Week 6 Reflections

My habitual practice is a hunter approach, going out with my camera and taking photographs of things that interest me and appeal. This produces a wide gamut of pictures that have little collective coherence.

I also have another evolving practice which is ideologically driven. This is the desire to create photographic work which speaks about the climate crisis. The ideology is as follows:

  • Climate scientists are in almost complete agreement that emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases are causing a climate crisis.
  • This science is no longer up for debate, it is settled and what is required now is action by governments, business and international organisations to move away from the fossil fuel-based economy which has caused this crisis.
  • A critical mass of people must decide that change is required and mobilise to achieve this.
  • Politicians must break their allegiances to big, polluting businesses and put the needs of the people and the planet first.

So, my ideology could broadly be described as Green and is publicly espoused by people like Caroline Lucas, Gail Bradbrook, David Attenborough, Katherine Hayhoe, Naomi Klein, Greta Thunberg and Michael Mann.

The people above are big hitters, they have a national or international stage. They are generally well thought of; Caroline Lucas has several times been Parliamentarian of The Year, Attenborough is a national treasure. These people use the influence that they have to argue for Green ideas and to demand the change which is so urgently required.

What is most astonishing, is that these ideas have to be argued for at all.

The modern world places great faith in scientists. They develop the knowledge that provides us with a longer life, freedom from disease and better ways of doing things. But when scientists start offering knowledge that conflicts with the dominant way of life on the planet, consumer capitalism, their contribution is seen in a different light. There is outright denial: you are wrong. Financial objection: we can’t afford to make the changes. Ideological blocking: this gives the government too big a role.

When scientists tell the world that the only known habitable planet, the one we live on is in trouble, they are met with scepticism. Unfortunately, that scepticism is at its most influential when it comes from those people who have done very well out of business as usual capitalism. Such people perceive that they have much to lose, so they employ their considerable resources to block, obfuscate and delay change which may prevent them from growing richer from consumer capitalism.

There has been good science about the danger of CO2 emissions since 1965, yet the climate denial simulation (in a Baudrillardian sense) has been so effective that 55 years later on, emissions are still rising. From the viewpoint of (particularly) conservative politicians and big business, continued industrial growth and greater profit are to be preferred to a stable and sustainable environment. It is hardly surprising that increasingly people are taking to the streets across the world to demand a change in direction.

This is the theatre into which I want to insert my work. I want it to be part of the global demand for change.

I realise there will be three main groups of people who may see my work:

  • Those who embrace Green ideas, who may or not enjoy my work, but appreciate my intent.
  • People who are interested enough to view my work but are unconvinced by Green ideology.
  • People who think Green ideology is nonsense.

For the first group, I hope that my work will fuel their desire to get involved in demanding change.

For the second, I hope that my work will encourage them to think about my motivation and why this message is so important to me.

For the third, I hope they respect the sincerity of my views.

I realise that I am taking on a complex task. I am not simply creating work that challenges my viewers, I want to lead them to a particular place. To do this I should consider a broad range of tools: image, text, humour, pastiche.

Whilst I would enjoy a gallery exhibition of work, or a book, I can envisage my work appearing in more disposable formats, as flyers or posters. So I am currently experimenting with including my pictures in such disposable formats. If widely distributed, such work would probably attract “cease and desist” letters from the corporate “victims”. But appropriation is artistically legitimate and all publicity is good publicity.