Picture of Risk 2024

The Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience is proud to present Picture of Risk 2024!

The theme for this year’s Exploring Risk festival is Shifting the Gaze in Narratives of Disaster Risk Globally. Picture of Risk 2024 explores this theme by considering how photography provides a lens through which we can understand disaster risk and how choices such as framing, subject and photographer can influence the narrative that is generated. 

For the exhibition, photographers were invited to submit photos telling a story of disaster risk and/or its constituent parts (hazards, vulnerability and exposure), along with a short text describing the intended narrative of the photo and any creative choices that were made to achieve this.

The Picture of Risk 2024 exhibition, including a local perspectives feature entitled “Shifting the Gaze: Reflections on resilience in North East England”, has now begun!

The physical exhibition is in the Teaching and Learning Centre (1st floor) at Durham University and will continue until the Exploring Risk Film Festival on 27th February.

We are also pleased to bring the exhibition online – please explore the Pictures of Risk (click to enlarge) and the stories they tell below!

Alex Densmore

Photo of a resident of Bailu Town, Sichuan Province, China, in front of his house. In the background, the street has been offset by c. 3 metres by a surface rupture in the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, yet his house and others along the street are comparatively undamaged. I took this photo to capture some of the incongruity between catastrophic events and the everyday life that goes on in their aftermath.

Andrea Vásquez and Rebecca Jarman

While Chilean mountains sleep…
The forest has grown upon the lava
Flowers grow in an old crater
Volcanoes are approachable from the bottom to the summit
Young generations are preparing
While Huascarán sleeps in the highest peak in Peru…
Connections with the dead are maintained at sacred places
The Cordillera Blanca and the Cordillera Negra keep their distance
The rivers nurtures crops, livestock, and vegetation

While the Andes sleep, time is running out. While the Andes sleep, we must return to the past and remember how to care for the future.

360° captures Insta Evo and Canon EOS 1200D

Andrea is a PhD student in the School of Media and Communication, University of Leeds.

Link to publications.

Rebecca is Associate Professor at the School of Language, Cultures and Societies, University of Leeds.

Link to staff profile page.

Ashim Rimal

The photograph encapsulates the focal point of my thesis research on the Manohara River, situated in the heart of Kathmandu, where a vulnerable squatter population resides. It vividly portrays the imminent risks faced by these communities. The stark disparity along the riverbanks becomes apparent – one side fortified with protective flood walls, showcasing preparedness, while the opposite side remains exposed, intensifying the risk of flooding.

Link to LinkedIn profile.

Axel Morgan

Homes At Risk: Slum Clearance in Nainital, India. Shot with Film.

This photo captures a slum clearance in the foreground and contrasts it against the houses of Nainital behind. The slum felt very much a part of the town; the housing wasn’t noticeably different, and those living there no less full of love for those around them. However, the police stuck out like a sore thumb. Almost all the police had been brought in specifically for this slum clearance and would be gone soon after leaving lives in tatters. Inequality in housing contrasted sharply with the togetherness of Nainital.

Bruce D Malamud

Tetrapod coastal protection in Hernani, Philippines. In 2017 I had the opportunity to join several natural hazard scientists who had previously witnessed the immediate aftermath of the devastating Super Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban and the region. There I saw the tetrapod coastal defences, designed to interlock and form protective breakwaters. While they can be effective, they require maintenance, can be dislodged over time, and pose risks to swimmers and boaters, along with increasing coastal erosion. These ‘hard’ structures highlight the trade-offs of risks and benefits for coastal protection.

Bruce Malamud is the IHRR Director and Wilson Chair of Hazard
and Risk at Durham University.

Link to staff profile page.

Chiara Arrighi

The pictures were taken 6 months after the September 2022 Flood in the Marche Region (central Italy) and document the significant impact to cultural heritage. Clockwise from the top: the interior of S. Maria delle Tinte Church, its exterior, a detail of a wooden choir (XVII century), the Roman bridge Ponte Grosso, a wooden altar. Art alone will not save the world, but we should save art and its multi-faceted value from flooding.

Chiara is a researcher at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Florence, Italy.

Ellen Robson


This photo shows the failure of a slope (a landslide) adjacent to a
road in the Dolakha District of Nepal on the Charikhot-Jiri Highway.
The photo was taken in November 2023, two months after the end
of the monsoon season. The slope failure was triggered by heavy
rain during the monsoon season. However, the slope became
unstable through road widening works, where the construction
company failed to excavate a safe roadside slope. This failure of
the construction company may be due to failure in the governance
of road construction standards.

Ellen’s research focuses on developing stakeholder-focused
guidance and methodologies to help mitigate landslides and
improve slope stabilisation in lower-income countries.

Link to LinkTree.

Felix Martin

Estimated between 9.4 and 9.6 on the Richter Scale, the 1960 Valdivia earthquake is the most powerful ever recorded. Studies have placed the death toll at 6,000 and economic impact as high as USD 8 billion. This photo was taken 17 km from Valdivia, where three exposures have been taken on one strip of 35 mm film. The arrows point inward to indicate the emergency route while demonstrating the seismic risk found along the Chilean coast. Juxtaposing evacuation signs against the daily lives of holidaymakers shows how people can live alongside risk while providing a constant reminder of our vulnerability.

Hanna Ruszczyk

“What do you think about?”. Lalitpur, Nepal 15 April 2019.

In Banksy fashion, this Nepali street art is posing the question “What do you think about? What are your thoughts about something?”. Walking through the heart of Lalitpur (one of the three kingdom cities of Kathmandu Valley, Nepal), as a foreigner, it is hard not to think about the 2015 earthquake. The signs of physical destruction and damage are evident four years after the earthquake. Importantly, the earthquake is not what the residents think about. They have moved on, they think about everyday issues such as education, health and festivals.

Dr Hanna A. Ruszczyk is an urban geographer exploring how
people live in smaller urbanising cities.

Link to personal website.

Johanna Garnett

Embark on a visual journey through vulnerability in the face of disaster with this poignant photograph. Delving into the crucial issue of preserving cultural heritage, it underscores the urgency to protect our rich heritage from the ravages of disaster. Through deliberate choices in framing and subject, the image articulates the profound impact of disaster on heritage, advocating for a collective responsibility to safeguard the repositories that shape our identity. This serves as a powerful reminder that, during disasters, safeguarding cultural heritage becomes a crucial act of resilience. It underscores the vital importance of minimising risks to prevent its loss.

Johanna is an Australian researcher and policy manager, passionate
about cultural heritage protection in emergency management.

Link to LinkedIn profile.

Karolina Golicz

You do not know what is precious until it is gone… Soil erosion in East Africa is one of the greatest threats to food security across the region. Intense rainfall, deforestation, and unsustainable land management practices contribute to soil loss. In countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania, the repercussions are severe, impacting crop yields and livelihoods. Erosion leads to diminished soil fertility, reduced water retention capacity, and increased vulnerability to drought. The resulting environmental degradation perpetuates a cycle of poverty as rural communities grapple with low agricultural outputs. Mitigating the risk of soil erosion must become our priority.

Karolina is a long-term soil aficionado.

Link to publications.

Sim Reaney

These houses in Nepal are in danger of falling into the river due to the landslide on the slope that they are built, caused by the river under-cutting the slope in a recent flood, caused by a glacial lake breach in China. This image shows the importance of hazard-chains and how the effects are felt far from the source of the initial event.

Sim is Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and
Co-Director of the IHRR, Durham University

Link to staff profile page.

Suzanne Jacobs

The Dutch have been battling the sea for centuries. While the chances of dune failure are minimal, annual investments in the form of millions of cubic metres of sand are required to keep the dunes in good shape. If they do not hold up (probability of 1/5,200 per year), more than a million inhabitants in the low-lying lands behind the dunes are at risk. The photo clearly shows the struggle of the walkers against the wind and scouring sand, symbolising the continued exposure to storms and sea level rise, but also the resilience of people to withstand this.

Tobias Houska

Land loss is a threat to nature and biodiversity. Land loss occurs when natural habitats are destroyed or degraded by human activities, such as agriculture, urbanization, mining, logging, and climate change. Land loss reduces the amount and quality of space available for plants and animals to live, grow, and reproduce. Protecting and restoring natural lands is essential for the survival of nature and humanity. Through the perspective of an endangered Masai giraffe, one of the 44,000 left on Earth, we can see the danger of losing land near Kenya’s capital city Nairobi.

Dr Tobias Houska is a German postdoc researching water quality in Kenya.

Yafa El Masri

When I was growing up in a refugee camp in the 90s, foreigners would often visit, and take photos of us when we were at our worst – dirty and crying. We would become miserable faces on someone’s PowerPoint presentation as they tell their students in the West about us. To challenge that framing, I choose to show refugees as the resilient humans we are despite the adversities of displacement. These are the children of my neighbourhood in Bourj Albarajenah refugee camp, who insisted on looking for some outdoor light to be able to do their homework for the day.

Yafa is a refugee, a researcher and sometimes both. She is a stateless Palestinian, and she is currently a postdoctoral researcher in Human Geography at Durham University.

Shifting the Gaze: Reflections on resilience in North East England

This “local perspectives” section of Picture of Risk 2024 was prepared by Damien Wootten, a documentary and art photographer, and Neil Denton, a Community Mediator and Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience (IHRR) Professor in Practice. The selection of photographs reflects on community resilience in North East England through documenting a series of projects with which Damien and Neil have been involved.

“Hidden harm” is part of the Closing The Door On Past Dreariness series by Damien Wootten. Over a four year period, he spent time engaging with and listening to the experiences of homeless people in Newcastle. Beyond the obvious moral challenge to a society that allows it’s citizens to endure such hardship and harm, the exhibition was designed to encourage reflection about vulnerability and visibility. Many living on our streets habitually experience their fellow humans actively looking away as they pass by. Many of the people Damien met had also been robbed, spat on and assaulted. He asks us to draw comparisons between this and the dehumanising language used by the Government of the time to justify or deny the devastating impact of their Austerity programme on North East communities. These harms have pushed many into the “hidden homelessness”, bouncing between B&B’s and surfing sofas.

“A picture tells” is one of the images produced during a project carried out by CREST (Compact for Race Equality in South Tyneside) and The Customs House to better understand the needs of male refugees and asylum seekers living in South Tyneside. As well as providing the chance to express their creativity and take on new ideas, the sessions had a positive benefit to participants’ well-being and mental health, giving them a chance to socialise in a supporting environment and make new connections with people who may have had similar experiences to them – and with the wider community. As Margarita, a community engagement worker at The Customs House observed, “Many of our participants have had a very tough time in getting to our community, and in their present situations, they don’t have much time or opportunity to think about much more than their everyday existence in a strange new place”

“Full House” and “Building Bridges” are both images that capture moments in the on-going work of the Gateshead Community Bridgebuilders – a project supported financially and relationally by the Lankelly Chase Foundation. The project works to build new models of community decision making and change the way money flows to support this. Their name, and their methodology of building community connection and collaboration, were informed by The Bridge Builders’ Handbook; a resource created in partnership with IHRR and the Relationships Project. Neil Denton continues to provide them with training and support. In turn, they are helping us to re-think our understanding of what resilience really means from a community perspective.

All of the photographs were taken by Damien Wootten. He has worked extensively in the community, working on many research projects, commissions, residencies and collaborations, and lectures in photography at Newcastle University, in the School of Architecture, Urban Planning and Landscape. He is a director of Banyan Arts, which has an emphasis on well-being through creativity and delivers arts based workshops to a range of groups as diverse as stroke survivors, parents and carers of young people with addictions – and refugee and asylum seekers.

Damien Wootten

“Hidden harm”. Newcastle Quayside, 2022.

We take privacy and dignity for granted; homelessness denies both. However, not all the suffering around here is as hard to hide. Many of our communities are living with chronic risk; poor housing, a lack of living hours and living wages, making choices between heating and eating, living with trauma and disability. It is easy to think of disaster as a large-scale incident – something you would hear about on the news – but a short illness, or the fridge breaking down, are all that is required to push many into crisis.

Damien Wootten

“A picture tells”. Customs House, South Shields, 2023.

The refugees in this picture have completed a dangerous journey to reach a place of physical safety. But this is a half-told story. To be fully human, we need to be fully seen, and fully heard. Here, they are curating a photography exhibition of their own images that speak about identity, community and building relationships – giving them a voice, and a way of engaging with their new community.

Damien Wootten

“Full House”. Teams Life Centre, Gateshead, 2024.

We think of resilience as being the ability to withstand and recover from shock. But by focusing only on risk and vulnerability, we can overlook what is strong and to be treasured. Here, a walking and photography group where people support each other with their mental health, are enjoying a game of bingo with a local friendship group. These are the threads of fun and friendship that when woven together, create a safety net of solidarity and care.

Damien Wootten

“Building Bridges”. A chocolate making workshop in York, 2023.

We often describe resilience as the resources available to a community. But to make best use of these resources, a community needs the capacity to hear from different perspectives, make decisions on what is collectively important, and organise in ways that maximise impact. Eric and Paul are Community Bridgebuilders. They are both trusted members of marginalised communities in Gateshead. Alongside their six fellow Bridgebuilders (supported by Lankelly Chase), they are pioneering relational methods of devolving funding and decision making that build trust and understanding, provide a shared focus, and catalyse conversations with communities about the change they want to see.

Thank you!

The Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience would like to thank you for visiting Picture of Risk 2024!

Many thanks also go to everyone who submitted an entry for the exhibition and to Dr Aaron Neill for co-ordinating this event.