Monsanto: a Photographic Investigation

A photograph can be deeply ambiguous, gently avoiding a resolved meaning, or it can bring a moment of clarity that no amount of text could ever convey.

Monsanto is an investigation into the history of the eponymous chemical company. It is a dirty history of profit before anything else; the health of workers, the environment and future generations. The book is primarily a photography book and has won multiple awards as such. It is also a brutal indictment of a villainous company, photojournalism at it’s most sharp-edged.

When you first flip through the book, you could be forgiven for thinking it is an art book. There is a mixture of documentary pictures, portraits, pictures with colour treatments and scans of found items. But on closer inspection, the narrative becomes clear. The book starts with reproductions of Monsanto’s own advertising, promoting itself as a force for good. The book then rapidly moves into accounts of the poisoned workers, polluted water, uninhabitable towns, early deaths, court cases and the company’s steadfast denial of its own guilt.

It is meticulously researched but never loses its design edge, presenting awful revelations in a contemporary style. It marries photojournalism with design and compromises on neither. I found this book very moving, it is after all about ruined lives. It also is enormously inspirational and shows what probing research, good photography and the highest standards of design can achieve. This has inspired me on my journey into photojournalism as I out seek the stories of the climate crisis.