Edinburgh photographer’s breathtaking Ethiopia work shortlisted for top Sony award

Entos Eyesus church forest on an island in Lake Tana near Bahir Dar.
Entos Eyesus church forest on an island in Lake Tana near Bahir Dar.
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Beating more than 300,000 entries from across the globe, an Edinburgh photographer is the only Scottish professional to be shortlisted for a prestigious award in Sony’s internationally acclaimed competition.

Kieran Dodds, 38, has been shortlisted for his series Hierotopia, which explores the tiny patches of protected forests surrounding churches in Ethiopia, where farming has led to huge deforestation.

Debre Mihret Arbiatu Ensesa church near Ambesane surrounded by subsistence agriculture.

Debre Mihret Arbiatu Ensesa church near Ambesane surrounded by subsistence agriculture.

The award-winning photographer from Craigleith – whose work has featured across the globe in publications including the New York Times, National Geographic and Smithsonian Magazine – was up against 326,997 entries from 195 countries and territories, the highest number of entries to date.

The father of two-year-old twins Ada and Izzy, began researching the project in 2015, and after perfecting his drone skills, returned to Ethiopia last year to capture the breathtaking aerial shots.

Of being shortlisted – which means his work will be displayed in at the Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition at Somerset House in London until May 6 – the humble photographer said he is just delighted that people will now know about these incredible places.

He added: “My personal work considers the role of the environment in human culture.

Kieran Dodds

Kieran Dodds

“For years I have been looking at how indigenous ideas have preserved the environment and seeing how this can be scaled up.

“In Ethiopia I stumbled across something remarkable where the Orthodox Christians preserve the environment, seeing it as the ‘clothes of the church’ – a physical part of the church building and a miniature Garden of Eden.”

Kieran used drone technology to gain a “divine angle” that resonates in this work. He said: “I gained Civil Aviation approval in the UK and once you understand the rules it is truly is breathtaking.

“The training is rigorous and challenging but essential.”

The aerial shots make up half of the body of work as well as a bulk of Kieran’s time spent on the ground documenting the rituals of life in and around the forests.

Kieran and his family, whose wife Caz is from Edinburgh, moved back recently to the city from Glasgow.

He said despite the hours, days, weeks and sometimes years put into researching, visiting and shooting, the job of a freelance photographer allows him time to spend at home with his family.

“My work is research-driven and this allows me to be around for family,” Kieran explained. “We moved to Edinburgh fairly recently and love the city, it inspires creativity.

“Normally I do a day a week with my girls.

“In other countries the best places I have visited are where people are grounded in their community and committed to family and friends. This work conveys a benefit of that.”

Six other British photographers have also been shortlisted across the ten award categories and will now compete to win their title and be named Photographer of the Year, with the winners being revealed on April 17.

Kieran’s work will also be appearing at Stills Gallery on Cockburn Street from April 12- June 2 as part of a group show called Ambit.

newsen@edinburghnews.com