Photography’s Time Lag: Challenging the Pastness and Passivity in the Representation of Climate Change and Other Environmental Disasters

Peck, Julia (2015) Photography’s Time Lag: Challenging the Pastness and Passivity in the Representation of Climate Change and Other Environmental Disasters. In: Bridging Divides: Spaces of Scholarship and Practice in Environmental Communication The Conference on Communication and Environment, 11-14 June 2015, Boulder, Colorado, USA.

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Abstract

This paper argues for a sustained ecological approach to be developed in relation to the photographic representation of climate change and other environmental disasters. Following Jane Bennett’s thesis in Vibrant Matter (2010) that we need to find ways to acknowledge the agency of all factors that are relevant to understanding ecology, I wish to propose that photography can foster an understanding of the agency of the environment in which we live and produce thoughtful, reflective practice that challenges pristine notions of wilderness. As has already been extensively commented upon in relation to the photographic depiction of climate change and ecological disaster, photography is limited in its ability to help viewers to imagine future environmental impact because it represents the past and struggles to represent largely invisible phenomena, such as climate change, in a timely manner. This paper argues that Richard Misrach and Kate Orff’s project Petrochemical America (2012) signals some important strategies that other climate and environmental photographers could utilise. Their book systematically uses photography, and in the scenes of environmental degradation, human and social links are made to foster the understanding that we are looking at an image of ecology rather than nature ravaged. In addition to the titles of images, captions and overall contextualisation of the project, Kate Orff’s team Scape produce a series of diagrams called Throughlines that situate the subject of petrochemical impact in the Mississippi River corridor. The cumulative impact of Misrach’s photographic approach, combined with the effective and systematic linking of his images to other forms of relevant information, produces an understanding of environment as not only inextricably linked to human activity and habitation, but as an environment which also has agency in its influence on human living patterns.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Richard Misrach, Kate Orff, Petrochemical America, SCAPE, Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter, ecologies
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
T Technology > TR Photography
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Art and Design > Photography
Research Priority Areas: Being Human - Past, Present & Future
Depositing User: Julia Peck
Date Deposited: 22 Mar 2016 16:49
Last Modified: 01 Apr 2017 01:28
URI: http://eprints.glos.ac.uk/id/eprint/3280

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