THE CENTER AWARDS: Environmental Award: Esha Chiocchio
Congratulations to Esha Chiocchio for being selected for CENTER’s Environmental Award recognizing her project, Good Earth. The Environmental Awards recognize work focusing on the state of the ecological environment. Topics may include but are not limited to, conservation, biodiversity, ecology, climate change, or other issues concerning the natural world. All projects exploring ecological relationships, topics, or themes are eligible. The Award includes a Mentorship, a Review Santa Fe Admission and Project Presentation, a Group Exhibition of Award & Grant Winners at the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts, a Project Publication with Lenscratch & Feature Shoot, and Inclusion in the CENTER Image Library & Archive.
JUROR: Paula Trotto, Photo Project Manager, Environmental Defense Fund shares her thoughts on this selection:
It is such an honor to be asked to judge the Environmental Award category. In my first correspondences with CENTER, I was asked what would make a strong submission, and I answered that I expected I’d “be seeing reportage photos of people at work or collaborating somehow, or new environmental technology blended with nature.. like turbines on farms, solar panel installations.” I was delighted to see that many submissions fell outside of that expectation. Many submissions were carefully crafted art exhibits that featured varying photo processes on paper, silk, metals, motion with audio – close-ups or aerials of earth and nature, collaged in patterns that were sumptuous and playful, or serious and foreboding – and not at all like the editorial style photography that I work with on a daily basis.
The most rewarding part of viewing all of these submissions is that they reinforced for me why photography is so appealing – it was all about capturing a moment in time before it flees. There are many references to works as ‘time capsules’ and holding the earth in its health while we can – if even only visually in a photo. Many references to dreams and memories made works personal and intimate – focusing on family who passed or a time on earth where society didn’t collectively hold as much climate anxiety as we do today. Many works evoke childhood smells of damp earth underfoot and decaying leaves – a reminder that we take nature and earth for granted as a ‘constant’ foundation, but now are being thrown into measuring earth’s days and worrying about how we can mend it. And with the remembrance of childhood comes the adult concern that we need to leave this earth for another generation, and how do we steward the earth to make it last for generations to come?
Ultimately the body of work that I chose presented itself as a series of photos that seemed like a story unfolding – showing humans as stewards working with the earth and soil, and showing diversity in the people portrayed in the images. These images evoked the smells and sounds of working outdoors, in the sun, smelling soil – yet at the same time carried a gravitas of tending to the earth in a way that is kind and supportive, while also nodding towards environmental justice and including all humans as important in its terrain. It held some semblance of positive systemic work that felt fresh and interesting to me, and I found myself wanting to see more.
I am infinitely grateful to get to view this collective body of submissions in this category -because many are beautiful photographic jewels; individual artworks that spoke to me because they highlighted the gorgeous patterns of nature, or patterns of the human mark in natural terrains. The range of expression and media was impressive, and the decision was difficult – as I could find a purpose for all the works submitted and overall a great love and concern for the earth in all.
Paula Trotto is a photo/video producer, photo editor, and researcher at the Environmental Defense Fund – where she specializes in visual storytelling in print publications as well as online content.
Previously she worked with NRDC.org, and on magazine publications such as Oprah Magazine, Newsweek, Businessweek, Real Simple Magazine, and Travel and Leisure. She has served as a Portfolio Consultant for SPD (Society of Publication Design) Portfolio Review sessions, and projects that she has collaborated on have won Honoree spots via the Webby Awards.
Esha Chiocchio is a photographer and filmmaker who uses her combined knowledge of visual storytelling and sustainable communities to inspire social change. An optimistic realist, she focuses on solutions to societal and environmental challenges. Good Earth, her current project, is a multimedia collaboration that features the work of agrarians from diverse sectors who are revitalizing land through regenerative practices. She has photographed around the world for publications, non-profits, and commercial clients, including National Geographic, Bonefish Grill, and Jardins du Monde.
Esha teaches photography at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops and Fredric Roberts Photography Workshops and serves on the board of the New Mexico chapter of the American Society of Media Photographers. Her photography has been exhibited in group and solo exhibitions in France, South Korea, Mali, Washington, DC, and Santa Fe, NM. She has BAs in Anthropology and French from the University of Colorado, a Masters in Sustainable Communities from Goddard College, and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mali, West Africa.
Follow Esha on Instagram: @eshachiocchio
In New Mexico, where I have lived for over twenty years, conventional agriculture, excessive grazing, misguided stormwater management, and a multi-year drought are causing the desertification of our already arid lands. As an optimist, scholar of sustainable communities, and climate educator, I am interested in solutions. When I look at the many ways we can mitigate and adapt to the changing climate, soil health is of prime importance.
Soil stewardship plays a key role in mitigating climate change, improving water cycles, increasing agricultural production, augmenting nutrient density, enhancing wildlife habitat, and so much more. In short, it is one of the essential keys to rebalancing the earth’s atmospheric and terrestrial systems. Soil has the potential to absorb 5.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year (about 85% of annual emissions in the US). In addition, for every 1% increase in soil carbon, the water-holding capacity is augmented by 20,000 gallons/acre, thereby reducing the risk of both flooding and drought while improving ecosystem resiliency.
Statistics only tell part of the story. Good Earth combines my photographs with interviews by Mary-Charlotte Domandi which are edited by Madison McClintock into succinct multimedia videos to shine a light on agrarians who are regenerating our unraveling landscapes.
Stories that Good Earth has documented include:
• Tooley’s Trees – heirloom fruit and drought-tolerant trees
• RioGro Pecan Farm – regenerative orchard management
• Reunity Resources – community farming and composting
• Horned Locust GoatScaping – landscaping with goats
• The RainCatcher – urban raingardens and permaculture design
• Santa Ana Pueblo – Native American rangeland management
• C4 Farms – rotational ranching
• North Valley Organics – urban regenerative farming
• Tooley’s Keyline Design – grassland restoration through land contouring
Everyone who eats or tends even a small patch of land can play a role in improving our soils and all that depend on them. May these stories serve as positive examples for us all.
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