In ‘Fire/Flood,’ Gideon Mendel Photographs Those Left Behind Amid Climate Catastrophe – Colossal

by The Insights


#climate crisis #Gideon Mendel #portraits

April 25, 2023

Grace Ebert

Muhammad Chuttal, Khaipur Nathan Shah, Sindh Province, Pakistan, October 2022, from “Drowning World”. All images © Gideon Mendel, shared with permission

An emergency often explained by abstract data, catastrophic predictions and threats to the planet and its species, the climate crisis can be difficult to understand. For decades, warming temperatures and rising sea levels have been largely linked to plants and animals, with images showing the devastation when it comes to polar bears, corals and other endangered species. There has been growing interest in recent years, however, in documenting the communities most deeply affected and highlighting the human impact already taking place.

Gideon Mendel, a South African photographer living in the UK, took this approach in his two complementary series, drowning world And burning world. On view now at The Photographers’ Gallery as part of Fire / Flood, Mendel’s portraits are deeply personal, showing individuals and families in their homes and neighborhoods that have been destroyed by natural disasters. Made in 15 countries since 2007, the collection insists on recognizing that although the regularity and intensity of wildfires, hurricanes and other weather events are increasing, humanity has been feeling the effects of the crisis for decades.

Mendel started drowning world first after the floods passed Doncaster, a small town in South Yorkshire. He began by photographing people partially submerged in what remained of their homes, a position he recreated a few weeks later during a visit to India. “When I came back I put these photos side by side, portraits of floods in the UK and India, and I felt like something pretty strong was going on – a shared vulnerability , despite the huge differences in wealth, culture and environment. That was the beginning of the journey for me,” he told LensCulture.

A man stands submerged up to his neck in a flood

João Pereira de Araújo, district of Taquari, Rio Branco, Brazil, March 2015, extract from “Drowning World”

Whether taken in Haiti, Brazil, Pakistan or France, the photos claim that no community is immune to the effects of a changing planet, though some are surely left in worse conditions. . Mendel explains in a press release:

My subjects took the time – in a situation of great distress – to engage the camera, watching us from their flooded homes and devastated surroundings. They show the world the calamity that has befallen them. They are not victims of this exchange: the camera records their dignity and their resilience. They testify to the stark reality that the poorest people on the planet almost always suffer the most from climate change.

When burning world tracked in 2020, Mendel was able to compare the two types of disasters and find commonalities, including how his subjects unanimously found strength and endurance. He photographs everyone standing, reassured in the middle of the ruin and choosing courage rather than fatalism.

Fire / Flood is on view in London until September 30. You can find more from the series on Mendel’s site and on Instagram.

A man stands amidst the rubble of his house devastated by wildfires

Gurjeet Dhanoa, Rock Creek, Superior, Colorado, USA, March 2022, from ‘Burning World’

A woman stands half submerged in a flood against a blue wall

Florence Abraham, Igbogene, Bayelsa State, Nigeria, November 2012, from “Drowning World”

A man stands amidst the rubble of his house devastated by wildfires

Jenni Bruce, Upper Brogo, New South Wales, Australia, 15 January 2020, from ‘Burning World’

A man stands amidst the rubble of his house devastated by wildfires

Kevin Goss, Greenville, California, USA, October 2021, from ‘Burning World’

Four photos, two of people standing half submerged by flooding, two of people standing in their homes devastated by fires

On the top corner left: Nigeria, november 2022 from ‘Drowning World.’ Top right: Uncle Noel Butler and Trish Butler, Indigenous Education Nura Gunyu Centre, New South Wales, Australia, February 28, 2020 from ‘Burning World.’ Bottom left: Rhonda Rossbach, Derek Briem and Autumn Briem, Killiney Beach, British Columbia, Canada, October 16, 2021, from ‘Burning World’. At the bottom right: Christian Joy, Dorca Executive Apartments, Otuoke, municipality of Ogbia, Bayelsa State, Nigeria, november 2022 from “Drowning World”

A man stands half submerged in a flood against a white wall

Abdul Ghafoor, Mohd Yousof Naich School, Sindh Province, Pakistan, October 2022, from “Drowning World”

A man stands half submerged in a flood against a green wall

Amjad Ali Laghari, Goth Bawal Khan village, Sindh province, Pakistan, September 2022, from “Drowning World”

#climate crisis #Gideon Mendel #portraits

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