water after storm damage
 Ekiti State, Nigeria
I titled this "Before The Last Crumble." This image was taken in a community in Ekiti State in Nigeria which is being faced with sea and water encroachment, which has affected about half of the community.

Mayowa Adebo

“A lot of people have come to understand and appreciate photography as an incredible tool to promote various causes—and climate change should not be exempted. My work explores the impact of environmental issues, including climate change in local parlance. Many have heard of climate change but don’t know the great impact it's having already and that they are adapting in some ways. I am using photography to spotlight key environmental issues and how people are affected—and to call the attention of governments, NGOs, civil society, and the public in general, to issues of climate change.”

Women gather around a water opening and collect for their village in Pakistan
A group of women collecting water from the river for their household needs in Sher e Subz village.

Taseer Beyg

“Living in the mountainous regions of Pakistan, the Wakhi community experiences several climate change consequences such as floods, landslides, and temperature changes, which make it harder for them to survive. The locals are forced to collect water from rivers and nearby ice holes to drink and fulfill their household needs as major water scarcity hits the valley. Everyday, members of every household, especially women, walk for miles in harsh weather conditions to reach the river to collect water and carry it back home.”

Dolpo, Nepal
In the remote high mountains of Pungmo, Dolpo, Nepal Himalayas, a snow leopard kills a baby yak that is valuable to a herder and feeds on the fresh flesh.

Sonam Choekyi Lama

“I want to represent how climate change is impacting the lives of the Indigenous Himalayan pastoralist communities in my hometown of Dolpo, Nepal, where every summer and winter they migrate from one place to another. But today, this lifestyle is affected as winters are getting warmer and pastures are decreasing, impacting the herding lifestyle and food security.”

Young children stand a top of pile dirt where a backhoe is sitting
 Arizona, United States
Roland Tso, Diné, points out a looming mobile sand dune that is encroaching upon Wayne Harvey’s land in the Navajo Nation town of Many Farms, Arizona on January 23, 2021. As the drought worsens, vegetation that once held dunes together has been drying, transforming once stationary sand dunes that now threaten to bury homes and roads.

Kalen Goodluck

“This project focuses on the shriveling Rio Grande River in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a river that tribal and Pueblo nations are fighting to have more say over state and local water management. Pueblo and tribal nations have ‘prior and paramount’ water rights to state water supplies, yet it takes decades for them to implement their rights and fully access their share of water. Indigenous water rights are shaped by centuries-old colonial laws, which have locked tribes in a water regime that has shut them out of water management decisions.”

A lone polar bear walks along the shore
 North West Passage, Canada
A lone polar bear walks the shore of Radstock Bay waiting for the sea ice to return. 

Camille Seaman

“I approach the images of icebergs as portraits of individuals, much like family photos of my ancestors. I was raised to know my interconnection and inter-relation to all life on earth. I have chosen to introduce you to icebergs that are melted away and a few that still linger. The water of these icebergs is the water of our ancestors.”

Our partner Indigenous Photograph is a space to elevate the work of Indigenous visual journalists and bring balance to the way we tell stories about Indigenous people and spaces. Their mission is to support the media industry in hiring more Indigenous photographers to tell the stories of their communities and to reflect on how we tell these stories.

Their global database is available to photo editors, creative directors, and those who routinely hire photographers. Please reach out for a complete electronic database of their members, which includes detailed information regarding geographical areas of expertise, languages spoken, and contact information.

Final Jury

Daniella Zaclman

Leilani Rania Ganser

Tailyr Irvine

Steve Sapienza

Copy and

Katherine Jossi 

Alex Waddell

Rafael Lima

Fernanda Buffa


Katherine Jossi

Nathalie Applewhite

Steve Sapienza

Special Thanks

Sarah Swan

Daniel Vasta

Lucy Crelli

Ethan Ehrenhaft

Noelle Tankard

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