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Book Review: Changing Circumstances Looking at the Future of the Planet

Let me start this review with a photograph by Gina Glover:

Gina Glover: The Titan Crane, Hotellneset Cool Harbour. Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen, Nowrway 2012

Gina Glover: The Titan Crane, Hotellneset Cool Harbour. Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen, Nowrway 2012

To me, this Titan Crane looks akin to a spaceship ramp and the mountain tops in the background contribute to the impression that something beyond our familiar world is looming somewhere out there. Although it is an apt illustration of the subtitle of this tome: “Looking at the Future of the Planet,” it also seems to suggest that the future is, well, not on this planet.

Needless to say, it is a true challenge to put “changing circumstances“ into pictures. How do you photograph change? By, I would think, juxtaposing the old and the new. This is however not what this book is all about. Take the work of Susan Derges, for instance. “Looking into the natural world feels like looking into one vast, unfolding, creative process that ‘I’ and ‘nature’ are a part of together, rather than a process where nature is something ‘out there’ happening to me ‘in here’.” While I do agree that ‘I’ and ‘nature’ are a part of together, I do not think that we can see that when looking into the natural world. Well, let’s not split hairs for Susan Derges’ objective is “to make the connection between the ‘two’ (or, you could say, the ‘not two’) …” and I do find this a fascinating task. Here’s how she went about it: “So I tried to make a closer, more tactile contact with the photographic activities, such as immersing the photo paper beneath the water’s surface at night or within the stuff of the landscape, and the exposing it to light.“ The pics she took are stunning.

Susan Derges: Star Field – Bracken, 2008

Susan Derges: Star Field – Bracken, 2008

Some of my favourite pics in this tome are by Pedro David. He chose to photograph eucalyptus trees in order to make the viewers aware of “the deforestation of the Cerrado in central Brazil, the Brazilian Savanna, the Atlantic Forrest, and even the Amazon.“ But why show seemingly intact trees to show deforestation? Well, what we get to see is transgenic eucalyptus, planted by international steel companies, “ a fast growing kind of tree whose wood is used to make vegetal coal, an important ingredient in the smelting of iron ore to steel.“

Pedro David: Suffocation #12, 2012-2014

Pedro David: Suffocation #12, 2012-2014

The photographs show – amidst the eucalyptus trees – what is left of a still alive native tree that is disappearing from these landscapes.

There are many more photographers represented in this volume and their approaches vary considerably. From Meridel Rubenstein’s volcano cycle to David Doubilet’s living reef, from Isaac Julien small boats to Vik Muniz’ garbage to Mandy Barker’s plastic debris. And much more.

“Given the significance of personal connection“, writes co-founder and curator Wendy Watriss, “it is important to think about how few people today have anything but the most minimal contact with the natural world.“ Photography might help you change that, as Gina Glover impressively testifies: “Photographing the Icelandic landscape provided me with an emotional connection to nature. Its wild empty places gave me a sense of personal vulnerability, but also made me conscious of the vulnerability of the environment itself.“

Changing Circumstances Cover
Changing Circumstances
Looking at the Future of the Planet
Curated an conceived by Wendy Watriss, Steven Evans and Frederick Baldwin
Essays by Wendy Watriss, Thomas E. Lovejoy and Geof Rayner
FotoFest International, Houston, Texas, USA
Schilt Publishing, Amsterdam, NL

For more information and to purchase the book: www.schiltpublishing.com/publishing/all-authors/item/cat/photobooks/name/fotofest-international/#prodrel-603

About Hans Durrer

Hans Durrer is an author and addiction counsellor based in Switzerland. www.hansdurrer.com/, 12-step-addiction-treatment.blogspot.ch/. Two of his books are in English: Ways of Perception, Bangkok 2006; Framing the World, Houston 2011.

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