Gideon Mendel has been on a lifelong quest to bring attention to global issues with his images. For his captivating projects ‘Drowning World‘ and ‘Burning World‘ he receives AP’s Power of Photography Award at the AP Awards 2024, sponsored by Panasonic.

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Gideon Mendel was born in South Africa and began his photographic career in 1984 documenting the struggle against Apartheid. This inspired his lifelong quest to combine creativity with social issues. In 2001 he published his first book, A Broken landscape: HIV and AIDS in Africa. Over the years his work has evolved, switching from black & white to colour and from traditional documentary style to environmental portraiture. 

Gideon Mendel, Power of Photography Award 2024
Kevin Goss, Greenville, California, USA, October 26/2021. Credit: Gideon Mendel

Now based in London, for the past 16 years his focus has been on capturing the human experience and physical impacts of climate change, with his Drowning World and Burning World projects. It is for this work that he is given our Power of Photography award. Showing catastrophic floods and the aftermath of wildfires, Mendel takes us into the lives of the affected individuals as they navigate the devastation in their wake and comprehend their profoundly altered landscape. His portraits are complemented by works that mine the surrounding details, the floating detritus and the scorched objects that are dislodged from their origin stories, damaged, warped and melted.

Gideon Mendel, Power of Photography Award 2024
Uncle Noel Butler and Trish Butler, Nura Gunyu Indigenous Education Centre, New South Wales, Australia, February 28/2020. Credit: Gideon Mendel

Writing in the Guardian about his work in Rhodes for the Burning World project, he said: ‘Moving through a seemingly endless topography of blackened hillsides and destroyed buildings, I could only bear witness to this human-made catastrophe. I hope these images can speak for all the landscapes and communities that are living through the climate emergency in such extreme ways.’

Gideon Mendel, Power of Photography Award 2024
Jeff and Tracey Waters, Staines-Upon-Thames, Surrey, UK, February 2014. Credit: Gideon Mendel

When Drowning World was exhibited at The Photographer’s Gallery in 2023, he said: ‘My subjects have taken the time – in a situation of great distress – to engage the camera, looking out at us from their inundated homes and devastated surroundings. They are showing the world the calamity that has befallen them. They are not victims in this exchange: the camera records their dignity and resilience. They bear witness to the brutal reality that the poorest people on the planet almost always suffer the most from climate change.’

Gideon Mendel
Winner Odums, Otuaba, Ogbia Municipality, Bayelsa State, Nigeria, November 2022. Credit: Gideon Mendel

Gideon’s work is frequently exhibited in galleries, museums, and photo festivals. In 2023 his Fire and Flood projects were exhibited at Photo London, Photo Frome, Soho Photographers Quarter at the Photographer’s Gallery and on the Greenpeace stage at the 2023 Glastonbury Festival. He has received numerous awards for his work, including the Eugene Smith Award for Humanistic Photography, the Greenpeace Photo Award, the Amnesty International Media Award and six World Press Photo Awards. He has also been shortlisted for the Prix Pictet in 2015 and 2019. 

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