World Press Photo 2011 – Before the Behind the Scenes

Every year the world’s most prestigious photography competition, the World Press Photo, gets going in Amsterdam. Hundreds of thousands of photographs are submitted by thousands of photographers from around the world. The best of the best! For two weeks a jury, consisting of some of the top individuals in the industry, deliberates and decides upon the winners.

But what happens before this, how does the World Press deal with this workflow? For the last three years I have helped ready thousands of images for the jury. It is a unique opportunity to see the best (and worst) photographs from the previous year.

For three weeks, a team of international ‘inschrijvers’ works tirelessly to ensure that the images are ready for the jury. The job isn’t easy. Shifts of 16 people scan through image after image to make sure there are no problems. They look for duplicate images, corrupted files, montages and perhaps the most important, the creation date.

Because most images (see rules for specifics) submitted to the contest need to be from the previous year, the creation date is very important. The system reads the metadata of the image and checks that against the photographers own input. We regularly see that they don’t match. At this point, the dedicated staff will email or contact the photographer for more information and to resolve the discrepancy. Hundreds of photographers received emails this year for this reason. Some are honest mistakes, some are intentional, and some have camera problems.

(Note to photographers: If you job is to record current or newsworthy events and you can’t set the date on your camera, I would like to know who you work for so that I can give them a call.)

As far as I know, this kind of dedication is unheard of in the photo competition world and is one of the reasons that the World Press is highly respected. It helps ensure that year after year, the World Press Photo competition helps decides the best photography of the year. Keep your eyes on the World Press site this Friday for the winners.

It’s Official – Amsterdam Photographer: We have moved

Robert van Waarden Photography has officially moved to Amsterdam. For the last 3 years, I have been based in Utrecht, a wonderful city to the south. However, it was time to make the move to the big little city.

I am very happy with the new location in Amsterdam. It brings me closer to  valued clients and comes with new office digs! I will continue to conduct my photographic endeavors from this new location and look forward to working with you in the years ahead.

Phone number and email remain the same.

Due to this move, internet connection is not yet stable so I apologize if I don’t respond right away.

A Letter to the Editor of Canadian Geographic

Update: September 12, 2013. When I wrote the letter below to Mr. Harris he provided me with a very comprehensive reply. I am posting that reply here so you can read what he had to say. I am prompted to do this as Warren Bell, (commenting below) has now written an open letter to Canadian Geographic about their surprising Energy Issue in June 2013, read it here. The response from Mr. Harris is below.

The October issue of Canadian Geographic is all about climate changenorway climate change . Wonderful I say, but…..

It has been tarnished by the Canadian Government message of ‘Climate Prosperity’. This really disappointed me. I have worked with Canadian Geographic in the past and I feel that they  have been compromised while promoting this piece of spin.

You can see the slogan and diagram in question here (on a tar sands funded website), or read Desmogblog for a bit more information on this. Below is my response and letter to the Editor of Canadian Geographic.

Eric Harris
Canadian Geographic
1155 Lola Street, Suite 200
Ottawa, Ont. K1K 4C1

Dear Mr. Harris,

As a Canadian photographer who focuses on climate change internationally and whose work has been featured in Canadian Geographic, I congratulate you on your dedication to climate change in the October 2010 issue. However, I was disappointed at the magazine’s choice to promote the industry and government-created slogan of ‘Climate Prosperity’.

The ‘Climate Prosperity’ project publicly states its aims as being to acknowledge the need to adapt to and mitigate climate change, and to profit from this mitigation. However, I believe this slogan is an intentionally manipulative exercise in spin from an industry and government who have no intention of curbing carbon emissions.

The term ‘prosperity’ communicates to the reader that climate change will be overwhelmingly positive for Canada, although your articles and the ‘climate prosperity’ diagram state otherwise. It incorrectly implies that we do not have to act ambitiously to mitigate climate change. And, it ignores the plight of millions around the world adversely affected by climate change.

I was saddened that Canadian Geographic, a respected, politically independent institution, and wonderful work partner, supported the government and oil industry in this instance. Having documented the progress of the UN climate conferences for the last three years leading up to the Copenhagen summit, I can tell you with certainty that our government’s climate policy is abysmal and the most regressive in the world. I believe strongly that this sort of greenwashing and politics does not belong in the pages of Canadian Geographic.

Mr. Harris, thank you for taking the time to read my concerns. I would welcome a response and I hope that we can continue to work together on environmental and climate issues in the future.

Robert van Waarden

Response from Mr. Harris

Hi Robert,

Many thanks for your letter. We’re past the deadline for it to appear in the next issue, but I will ensure that it is included with all the additional letters that we’ll post online. (The entire letters to the editor section consists of reactions to the theme of the October issue.)

Here’s my perspective of our partnership in this issue: the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, which was established by the Mulroney government in 1988 in response to the Bruntland Report, is (in principal, at least) an independent advisory council whose mandate is to advise government on policy pertaining to the environment and economy. Its board members, appointed for finite terms, come from a range of backgrounds — business, science, environmental advocacy — although, it’s true, they are political appointments. NRTEE’s mandate, though, is to objectively conduct and assess environmental science and develop non-partisan policy advice. Whether government accepts this advice is another matter.

Its “Climate Prosperity” program is one aspect of its much larger body of work; and I agree, it certainly could have chosen a less provocative title.

Ultimately, though, the goal with this project (or, at least, my interpretation of the goal) is to alert Canadians that (a) climate change (warming in some regions, cooling in others, more extreme weather, issues with water quality and quantity, etc.) is without doubt happening; (b) reduction and mitigation, of course, must be the priority (c) even if anthropogenic carbon outputs ceased today, it would take decades for the environment to remediate, and thus we should be prepared for conditions to change. In economic terms, most change will be for the worse; some for the better. Either way, we’d be smart to get ready to adapt, rather than ignore. And some may find prosperous opportunities in adapting.

The magazine’s editorial line-up was independently developed; NRTEE did not suggest, dictate or vet the magazine’s editorial content. (We did cite some of their sources/reports.) The component they did provide, which we reproduced, was the “Degrees of Change” diagram on the poster map. (It’s the result of NRTEE’s compilation and analysis of a couple of decades worth of climate science reports.) We felt this was of interest to our readership because it attempted to depict, for the first time, Canada-specific climate impacts in one assemblage. Whether the points on the diagram are understated or overstated has become a significant part of the debate/discussion triggered by the RCGS/NRTEE partnership.

I view this project as one in a continuum of climate change coverage by Canadian Geographic dating back to the 1980s. While this issue may have been overly Canada-centric, others (see CG October 2008, for example) have included a strong international perspective.

I don’t see that we are “supported the government and oil industry” with this issue. They are significant, omnipresent players, with the right to purchase ad pages to covey their messages, but they had no influence on editorial content. That was all our own doing!

Robert, I really appreciate your taking the time to write. Of all the letters we’ve received, yours is one of the most articulate ones. Which is what prompted me to provide such a lengthy reply.

Best regards,


Eric Harris
Canadian Geographic

Utrecht Photography 1 of 2 – Nightime Panorama

I love the city of Utrecht, the Netherlands. It is small enough to feel like a village, is within easy train access to Amsterdam, and feels much more ‘Dutch’ then its’ bigger brother to the North. Photographing the wonderful canals and city is a great pleasure, especially at night when the lights sparkle off the water. I wanted to take this opportunity to share two images / projects that I have been working on. This is the first, a Panorama of Utrecht, including the DOM tower in the background. I hope that you enjoy it. Check back tomorrow for the second set of images from Utrecht.

To license this image click here.

Tar Sands, Water and the First Nations of Alberta

“I don’t know what’s happening to this place, it won’t last 10 -15 years if we lose our water.”

Gabe Burke, Fort Chipewyan

Water in Anzac Alberta, Tar Sands Story

Simon Reece from Anzac, Alberta, stands on the pier on Gregoire Lake. Without the huge amount of fresh water resources in Northern Alberta, the Tar Sands would not be able to operate. Oil companies don't pay anything for the water removed from the Athabaska river, which they subsequently pollute, requiring residents downstream to buy bottled water to drink.

Syncrude Oil Processing Plant

The Syncrude oil processing plant. Average greenhouse gas emissions for oil sands extraction and upgrading are estimated to be 3.2 to 4.5 times as intensive per barrel as for conventional crude oil produced in Canada or the United States.

cemetary fort chipewyan

The cemetary in Fort Chipewyan. Since the arrival of the Tar Sands, more cancer is appearing in Fort Chipewyan then in a regular community this size.

The Athabaskan River delta is one of the largest water systems in Canada and a key component of the livelihood of the Dineh, Cree and Metis that live along its’ banks. However, upstream from communities like Fort McKay and Fort Chipewyan the out of control Tar Sands Industry is polluting the system and rendering it unusable. I was recently in Alberta, photographing and interviewing the First Nations  to help publicize their story.

Despite cozy government and industry relations claiming that industry is not affecting the water quality, the evidence is mounting and exposing their flawed science and PR campaign. A recent report by several authors including acclaimed scientist Dr. David Schindler has the government of Alberta scrambling to cover up and increase their PR. “Contrary to claims made by industry and government in the popular press, the oil sands industry substantially increases loadings of toxic PPE (priority pollutants) to the AR (Athabasca River) and its tributaries via air and water pathways.” David Schindler.

Athabaska river

Residents of Fort Chipewyan sail down the Athabaska River. Many residents of Fort Chipewyan have cabins on the land. They try to maintain some of their attachment to Mother Earth, which is exceedingly difficult with the dangers of eating the fish and disappearance of wildlife due to industrial development upstream.

When I was in the region, I heard again and again that people don’t trust the water. The water is suspected to be part of the cause of a drastic increase in cancer cases in Fort Chipewyan and is widely cited as the reason why the fish are appearing with tumours. For a community that used to rely on fish as a food source, now when a fish appears at the table, the first question asked is, ‘Where did it come from?”.

“The Athabaska river is like a main artery of the world, it’s the blood going down, if your blood is polluted, you aren’t going to last damn long and that is what is happening to our country and earth. All the rivers are getting polluted so bad. I pity young people now, there are rough times ahead. Water could be about 10bucks a liter in ten years, how are you going to survive. ” Gabe Burke

It is shocking that the Canadian and Alberta governments continue to put industry profits above the health of people and the environment. However, the drive and energy of the young people and leaders within the communities are succeeding in securing support from a wide range of groups and individuals including James Cameron, director of Avatar. The tide is shifting.

Eriel Deranger

Eriel Deranger works and lives in Edmonton. She is originally from Fort Chipewyan and is one of many young indigenous people that have dedicated their lives to healing Mother Earth.

It is time that the truth be told about the water situation in this beautiful part of Canada and I join the call for a comprehensive study on the water system, free of industry input and a moratorium on further Tar Sands development until responsible ways of developing are found.

This post is part of the Blog Action Day #10 focusing on water.

Portrait of a Climate Change Activist – Anna Keenan

I find Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to be an ideal base; it is a central point for international work, it is a hot bed of photography (the World Press, FOAM etc.), it is on the right track for a sustainable lifestyle, and last but not least, the friends and community are amazing.

One of these dear persons is Anna Keenan, an Australian climate activist whose work within the International Youth Climate Movement has been invaluable to the explosion of climate movements across the globe. She is a uber passionate individual who holds the need for climate justice and stopping the impacts of climate change dear to her heart (and on her neck). Without her skills in organizing, her intelligence and her drive, the climate change movement would be a step back. I recently got the opportunity to photograph Anna here in her adopted town of Amsterdam. Enjoy

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Oman Travel Photography

This is a gallery my favourite photographs created on a trip to Oman for National Geographic Traveler – Netherlands. It includes the Empty Quarter, Muscat, Salalah and portraits of the people of Oman. For licensing, click an image or here.

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Return to Amsterdam after National Geographic Traveler assignment

Just a quick blog update to say that I have returned to sunny Amsterdam after a rainy photography assignment for National Geographic Traveler – Netherlands edition. I had the pleasure of working with Amsterdam writer Maartje de Gruyter (webpage under development) and together we explored the rainy hills, buildings and landscapes of the olde country. I can’t give away much right now and will rely on Maartje to tell the story. For me, the editing down of the many images begins. The full article will most likely be published next year, I will keep you updated when it does.