Photojournalist Brent Stirton often finds himself in the world’s ‘hot zones,’ places where conflict and poverty unravel the very fabric of human life. Reporting on African conflict first made him aware of the world’s water problems. “I was just noticing that there were far more deaths coming out of a basic lack of resources that you and I would take for granted, that contaminated water was killing many more people than anything connected to the actual fighting,” he says. “It’s an obviously vital issue that is under-reported.”
But the quick pace and ephemeral nature of the 21st-century news business can make it difficult to capture the long-term nuance and connected global impact of water and sanitation challenges. “You get caught up in the 24-hour news cycle, as opposed to really looking at what matters,” says Stirton, who has covered everything from severe drought in Mexico’s Tehuacán Valley to naturally occurring arsenic in Bangladeshi water wells.
Stirton has won numerous awards for his coverage around the world — he’s been honored by the United Nations for his photography dealing with HIV and the environment and he is a five-time recipient of the World Press Photo Foundation Award. Stirton says that he is driven by a responsibility to document these issues. “It’s complex, never-ending, and I’m settling in for the long haul.”