The global award in photography and sustainability

Gideon Mendel

Gideon Mendel is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading contemporary photographers. His intimate style of committed image making, and long-term commitment to projects has earned him international acclaim. Born in Johannesburg in 1959, he studied Psychology and African History at the University of Cape Town. He began photographing in the 1980s during the final years of apartheid. His work as a ‘struggle photographer’ at this time first brought his work global attention.

In 1990 he moved to London, from where he has continued to respond to social issues globally. One of the major focuses of his work soon became the issue of HIV/AIDS. This journey began in Africa and has expanded to many parts of the world over the last twenty years. The concluding and ongoing chapter, Through Positive Eyes, is a collaborative project in which Mendel’s role has shifted from photographer to enabler, handing the camera over to HIV positive people.

Since 2007, Mendel has been working on Drowning World, an art and advocacy project about flooding that is his personal response to climate change. This work has drawn particular attention for its unusual use of portraiture within chaotic flooded scenarios, as well as its combination of photography with video.

Mendel has worked for many of the world’s leading magazines including National Geographic, Fortune, Condé Naste Traveller, Geo, The Independent, The Guardian Weekend, Stern and Rolling Stone.

His first book, A Broken Landscape: HIV & AIDS in Africa was published in 2001. Since then he has produced a number of photographic projects, working with campaigning organizations including The Global Fund, Médecins Sans Frontières, Treatment Action Campaign, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, Action Aid, the Terrene Higgins Trust, Shelter, UNICEF and Concern Worldwide.

Mendel has won the Eugene Smith Award for Humanistic Photography, six World Press Photo Awards, first prize in the American Pictures of the Year competition, a POY Canon Photo Essayist Award and the Amnesty International Media Award for Photojournalism.

His work is increasingly seen in a variety of gallery contexts, with some of his earliest work from South Africa included in the Rise and Fall of Apartheid touring exhibition. Drowning World has featured prominently at the ICP Triennial and Picture Windows installations in New York, as well as in numerous other public installations and private galleries ranging from the Freer/Sackler Museum in Washington to Gallery Momo in Johannesburg to Somerset House and Tiwani Contemporary in London.