Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

Ed Kashi: Madagascar, A Land Out of Balance

May 4, 2010

Each year the Prix Pictet commissions one of its short listed photographers to produce a body of work based on a region where Pictet & Cie is supporting a sustainability program. In 2009, Ed Kashi won the honors of this commission, taking him to Madagascar in connection with a UK Charity titled Azafady helping the poorest communities in Madagascar develop sustainable ways of living. I recently visited the Diemar/Noble Gallery here in London on Well St. only a couple of days after the opening reception and general huge bash for unveiling of this series of images. As much as I love a party, it’s really difficult to see the work in its entirety at an opening, with people and drinks always in the way.

Madagascar is one of the richest nations in the world when it comes to biodiversity. Yet it is simultaneously one of the poorest, with poverty and unsustainability reeking havoc on the land and people. Ed Kashi is an award winning photojournalist well known for his work dedicated to documenting the social and political issues of our times, recently and specifically about environmental degradation as it affects the state of humanity and the world. Kashi traveled to Madagascar in January of this year to document the ongoing destruction of the forest, the increasing desertification of once lush habitat, and the plight of the people as they fall ever deeper into a state of poverty as a result of dramatic unsustainable development. The party charity organization, Azafady, is working with some of the poorest communities in developing sustainable ways of living through promoting local forest management solutions and engaging people in planning, implementation and monitoring activities, and reducing forest dependence and depletion of forest resources. Kashi writes, “This Commission for the Prix Pictet is in direct response to the global cry to stop and take responsibility, seen through the dignified and vibrant people of south east Madagascar.”

The illegal practice of tavy, or slash and burn agriculture, is one of the most urgent threats to Madagascar's people and forests. As farmers search for fertile land in which to plan their crops, the forest is destroyed and a life-saving resource for Madagascar's rural poor is lost.

Men work on a brick kiln in Anosibe. This is a very inefficient use of wood, which is the main source of fuel for burning the clay to make the bricks.

The land fails, the crops fail. The people's ancient connection with the land is collapsing.

These young girls, ages 11-13, use a paste made from the tsiambara plant's roots to beautify their skin. They usually leave it on for 5 days and keep on redoing the process except on market days. The meaning of this process is called "I don't want to show you".

For further info and plenty more images, please visit Diemar/Noble, Prix Pictet, or Ed Kashi’s website’s directly.

While I realize that this specific exhibition would be documentary in nature due to both Kashi’s work and the nature of the commission, regardless of this I am still aware that there is a crossover between social documentary and fine art that’s taking place in the art world. This was a fine example. Diemar/Noble specializes in fine art photography, generally large scale in both the process and presentation, and using materials around since relatively early on in the medium’s history. I’m not saying you can’t be a fine art photographer if you don’t shoot 8×10 negatives. However, it is becoming more and more clear that the well known gap between photojournalists who are harnessing the power of images to deliver news and events of the moment (these days with 35mm digital cameras), and fine art photographers exploring abstract ideas through visual imagery using the camera as their tool (large format film), is closing. Or at least lessening in its size. This blog could sometimes be seen as an example of that. Although I set out initially to cover fine art photographers and keep the focus very much in the art world, I’m finding it hard to exclude some documentary and reportage photographers simply because of style. Surely it should be the content, intention, and success their images have on sending messages regarding the environment and related issues. But why is it then we regard photographs in a newspaper in a different light than if those same photographs were viewed in a gallery?

Context, social pretense, and the idea of the gallery or museum as the ultimate authority on art could a handful of reasons. A photograph changes from being a document to something more expressive when taken from the front page to a gallery wall. The photograph itself however doesn’t change. The technical elements of a photograph, its actual physical appearance, none of that changes. Instead, it is our interpretation of it. And yet, when I look at a photograph I usually instantly categorize it as one or the other. I am still intrinsically aware of stylistic differences in the photographer’s approach. What do you think? Do you think it’s fair that this line of separation is drawn and has been kept apart for quite some time? I welcome your thoughts in the comments section.


Reflected Light IV

January 30, 2009

I was lucky enough to attend the annual Riverkeeper Art Auction in New York City, this year’s taking place in Frank Gehry’s gorgeous glass IAC building in Chelsea. The event was star studded, with celebrities Richard Gere, Lauren Hutton, Matt Dillon, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (who is on the board of directors), hosting. Debbie Harry, aka Blondie, was the entertainment for the evening and brought back some memories for all of us, as well as some dance moves.

If you’re not familiar, Riverkeeper is “an independent, member-supported environmental organization founded on the premise that citizens themselves must roll up their sleeves to defend our waterways. They were originally founded in 1966 by fisherman and local community, to confront polluters for control of the Hudson River. They use a variety of tools to carry out their mission as environmental watchdog and advocate. These tools include: Enforcement and Litigation, Public Policy and Advocacy, Scientific Research, Smart Growth Initiatives, Citizen Watchdogs, Education and Public Awareness, and Grassroots Organizing. They have successfully investigated and prosecuted hundreds of environmental lawbreakers (including General Electric, ExxonMobil, Con Ed, the City of New York, the MTA, and the NY State Dept. of Transportation), and are credited with leading the battle to defend the Hudson River and New York City’s drinking water supply.”

The auction was very successful, due not just to Riverkeeper’s hard work and perseverance toward the cause, but also because of the amazing art work that was donated. Edward Burtynsky, Katherine Wolkoff, Tierney Gearon, Alexander Calder, David Maisel, William Wegman, and many other fantastic artists donated images, unique commissions, or photographs from their collections. But it’s not over yet, partnered with CharityBuzz, an international auction site with unique lots and experiences, has allowed Riverkeeper to maintain several items past their silent and live auction held the other night, one of which is a “study photography trip” to Santorini Greece for you and a guest with photographer William Abranowicz that includes daily photography lessons and excursions. I don’t know about you, but Santorini is sounding pretty good compared to the freezing temps here in New York. To bid on this exciting trip, visit the Riverkeeper Art Auction online via CharityBuzz by clicking here. The auction closes on February 2nd.

And to learn more about Riverkeeper, both for the Hudson as well as the many partner Riverkeepers they have founded all over the country, visit their website

Here is a quick sneak peak at some of the photographs still up for bidding until February 2nd. You can click on the images to take you directly to the respective auction lot.

Amy's Theorem, Archival Pigment Print by Victor Schrager, 11"x13.5"

Amy's Theorem, Archival Pigment Print by Victor Schrager, 11"x13.5"

TV in the Sand, Archival Pigment Print by Stephen Wilkes, 24"x30"

TV in the Sand, Archival Pigment Print by Stephen Wilkes, 24"x30"

Vanishing Landscapes

January 24, 2009


For a Christmas gift I received a book from the top of my Amazon wish list, titled Vanishing Landscapes, recently published by Francis Lincoln Limited Publishers. It contains a collection of stunning photo essays by a renowned group of photographers all interested in capturing the beauty and fragility of our rapidly changing world. As you know, this isn’t always positive, especially when you’re looking at clear cut forests and icebergs you know are melting at a rate that will mark them extinct in our lifetime. At the same time however, these wondrous images tell the stories of a landscape longing to be preserved and asking for our attention and help.

Deterioration and death are often portrayed in a very beautiful way, thus changing the viewers perception of often brutal and unimaginable subject matter. However, this group of photographers along with the images chosen to represent them in this book, seem to ask questions of the viewer prompting change. One wonders how society can continue to act in a way that detrimentally affects the environment, especially when aware of these incredible landscapes all over the world. However, some don’t come to these realizations when viewing these images. I certainly do, but does the general public? I believe in the strength of the environmental movement and it’s advancement in social and environmental awareness, but I only wish that art and the media could affect people and their thoughts and actions more directly.

In a world where you’re inundated with both images and sound bites on a daily basis wherever you look, it’s hard to filter through all the crap, in order to get to the good stuff. Some people are better than others of course, especially when they’ve set that as a goal. But the general public– how much do they WANT to know about these issues? Do they at all? How many times have you heard people complain that they are sick and tired of hearing about eco this, green that, environmentally sound this, sustainable that. I hear it all the time. It can be very discouraging, when you know you are doing everything you can to help, and everything you can to increase awareness in a way that does NOT push people away. But sometimes, getting through to just one person can make a huge difference. By changing one person, you could potentially change someone in their network, and thus someone in their network, and the cycle continues. This happened to me the other day, and it made me feel like things are happening. People are willing to change. They sincerely want to. But they can’t if they aren’t aware of both what their actions are doing as well as how they could change them.

Vanishing Landscapes contains 4 chapters; water, ice, plants, and land. In an introduction by Nadine Barth, the book’s editor, she states, ” Ultimately all we can do is hope that by viewing these images we shall finally come to our senses.” She’s hit the nail on the head. The images in the book illustrate what is stated in the essays following Barth’s introduction. Friedrich Tietjen writes “Discoveries in a Familiar World: The Landscape as a Photographic Object”; John Berger “On Visibility”; a transcript from an interview with Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute of Climate Change Impact Research, who also happens to be the official advisor to the German government on questions of climate change and energy; and finally an essay by Karsten Smid of Greenpeace titled “Why We Must Act Now.” These essays are exceptional, giving information first hand and straight to the point, answering questions like which landscape is the first to go, how soon, etc. Viewing the photographs again, after reading the essays, is a completely different experience. While I at first saw them as lonely and melancholy knowing the fate they are facing, a renewed sense of urgency came forth when viewing them a second time. Photographers included are: Hiroshi Sugimoto, Elger Esser, Peter Bialobrzeski, An-My Le, Josef Hoflehner, Axel Hutte, Olaf Otto Becker, Mette Tronvoll, Walter Niedermayr, Michael Kenna, Jitka Hanzlova, Thomas Struth, Robert Adams, Giovanni Castell, Henrik Saxgren, Joel Sternfeld, Jem Southam, Lidwien van de Ven, Edward Burtynsky, Karin Apollonia Muller, and Per Bak Jensen.

The book is available on Amazon.

Blue Earth Alliance: Photography Inspiring Social Change

January 17, 2009

Blue Earth Alliance Mission Statement:

“The link between compelling documentary photography and our collective motivation to change attitudes, behavior, even policies – is strong.

Eddie Adams’s Pulitzer Prize–winning photograph of a Vietcong execution in Saigon forever changed how the world viewed the Vietnam War. Brazilian photojournalist Sebastião Salgado’s images of the impoverished portray human life with fresh dignity and compassion.

Maintaining this link is central to the mission of Blue Earth.

Through our support of Photography that Makes a Difference, Blue Earth has helped raise almost a million dollars for important issues often overlooked by traditional media–The Arctic. Global warming. The loss of open space in Los Angeles. Racism suffered by farmers. Disappearing traditions of New England fishermen. The role of grandmothers in AIDS-ravaged Africa

Our sponsored projects have been at the forefront of issues affecting contemporary society—John Trotter’s No Agua, No Vida investigates the Southwest’s limited water resources; Perry Dilbeck’s Truck Farmers: The Last Harvest chronicles the loss of independent farming; and Florian Schultz’s Yellowstone to Yukon promotes the unification of animal migration routes and habitats across international borders.”

The Blue Earth Alliance is one of a handful of organizations to concentrate their efforts towards using photography as an tool for awareness about social issues. “Using the power of photographic storytelling”, they inspire social awareness in subjects far ranging; from saving wildlife to curbing youth violence, from the dwindling livelihood of local farmers to increasing dialogue about sexual violence. Environmental issues are prevalent on the site, which showcases past and present projects, both through their sponsorship and as well as a yearly grant program. They also offer their artists help in marketing and PR, grant writing, and increasing their network in the art world.

To view some of the photographers featured through The Blue Earth Alliance, please visit their website here.

From "The Sarvey Wildlife Project" by Annie Marie Musselman

From "The Sarvey Wildlife Project" by Annie Marie Musselman

Forest at Risk" by Daniel Beltrá

From "Amazon: Forest at Risk" by Daniel Beltrá

Christopher LaMarca: Forest Defenders

December 11, 2008

Christopher LaMarca, a graduate of the University of Oregon’s Environmental Studies and Biology programs, has been photographing and documenting environmental issues for the past few years. “Forest Defenders” is a series of painstakingly beautiful, devastating, heartbreaking, yet inspiring photographs of anti-logging activists willing to do anything in order to stop deforestation in old growth forests in Oregon.


I am particularly drawn to this work through recognition. Each time I’m back in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, I take a trip to the majestic coast line. Driving through the Cascades on the “Sunset” highway is one of my favorite drives of all time. Without awareness you slowly climb into the mountains where the temperatures fall and the air becomes even more crisp. You realize you are surrounded by trees hundreds of feet tall, as you pass the countries largest sequoia. And then you see it. The clear cutting. Patches upon patches of what appears to be splinters of dying wood laying flat to the ground amongst the wide stumps. And you realize that what you are looking at are entire sections of the forest that have been completely devastated and devoid of its life. Oregon is still known as the greatest soft wood lumber producer in the country, and once supplied the US with 80% of its lumber needs. Where are we now? The US now imports more lumber from Germany that it buys from national forests in both Oregon and Washington. And while clear cutting is restricted, it is not prohibited.


LaMarca’s images speak volumes on this sensitive topic. Clearly the trees remaining, only 10% of what was originally there, are storing vast amounts of carbon that is released back into the environment once cut down. Replanting trees for those that are cut is a sensible practice, but requires hundreds of years to attain the immense amount of growth present in the old and ancient forest. LaMarca has captured both the beauty of the forest, as well as the hard work, perseverance, and dedication of the activists willing to put their lives on hold and risk it all to stand up for what they believe it. Gorgeous dappling light at sunset at first glance beautifies even images of the actual logging and cutting, while at second take strikes a sad chord when the realization sets that these ancient living breathing things are no longer.


In one particular image, if having no idea about the subject matter of the work, LaMarca shoots from overhead what appears to be dead bodies found on the road or either perhaps criminals caught after a violent crime spree. Upon closer inspection you realize what you are looking at are anti-logging activists whom have been arrested, surrounded by the beauty which they were fighting to protect. Instead of the usual flares on the road, which could pose a fire threat in what is sometimes a huge fire prone area that in the past has destroyed thousands of acres of forest, large stones are used to block the path of traffic down the road. LaMarca shoots this from overhead which mimics the easily recognizable chase scenes all too familiar on TV (OJ Simpson?) followed by the public courtesy of a helicopter cam. It instantly makes you think those arrested down below are the “bad guys.” But not true at all, once you find out they were only trying to stop the REAL bad guys, the loggers themselves.


LaMarca presents an eye-opening look into both the daily activities of anti-logging activists, as well as the beauty of the natural landscapes which they are trying to protect. It is an insiders view we are so lucky to witness through his eyes and lens, as these places don’t exactly offer public access for viewing. To see more LaMarca’s images from his “Forest Defenders” series, along with others, please visit his website here

LaMarca recently published book titled Forest Defenders:
The Confrontational American Landscape
by PowerHouse Books is available both on their website here as well as on by clicking here.

2008 Prix Pictet Winner Announced

November 1, 2008

Untitled 08, Genghis Khan Braving the Storm
Series: The Chinese “Dust Bowl”
Ink Jet Art Canvas
70 X 107 cm
Xilinhot City, Inner Mongolia, Chin

Congratulations to Benoit Aquin, for his win of the 2008 Prix Pictet Prize, the largest photographic prize on the subject of sustainability.

From the newsroom and official press release, Kofi Annan, Nobel Laureate and Former Secretary General of the United Nations, yesterday evening announced the winner of the inaugural Prix Pictet as Canadian photographer Benoit Aquin at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris. The £50,000 (CHF 100,000) Prix Pictet is the only photography prize to focus on the most important global issue of our time: sustainability. For the Prix Pictet’s inaugural year the focus was on water.

Each year the Prix Pictet will address a distinct sustainability issue. It aims to use the power of the photographic medium to communicate crucial sustainability messages to a global audience. The series of photographs entered by Benoit Aquin was on desertification in China and entitled The Chinese Dust Bowl.

Making the formal presentation at an awards dinner in the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, Kofi Annan said: “Today, nearly 1.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water and 2.5 billion are without basic sanitation. And it is through water, as the images in this collection illustrate, that we are seeing early and devastating manifestations of one of the greatest threats our world faces – climate change.

“It is my hope that the Prix Pictet, the world’s first prize dedicated to photography and sustainability, will help to deepen understanding of the changes taking place in our world and raise public awareness about the urgency of taking preventative action. Each artist has addressed the environmental and social challenges we face in their own personal way. The result is a series of powerful images which seeks to confront us with the scale of the threat we face and to inspire governments, businesses, – and all of us as individuals – to step up to the challenge and support change for a sustainable world.”

Accepting his prize, Benoit Aquin said: “I am delighted to win the Prix Pictet. It is a real honour especially when judged against such a prestigious shortlist. The Prix Pictet validates environmental photography as a subject both from a photo-journalism and an artistic point of view, bringing these different disciplines together in one competition to explore globally significant environmental issues. It is hugely welcome.

“My series The Chinese Dust Bowl shows just what happens when we miss manage the environment. These issues should not just be seen in the context of one country, they are global issues. They effect us all. And as a global population, we must solve them.”

To download the official press release, click here.

Congratulations 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 next.

Prix Pictet Shortlist: Photographic Award in Sustainability

July 31, 2008

The Prix Pictet is a major new global prize in photography that focuses on perhaps the greatest single issue of the twenty-first century: sustainability. Over 40 nominators consisting of well known and esteemed gallerists, curators, directors, and editors nominated well over 200 photographers spanning 43 countries for this award, which is generally seen as the highest there is in terms of photography and the environment. 18 photographers were shortlisted by a group of highly regarded judges, including the work of Mary Mattingly, a former class mate of mine from Parsons School of Design. The photographers chosen have produced work of great significance and importance, focusing on urgent environmental issues. The prize awarded will be $100,000 for the winning photographer, as well as shortlisted artist offered a commission worth $40,000 to produce a water related project. To download the official press release please click here.

Shortlisted artists are:

Benoit Aquin
Edward Burtynsky
Jesus Abad Colorado
Thomas Joshua Cooper
Sebastian Copeland
Christian Cravo
Lynn Davis
Reza Deghati
Susan Derges
Malcolm Hutcheson
Chris Jordan
Carl De Keyzer
David Maisel
Mary Mattingly
Robert Polidori
Roman Signer
Jules Spinatsch
Munem Wasif

Each of these shortlisted photographers will be invited to show their work at the Palais de Tokyo in October and run through November, after which the show will be begin a world tour. Take a look at some of the images of each artist. They are powerful, devastating, beautiful, and extraordinary, all at the same time. I highly recommend reading the press release to find out more about each individual artist and their background, as well as the prize and how it’s come about. For me, to see a group of photographs whom I literally think of as the best in the world, competing for a prize that can have no better aim than sustainability in our world and communication into the devastating affects of climate change, I say, it’s about time.


Chris Jordan: Remains of a business, St. Bernard Parish
Series: In Katrina’s Wake: Portraits of Loss from an Unnatural Disaster

To visit the Prix Pictet site please visit

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 is born. I welcome your thoughts and feedback. xx-Andrea