Best Work by an Emerging Photographer | Winner

Maximilian Mann

Dortmund / DE

Lake Urmia


Largely unnoticed by the global public, a major environmental disaster is taking place in Lake Urmia in northwestern Iran. Where ten years ago the waves splashed against the walls of the villages, today you see an almost endless desert. Ships that would once bring people from one side of the lake to the other now lie like stranded whales on the shore, decaying. Salt winds from the desert are spreading further and further over the residents’ fields, causing the crops to dry up. Robbed of their livelihoods, the residents are fleeing to the surrounding towns, and the villages around the lake are dying out. Lake Urmia was once the second largest salt lake in the world, ten times bigger than Lake Constance. However, within just a few years, the surface area of the lake has shrunk by 80 percent. Both climate change and the agricultural sector’s enormously high water consumption rates are responsible for this. If this disaster is not stopped, up to five million residents could be forced to leave the area in the future.


Maximilian Mann (1992) grew up in Kassel, Germany. During a voluntary service in Tanzania, his desire to study photography grew. In his photographic works he is primarily engaged in socially marginalised groups and environmental issues. He was shortlisted for "Felix Schoeller Award, best emerging Photographer 2017", a Finalist of "Kolga Award Newcomer Award2017“ and received the „BFF-Scholarship 2019“.

Jury Statement

Maximilian Mann's photo series ‚Lake Urmia‘ is a photographic picture story that tells and documents the death of Lake Urmia in northwestern Iran. Due to climate change and excessive use of water resources, the lake which has been once one of the largest lakes in the world, has almost completely disappeared. What has remained are dry areas of salt and sand.

The photographer documents this natural disaster in bizarre and beautiful pictures. The mental translation of his choice of motif and its sequence, as well as the soft and also brilliant colours of the pictures make this series particularly impressive and endearing.