Dramatic call for climate action in black and white

The Water=Life photo contest of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs was won by Tomislav Georgiev from North Macedonia. His photo in dramatic black and white shows a man clearing weeds and waste from the bottom of the Crn Drim River in North Macedonia.

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Image: ©Tomislav Georgiev
The winning picture of Tomislav Georgiev of the Crm Drim River in North Macedonia.

147 photographers from all over the world participated in the Water=Life photo competition. The winning picture of Tomislav Georgiev, together with other pictures of the competition, can be seen upcoming year in a travelling exhibition organized by Embassies of the Netherlands worldwide.

Georgiev has been a professional photographer for 24 years. He works for newspapers and NGOs such as Unicef​​ and photographs both news and other subjects. With this photo, Georgiev wants to call for action, he says by telephone from Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia.

‘The Crn Drim River is one of the longest in the Balkans. It rises in Lake Ohrid, the oldest lake in the Balkans, and flows 149 kilometers through North Macedonia to Albania. It is the only outlet river from Lake Ohrid  In recent years, this river has become increasingly polluted. Biodiversity is declining as a result of water pollution. Special fish and plants are disappearing.’

UNESCO World Heritage

Lake Ohrid and surroundings are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and UNESCO is considering declaring it a World Heritage Site in Danger. That decision will be made in 2023. Environmental organisations from North Macedonia and Albania are urging UNESCO to do that, as reclassification of Ohrid as one of the World Heritage Sites in Danger would put more pressure on North Macedonia and Albania to work on the problems.

 With his photo, Georgiev wants to call for action to protect this river, but also for climate action in general. ‘If you see how fast climate change is going now, we should act not today, but yesterday. I have read many UN reports on how fast climate change is going. That things are happening that were only expected in 2030. But we also notice it in the Balkans. Especially because of the huge rain showers that we sometimes have. At the same time, there is also a drought this year. The level of the Crn Drim River was very low.’

Greatness of nature

Georgiev is happy with the win in the photo competition of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. ‘It is a huge honor to be chosen from such a large group of photos from all over the world. This photo evokes strong reactions, I noticed that when I posted it on Facebook not long after I took it. It is an abstract, almost graphic photograph. The perspective and the black and white further enhance the effect.’

‘Man is so insignificant against the power of the water, against the overwhelming grandeur of nature. I wanted to show that. We have to act if we don’t want to perish as humanity.’ Nathalie Olijslager, program director of the UN Water Conference 2023, called the photo of Georgiev a ‘photo that leaves you in awe’ in the jury report.