Photography For a Greener Planet - Daniel Shea

Let's face it - photography is a wasteful and ecologically unsound activity. Think of all the plastics, metals, paper and chemicals that get used by us photographers of the course of our careers - and plenty of it gets thrown away. Pretty horrendous really.

Photographer Andrea Bakacs recently alerted me to her blog - Photography for a greener planet - which seeks to present projects and photographers attempting to redress the balance by photographing stories and making work relating to the environmental damage we humans engage in with our activities and some of the things we can do to minimise our impact. Sometimes this can be a difficult thing to present visually as subjects of this nature are rarely easily to isolate as being purely ecological.

Take the photographs of Daniel Shea for example. His series - removing mountains - which is about open face coal mining in the Appalachian mountains - contains not only the obvious shots of big scars on the landscape from the mines but also some sense of the community that surrounds the coal mines, which are both providers of jobs and the source of economic woes (coal is a finite resource - once the mines are exhausted, what then?). The mines divide communities, with those who see them as a benefit pitted against those who oppose the damage they do. Coal mining provides fuel and yet devastates the environment. Complex - and difficult to portray, though of course the visual impact of the mines themselves is apparent.

Photograph by Daniel Shea

I think Shea has a decent stab at presenting this issue in it's many facets, though my only real complaint being that I really believe he should have captions for each of his photos on his website. In a story of this nature, you really need to know if the guy with the weapon resting on his lap is a miner, an environmental activist, or just a guy with a gun on his lap.

Photograph by Daniel Shea

Context is everything and with the debates surrounding issues such as this often becoming extremely muddy, clarity is essential. The subjects may have multiple issues attached to them and debate can rage back and forth, but ambiguity is something we should strive to eliminate if we are really to address these issues properly.

In any case, Kudos to Photography for a greener planet for bringing this work to my attention; check out Andrea's interview with Daniel Shea here.

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