Drowning World is my attempt to explore the effects of climate change in an intimate way, taking us beyond faceless statistics and into the individual experiences of its victims.
Portraits rest at the heart of the project. I often follow my subjects as they return through deep waters, working with them to create an image in their flooded homes. While their pose may be conventional, their environment is disconcertingly altered.
The flood is an ancient metaphor, found within the myths and legends of many cultures. It represents an overwhelming, destructive force that renders humanity powerless in its wake and leaves us seeking refuge. As global warming drives an increasing number of extreme flooding events each year, this message continues to resonate.
I began work on Drowning World in 2007 when I photographed two floods that occurred within weeks of each other, one in the UK and the other in India. I was deeply struck by the contrasting impacts of these floods, and the shared vulnerability that seemed to unite their victims.
Since then I have endeavored to visit flood zones around the world, travelling to Haiti, Pakistan, Australia, Thailand, Nigeria, Germany and the Philippines, in search of these commonalities and differences.
In a flooded landscape, life is suddenly turned upside down and normality is suspended. With an almost ‘tracing paper’ effect on the societies in which they occur, flood waters often reveal underlying tensions and difficulties as they recede. It is these elements that continue to draw me to flood zones, evoking many questions about our sense of stability in the world.
This journey has led to two further, related, bodies of work: Flood Lines documents the impact of floodwaters on interior landscapes and surfaces.
Water Marks records the curious changes that are left by floodwaters on personal photographs caught in the maelstrom.
A series of video pieces, The Water Chapters, has also grown organically from this process. These have become an increasingly significant part of the project: the moving images contrasting with the stillness of the photographic portraits.
Joseph and Endurance Edem, with their children Godfreedomand Josephine