Benoit Aquin

“Always with an eye on humanitarian and ecological issues, Montreal based photographer Benoit Aquin is renowned for his photographic essays on such important subjects as the devastating effect of the Nemagon pesticide on banana-crop workers in Central America, the rapidly melting ice floes of the Canadian Great North, and the drastic desertification of China. Fueled by curiosity, lucidity, and a desire to involve himself directly with the world’s greatest political and moral quandaries, Benoit uses photography as his tool for social intervention. His new photojournalistic projects — including Lands Under Pressure, an examination of large-scale environmental testing grounds and their impact on humanity — demonstrate the depth of his artistic and humanistic commitment.” Patrick Alleyn

China’s Dust Bowl

“Deserts now cover 18% of China, and a quarter of them were caused by ecologically damaging human activities. Overexploitation of arable land, overgrazing, and increasingly deep drilling for water are at the root of what has become the Chinese dust bowl, a phenomenon the likeness of which hasn’t been seen since the 1930s, when the American Midwest and Canadian Prairies suffered from a devastating drought. China’s situation is quickly becoming the world’s most massive and rapid conversion or arable land into barren sand dunes. The resulting dust is picked up by the wind and transported, in the form of giant sandstorms, all over China and into Japan, Korea — even all the way to North America. In an effort to reverse the situation, the Chinese government has initiated the largest environmental restoration initiative the world has ever seen, and has begun a mass exodus of “environmental refugees,” displaced by the advancing sand.”

The images themselves are strikingly beautiful. The sand casts an erie and yet poetic sepia-like cast over what normally is a landscape full of color. Now, the only color visible is that of the sand. The images appear soft and painterly, as the sand casts a surreal fog over the scenery. This isn’t the first time I come to the realization that decay, and often times destruction, is beautiful. My boyfriend has jokingly said to me that I’m drawn to “disaster porn”, as he likes to call it. But he realizes that for me, it’s a catalyst for change, and a motivator to act.

Pesticide Nemagon: Deadly Mist

“In the 1970s and ’80s, American multinationals Dole and Del Monte used the carcinogenic pesticide Nemagon (or Fumazone) to fumigate their banana crops in Central America. They maintained its use despite the poison’s ban on American soil. Today, the men and women who worked on those plantations suffer from incurable illnesses, cancer, sterility. The children they do manage to conceive are born deformed. The companies feign innocence, and the court cases that were brought against them are on the eternal backburner. These are some of the images of the victims in Nicaragua.”

These images are sad, but humble at the same time. They present the truth of cause and effect, action and reaction, originator and consequence. The last two images are sequenced as such by Benoit, and exemplify the cause and effect relationship in a frightening literal way.

To see more images from these two bodies of work, as well as several other humanitarian and environmental projects, please visit Benoit’s website.

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One Response to “Benoit Aquin”

  1. Benoit Aquin announced as 2008 Prix Pictet Winner « Photography for a Greener Planet Says:

    […] to Benoit, who’s work was written about in an older post you can access here. I look forward to seeing what socially and environmentally aware work he comes up with […]

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