A Turning Point

I take a lot of pictures and reject most of them. That seems to be common to a lot of photographers. The ones that make the cut get shared and join collections or portfolios. Some become a landmark.

This picture is something of a landmark for me.

My first two portfolios were both about climate change but addressed it as landscape images. I realised that the real story of climate change was what effect it would have on humanity. The earth has survived worse situations, but humanity would not survive the worst outcomes of climate change. So if I wanted to tell the story of climate change, I needed to tell the story of people.

These people would be uneasy and threatened, so I started to think about how I might introduce elements of the uncanny to achieve this. This picture is an early example of my working in this way.

The picture was taken at Port Issac in Cornwall. The woman is sitting on the harbour wall, gazing out to sea. There are very few elements in the picture. This allows the viewer to concentrate on the few that do exist.

The wall is anonymous, it could be anything. The strongest clue to its identity is the rusty ladder which suggests that it has been exposed to elemental forces. This sort of damage is most likely on the coast. The woman is staring out to sea, her face is hidden so the viewer does not know exactly which direction she is looking in or what her reaction to it is. She could be looking for danger, safe atop the wall, or she could just be enjoying the view.

This uncertainty, introduced by the presence of the woman, adds just the sort of ambiguity and depth that I wanted. Without her, the picture would be nothing. With her in the frame, a human story can be told.

In conclusion, I discovered that The Guardian had come to a similar view:


They had also decided that pictures of polar bears and glaciers, whilst relevant to the climate crisis, no longer had much impact on people. The imagery that brought home the threat was pictures of people on the frontline of the climate crisis.

I want my work to address the greatest threat of our time. To do so, it needs to get up close to the people who are most threatened.