Your browser is no longer supported. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.

Climate Visuals launches a new collection of air pollution photographs

By Alastair Johnstone on February 7, 2024

Clean Air Fund and Climate Visuals have launched a new collection of over 150 photographs of air pollution and communities affected by dirty air. The collection is now available to browse and download on the Climate Visuals library and are freely available for use in the non-profit, editorial and educational sectors.

The photographs, taken in Indonesia, Poland, South Africa and the UK  were commissioned in response to the scarcity of accurate, compelling and accessible photojournalism highlighting the impacts of air pollution alongside solutions to the problem.

Technician, Harry Mhlanga, checks and cleans the inlets of the ambient air quality monitoring station in Johannesburg South Africa.

Air pollution is the largest environmental threat to public health globally, and it’s getting worse. Most of the world’s population live in places that exceed the World Health Organization’s air quality guideline limits.

Climate Visuals worked with four photographers, Aji Styawan in Indonesia, Anna Liminowicz in Poland, Gulshan Khan in South Africa and Mary Turner in the UK as well as individuals and community organisations in each location to develop stories and produce compelling, detailed photojournalism. The photographs embody the Climate Visuals evidence base and best practice, and form a substantial new resource within the library.

Over 8 million people die prematurely each year because of air pollution. It’s the second leading cause of deaths from non-communicable diseases after smoking. Invisible particles penetrate cells and organs in our bodies – our lungs, heart, blood and brain. This leads to millions suffering with diseases like asthma, strokes, heart attacks, cancer and dementia. Babies, children, older people and those with existing health conditions are most severely affected by polluted air.

Maria Nkosi* demonstrates how she uses her inhaler for her asthma, at her home, which is a street away from a mine in Clever, Witbank, Emalahleni, South Africa. *not her real name.

The impact of air pollution is also unequal. The most disadvantaged communities tend to bear the brunt of polluted air. They are the most likely to live in polluted neighbourhoods and work outside or in settings more exposed to dirty air. This means society’s most marginalised experience the triple burden of poverty, poor quality environment and ill health.

90% of premature deaths attributed to air pollution are in low- and middle-income countries. From Bangladesh to Indonesia, people on the lowest incomes are hit the hardest. So the people least responsible for dirty emissions are the most exposed, and tend to have less power in political decision-making.

Morning commuters arrive at Manggarai train station in Jakarta, Indonesia, on November 6, 2023. Millions of residents of Jakarta have, for the past several months, suffered from some of the worst air pollution in the world.
Photo credit: Aji Styawan/Climate Visuals

Improving air quality is essential for addressing racial, gender and income inequalities. It is vital that the voices of people most affected by air pollution are included in campaigns and policy debates on air quality and climate change.

Sports pitches in the neighbourhood of the Belchatow coal-fired power plant, Poland.
Photo credit: Anna Liminowicz / Climate Visuals
Paweł Wyszomirski, left, and Kamil Szewczyk, right, prepare for a workshop they are organising for students in schools in Katowice and the surrounding area under the motto 'School Climate'. They teach students how to improve indoor air quality. Among other things, they use a pyrometer to remotely measure temperature in exercises.
Photo credit: Anna Liminowicz / Climate Visuals

The causes of climate change are often the same as the causes of air pollution: transport, the power sector, industrial emissions and crop burning. Over 140 governments signed a declaration at the recent UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) to address the interrelated issues of climate change and health together. As air pollution and climate change are mainly caused by burning fossil fuels, these two challenges share many of the same solutions. Clean air measures are one of the most immediate ways to protect the planet and people.

Clean air has the transformative potential to improve systemic health and climate issues. But political and public awareness and support for improving air quality does not match the scale of this global crisis. Through a new collection of compelling photography, Clean Air Fund and Climate Outreach seek to accurately and persuasively portray air pollution and the communities affected by dirty air.

A bicycle courier for delivery service Cargodale, is pictured arriving in Hebden Bridge with a delivery for a local shop in Hebden Bridge, England.
Photo credit: Mary Turner / Climate Visuals

About Climate Visuals

Climate Visuals is the world’s only evidence-based programme for climate change photography. It is run by Climate Outreach, a team of social scientists and communication specialists who work to ensure people trust, support and have a say in the changes we must make to address climate change. Through research, practical guides and consultancy services, Climate Outreach helps organisations communicate about climate change in ways that resonate with the values of their audiences and leads to action.

Register for and browse the Climate Visuals library here.

For more information contact:

About Clean Air Fund

Clean Air Fund is a global philanthropic organisation that works with governments, funders, businesses and campaigners to create a future where everyone breathes clean air.

For more information contact:

By Alastair Johnstone

Alastair is the Climate Visuals Manager. With a background in photojournalism, he is particularly interested in how you tell stories through photography, and how viewers interact with photographs.

Prior to joining Climate Outreach Alastair was a picture editor at The Times and The Sunday Times newspapers, working on domestic and international news photography. Before this, he trained in photojournalism at the London College of Communication and worked as a newspaper photographer.

Alastair is happiest when taking photographs and riding bicycles, often at the same time, ideally up a hill.

Sign up to our newsletter