Archive for June, 2008

The Canary Project

June 24, 2008

The Canary Project is an organization that began in 2006, as a project to photograph landscapes around the world most acutely affected by global warming. It has since expanded to support a wide variety of other artists working at the intersection of art and ecology, as well as producing, supporting, and collaborating on other art projects, events, and educational mediums to build public understanding of human-induced climate change, and of course, to energize commitment solutions. The Canary Project is an outstanding example (and one of very few) of an organization exclusively dedicated to producing art about climate change.

The inaugural body of work, Canary Project Photos: The Landscape of Climate Change, affected me the first time I saw it. Susannah Sayler, a fine art landscape photographer, and co-founder of The Canary Project, set out to photograph locations around the world that are showing signs and fore-warnings of climate change, as well as those locations where successes in conservation and adaptation to climate change are visible. This second part of the project showing solutions is a key element, as so many times when we are witness to the atrocity of carelessness, which can feel completely and utterly overwhelming, a solution to the problem can seem unimaginable. Showing the positive affects of awareness and action to such awareness, not only proves wrong the skeptics who think nothing is wrong with our current state (by showing them the good, they can recognize the bad), but also offers hope and inspiration, important components when advocating for change.

Thus far, Sayler has photographed 11 of the 14 locations planned or a book and traveling exhibition, which were chosen in consultation with leading scientists and journalists, including the project’s scientific advisor, Dr. Paul Epstein of Harvard’s Center for Healthy and the Global Environment, and journalist Elizabeth Kolbert of the New Yorker. Locations include Alaska, New Orleans, Belize, Greenland, Antarctica, Siberia, Niger, and others on specific problems such as glacial and icecap melting, rising sea levels, drought and fires, extreme weather, and disrupted ecosystems.

The works themselves are quite beautiful. A quiet yet striking color palette, each exquisite in their sense of space and light, they take the landscape in as a whole, in context with their larger surroundings, providing clear view into what has been disrupted. Each image is accompanied by a caption detailing its specific location and time, and usually with a brief background on what has occurred there as evidence of climate disruption and change.

Disrupted Ecosystems: Great Barrier Reef, Belize, 2006

Drought and Fires: Gansu Province, China, 2007
Only fifty years ago, there was a lake here where we now see the tracks of a camel. In this short span of time, what was once the Qin Tu Hu Lake has dried up completely.

Drought and Fires: Umatilla National Forest, Washington State, 2006. More than 100,000 acres burned.

Rising Sea Level: Venetian Lagoon, Italy, 2006. Rising sea levels in Venice may become so severe that they exceed the capacity of human preservation efforts.

Glacial, Icecap and Permafrost Melting: Pasterze Glacier, Austria, 2005.
Glacial runoff in an area that was covered by ice merely 10 years ago.

Solutions:Rising Sea Level: Dyke on the North Sea, The Netherlands, 2006
The Netherlands has a total of 260 miles of sea dykes to protect coastal areas from high tides and storm surges. The dykes are constantly being monitored and improved for predicted sea level rise in the coming years.

Solutions: Waterworks in the Netherlands, 2006
The Maeslantkering is a storm surge barrier that automatically closes to protect Rotterdam and surrounding towns from flooding in the case of an abnormally large storm surge. Each of the barrier “arms” is as tall as the Eiffel Tower if placed upright. If sea levels rise as predicted due to global warming, other nations may need to adopt similar mechanisms of protection.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted that sea levels will rise between 9 and 88 cm in the next 100 years due to global warming. “A quarter of The Netherlands lies below sea level… Another quarter, while slightly higher, is still low enough that, in the natural course of events, it would regularly be flooded” (Elizabeth Kolbert, Field Notes from a Catastrophe).

For more information and images from and on The Canary Project, please visit their website.

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Misty Keasler

June 15, 2008

I first came across Misty’s photographs when I worked at Ricco/Maresca gallery (now Hasted/Hunt as far as the photography portion goes.) Born into the anti-abortion and anti-birth control world of communist Romania myself, I was fascinated that she was STILL interested in the vast numbers of children’s orphanages there. Not much was heard after the short period of heightened awareness surrounding the existence of these children and the problems that plague them, which coincided with the fall of socialist block in ’89 during and after the Romanian revolution. A few months passed, and both the news on television screens and headlines in the paper slowly moved away from the shock, horror, and urgency of the orphan situation, to whatever else was occuring closer to home. When Misty came in to show her work at the gallery, I couldn’t help but admire her hunger to tell these children’s stories, and specifically the way she wanted to tell them. She didn’t want to exploit them, shock the viewer into turning away, or shove any message or point of view into the viewer’s face. Instead, she wanted to tell the story she thought she should tell, which simply, was the story that told itself to her once she began photographing. They are quiet images. They are peaceful in their sense of calm, even when showing chaos.

Below are a few examples of a recent project in which Misty photographed a garbage dump in Guatemala. She took two separate trips, each a month long, documenting and visiting the people that inhabit, live, and make their lives in the dump. Countries without the kind of affluence that exists in the United States, don’t have the luxury to ship their trash to other places. Their dumps aren’t closed off and veiled in utter secrecy and surrounded by massive surveilance and security as they are here. Misty was thus able to get in and photograph the garbage itself, and the the people that live in it, as they have no other choice. The photographs are disheartening, and yet inspirational. They are disheartening because of the realization that these conditions do exist for many people. But they are inspiring because they cause awareness, and only with awareness can one do something about the situation in front of them. To see more examples of Misty’s work including many other projects, please visit her website.

Brian Ulrich: Copia

June 10, 2008

Continuing on the topic of consumerism and general American mass consumption, is the work of Brian Ulrich. After George Bush urged Americans to “spend spend spend” after 9/11, he turned citizens into consumers. Their civil duty was now to boost the US economy one man at a time. Shopping was to be the answer to terrorism. But Brian was not buying it, and he sure as hell wasn’t spending it either.

“Shopping”, Brian says, “presents the illusion of choice, but it’s not our choice–it’s what’s presented to us, what Kraft and Conagra want us to own. We go into stores with elation, hoping for something to relate to emotionally, and come out from the ordeal depressed and depleted.” He focuses on details like a sign at a gas station, “Homeland Security Threat Level Today–Please see cashier for details” to establish the connection between the “war on terror” and our consumption addiction. His landscape of Sunday shoppers strolling through Costco’s fluorescent-lit aisles alludes to “Sunday Afternoon on the Island La Grande Jatte,” contrasting Seurat’s era to ours.

I came across this body of work at Julie Saul a few years ago, which included three sections; Retail, Thrift, and Backrooms. To see get more info or see more work, please visit his website. You’ll notice, it’s called “Not If But When”. According to an interview in The Style Press, “Not If But When came from the weeks after 9/11. On one day it seemed this phrase was the headline of every newspaper and for me signified the messaging from the media the psychological climate of this country should shift from one of empathy and grieving to one of fear. I decided to co-opt this phrase to try and turn it against itself. Using ‘Not If But When’ as a moniker for my projects as an artist gives the phrase new meaning.”

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Hard Rain: Our Headlong Collision with Nature

June 9, 2008

These are the last few days of Hard Rain: Our headlong Collision with Nature, an exhibition in the North East Gallery of the visitors’ lobby at the UN here in NYC. Catch it before it closes on June 12th.

Hard Rain is a photo essay by Mark Edwards, a photographer and founder of the photo agency Still Pictures, on the subject of climate change, poverty and the sixth great extinction. In July 1969, lost on the edge of the Sahara desert, Edwards was rescued by a Tuareg nomad who took the photographer to his people, rubbed two sticks together to make a fire and produced a cassette player of Bob Dylan singing A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall. As Dylan piled image upon image, the idea came to Edwards of illustrating each line of the song. In the years that followed, he travelled to over 150 countries to photograph our headlong collision with nature. Hard Rain is the result — a collection of photographs illustrating Dylan’s prophetic lyrics.

Dylan wrote Hard Rain during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. But, as he has stated, this extraordinary song is open to much wider interpretation. “It doesn’t really matter where a song comes from. It just matters where it takes you.”

Images from Edwards’ personal archive, plus contributions by Sebastião Salgado, Chris Steele-Perkins and others, combine with the words of rock music’s great poetic writer to form the centrepiece of Hard Rain. Also on display is a section of commentaries by Edwards and other notables such as David Bohm, J. Krishnamurti, James Lovelock and Jeffrey Sachs.

For hours and directions to the UN click here, and for the full 2008 calendar of exhibitions at the UN click here.

Chris Jordan

June 8, 2008

Chris Jordan is a Seattle based photographer whose current and past works deal with the idea of consumerism, consumption, and waste; thus the well known American lifestyle. Specifically, two individual bodies of work confront the viewer into a grotesque realization of the epic proportions of waste in this country, using the idea of visual language as a multiplier and medium for numbers. and Chris turns appalling but simultaneously all too real statistics into fine art that challenges the viewer and poses important questions about the individual’s role in contributing to the scene before them. The work is printed large scale, wall size in fact, and the sheer immensity of the scene is astonishing. I saw this work at Yossi Milo a couple of years ago, and I literally stood there staring. I just couldn’t believe the statistics. Sure, I’d heard them before. But to see them, and I mean REALLY see them in front of your eyes, is almost unfathomable to the human imagination. Chris truly opens your eyes in that sense. Not only is the sheer number of things in each photograph so immense that it’s hard to even get your head around it, but because they go right to the edges in his composition, they imply going on forever, as in the next few seconds, hours, days, years, etc. They not only address what is happening now, every passing second in the present, but what is to come in all too soon future.

In “Intolerable Beauty: Portraits of American Mass Consumption”, Chris explores “around our country’s shipping ports and industrial yards, where the accumulated detritus of our consumption is exposed to view like eroded layers in the Grand Canyon, he finds evidence of a slow-motion apocalypse in progress. He is appalled by these scenes, and yet also drawn into them with awe and fascination. The immense scale of our consumption can appear desolate, macabre, oddly comical and ironic, and even darkly beautiful; for him its consistent feature is a staggering complexity. He fears that in this process we are doing irreparable harm to our planet and to our individual spirits.”

Crushed Cars
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Cell Phone Chargers
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Cell Phones
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Cigarette Butts
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Scrap Metal
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In “Running the Numbers: An American Self Portrait”, Chris looks “at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on. His hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books. Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year for example.”

Cans Seurat, 2007
60×92″ Depicts 106,000 aluminum cans, the number used in the US every thirty seconds.

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Plastic Bags, 2007
60×72″ Depicts 60,000 plastic bags, the number used in the US every five seconds.
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To see more of Chris’s thought and change provoking work, please visit his website here.

Hello world!

June 8, 2008

Welcome to my eco photo blog. I am starting this as a way to amass and share the ever-growing amount of photographic work that exists surrounding the topics of environment, sustainability, consumerism, climate change, and the like. As a proud and ambitious greenie living in New York City, I spend my days photo editing and my nights increasing and sharing my knowledge of the ways in which to better our planet. I read a good handful of green living blogs, as well as photography blogs, and hope to provide a platform in which the two can come together. Thus photographyforagreenerplanet.wordpress.com is born. I welcome your thoughts and feedback. xx-Andrea