Drowning World is my attempt to create an intimate and systematic typology of our global climate crisis, to show that the impacts of climate change ignore all delineations of wealth, class, race and geography.
A sequence of ‘Submerged Portraits’ is the heart of the project. My subjects have taken the time – in a situation of great distress – to engage the camera, looking out at us from their inundated homes and devastated environments. They are not disempowered victims in this exchange: they show agency amidst the calamity that has befallen them.
I began this work 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 struck by the contrasting impacts of these floods, and the linked vulnerability that seemed to unite my subjects. Since then I have endeavoured to visit flood zones around the world. In total I have made twenty-two flood response trips to thirteen different counties.
This endeavour has taken me on a creative and life-changing journey, with the subject matter fundamentally challenging my practice. Looking back over the years of this work there has been a shift from a traditional documentary approach to a more activist one that incorporates conceptual and metaphorical elements.
Over the years of making this work the global geopolitical situation in relation to our climate emergency has become increasingly urgent. As we experience extreme weather events, driven by climate change, we also see ever-more aggressive denialism (often espoused by populist leaders); a global political system incapable of taking meaningful action; and petro-carbon corporations that are resistant to adopting the most minor measure to reduce carbon emissions. In the face of this, I feel a personal responsibility to make this project speak as loudly as possible.
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