Artist captures how humans are reshaping the planet – BBC News


As an artist I’m bearing witness
to these places,
these very surreal and unfamiliar worlds that exist
to be able to create the conditions
that we call contemporary life.
I travel the world,
and have been travelling
the world for over 40 years,
looking at how we as humans are reshaping our planet,
extractive industries like mining, quarries,
deforestation,
and trying to capture them within single frames
and also now within motion picture
to try to tell the story about how we as humans,
the dominant species of the planet,
are reshaping the planet.
Concrete’s not found in nature,
but it’s the number one ‘technofossil’.
It’s the number one thing that
we’re leaving behind
that future civilisation can find.
They would say: ‘Aha, we are in the anthropocene,
the period of humans.’
Plastics is another thing that we create
that nature does not create.
But we’ve also done positive stories like
I did a whole shoot on some of the purest
and most biodiverse coral in the whole world
off of Komodo Island in Indonesia,
[we] also looked at some of the diversity in the forests in Canada.
Then there were the tusks of
ten thousand elephants
that were burned on one day
to send a signal to poachers.
What I think art can do is say:
‘Look, here it is, this is what it looks like.
We’re all part of this landscape.
We all partake of the things from this landscape.’
And a lot of times people say:
‘Why are you showing these disasters in such an aesthetic way?’
And I’m saying: ‘These aren’t disasters,
This is business as usual.’
This is the world that we have created,
that so far we need to provide
for the number of people that are here on the planet today.
In the eighties when I started it,
I think a lot of people were
wondering, you know,
why, and what is it that I’m doing,
and why am I treating this as a subject for art?
But now, in the last decade,
the conversation has stepped up.
As we start seeing more and more evidence of climate change,
more and more people are recognising that
this is something that is being brought on by human activity.
I do believe that people are getting it.
My hope is that as people become far more aware and
start changing their own behaviour
so will go governments and so will go corporations.
I don’t see myself as an
environmentalist per se,
I’ve never taken a course on the environment,
I didn’t study it at school.
I’d rather see the images that I make
as points of departure for a more complex conversation about
so now that we’re here, what do we do?
It’s a different way to engage with the problem
without saying, you know, ‘you’re good and you’re bad’.
But it’s like: ‘We’re all in this together.’

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