Meet the 2022 Young Environmental Photographer of the Year: Fayz Khan

A window on our beautiful but hostile planet

Fayz Khan is CIWEM’s 2022 Young Environmental Photographer of the Year. Chloe Goode caught up with him

Sixth-form student Fayz Khan has won the highly coveted prize of Young Environmental Photographer of the Year for his image Beautiful But Hostile Colours On Earth. The photograph shows lesser flamingos flying over Lake Magadi and Lake Natron in the Southern Rift Valley, Kenya.

Khan, 16, lives in London and is studying at Westminster School. He hasn’t looked back since receiving his first camera from his grandmother over seven years ago. His first photography trip was to the Yala National Park in Sri Lanka. There he photographed leopards and elephants and has been a keen photographer ever since.

Khan’s love for the outdoors and in particular the unspoilt wilderness inspires his photography. “The arresting beauty of large expanses like the Masai Mara especially during sunrise or sunset can be exhilarating,” he says.

But Khan also likes to remind us of “the harsh reality and fragility of our planet” in his photography. His most memorable moment as a photographer was watching a cheetah bring down and kill a reedbuck, only for the kill to be stolen within a few minutes by a hyena. “It was a sad but memorable moment to witness the seeming cruelty of the African ecosystem,” he says.

'Beautiful But Hostile Colours on Earth' (above)

This contrasting reality of nature also comes through in his winning photograph. Competition judge and conservation photographer Daisy Gilardini describes how the winning image is both compelling and frightening in a way that shows something beautiful can also be toxic and dangerous.

“I love the way the movement and different colours combine to create a unique pattern in this wonderful image. While the beauty of the image catches your eye, reading the caption open your eyes to a sad reality,” she says.

Lake Magadi and Lake Natron were once a single freshwater body, home to many species of fish and animals. Now the lakes are severely alkaline with a pH of 9-10 and the water temperature can reach up to 41°C.

“As a result, the lakes are highly toxic to most forms of animal and plant life – the lesser flamingos are a key exception due to the hardiness of their biological make-up,” Khan says.

Khan’s trip to the Rift Valley had been delayed since 2020 due to Covid-19. But in the summer of 2022, with restrictions lifted, he was lucky enough to photograph the lakes on a helicopter safari with his family.

The colours of the lake are beautiful but the algae in the lake takes the lives of many animals each year. “By sharing this image with the world, I am hopeful of evoking the same conflicting emotions that I felt when I first flew over this spot. While the lighter shades of orange trigger hope, the darker colours also signal the real dangers lurking ahead,” Khan says.

See more photographs by Fayz Khan

'Razor's Edge' (above)

'Masai Warrior With His Cattle Gold' (above)

'Yogic Stretch' (above)

'The Endangered Hadza Tribe' (above)

'An Ode to a Mother' (above)

This year’s YEPOTY award was presented by partner Nikon. View this year’s winning photographs at:

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