Four photobooks that raise awareness of the climate crisis

On February 28, the IPCC released the second part of the sixth human climate impact assessment report. The group of experts behind it shows that the consequences of climate change are evident in most ecosystems, hydrosystems and human societies. Wolfgang Cramer, who led one of the chapters of the report, believes that the natural disasters that have occurred in recent years “They are becoming more frequent and this increase is due, in a large number of cases, to human activity. […] The situation has worsened considerably. »

The expert sounded the alarm, among other things, about the rising waters of the Mediterranean, about the differences in adaptation to climate change between populations and about the need for greater involvement of the countries of the North: “To change things we need more financial and technological efforts, involving the support of the countries of the North, responsible for most of the greenhouse gas emissions. »

Photography has been an effective and powerful means of awareness for years. We know the commitment and publications of Yann Arthus-Bertrand, Thomas Pesquet and Sebastião Salgado, not to mention Vincent Munier, who in 2018 premiered his sublime Tibet, Animal Mineral and has just received a cesarean for the film based in this adventure in Tibet with Sylvain Tesson, The Snow Panther.

But other photojournalists travel the world to tell us the stories of those who are beginning to feel the weight of climate change. Between 2021 and 2022, some important books have marked the landscape of nature photography. The four photographic works we present here are tools of information and awareness that bring us closer to a reality that could not be more tangible. To discover other environmental photographers and support their work internationally, you can follow the Vital Impact association, created by National Geographic photographer Ami Vitale, which regularly organizes online actions, sales and exhibitions in defense of the environment.

1 Pete McBride, Seeing Silence: a trip to the quietest places in the world

In his new book Seeing Silence, Pete McBride leads a reflection on noise pollution and takes us to some of the most remote places on the planet to rediscover silence. A journey from the North Pole to the South Pole, from east to west in search of these places that the photographer defines as “Shrines for our souls”.

Pete McBride is one of the world’s most acclaimed nature photographers, but what he says defines a good wild landscape photograph is not so much what you see with your eyes as the silence that can be conveyed through the image. An illusory silence, because in reality these places are full of life and this is expressed in all possible ways: the flow of a river, the language of animals and insects, the plants that move with the sun and the wind, the footsteps of a man. which, alone, descends from the peaks of the Himalayas.

According to the photographer, our perception of silence is a bit wrong: we tend to consider that silence is indeed the absence of sounds, while it is rather a sound space that gives way to gaps, to gaps, that allows us to learn others. languages.

These places are reminiscent of the magic of being truly “away from it all,” whether on the summit of Everest, along the Ganges, in the African savannah, or on the heights of the Atacama Desert. Behind this praise of silence, however, the journalist wants to remember that these places are disappearing, threatened by human action. By searching for stillness, humans can remember why these places are so important to their own survival.

A climber descends the Valley of Silence 21,000 feet below the face of Lhotse in Nepal.© Pete McBride

Pete McBride is a self-taught photographer, filmmaker, writer and lecturer. He is a Sony artisan and has traveled to more than 75 countries for organizations such as the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian, Google and The Nature Conservancy. Before leaving Seeing Silencehad published Grand Canyon: between the river and the shore, for which he had gone up and down the Grand Canyon, which earned him the title of Adventurer of the Year 2019 by National Geographic. In 2020, the documentary based on this book was nominated for an Emmy Award.

Pete McBride, Seeing Silence Rizzoli, 2021, 208 pages, € 22.50.

2 Nick Brandt, The day may break : alongside the survivors of the climate crisis

It was also published in late 2021, The day may break Natural photographer Nick Brandt focuses on the survivors of global warming, the first victims of these natural and humanitarian disasters. Men and animals are photographed together to emphasize that this damage affects all living things and that, in the face of habitat destruction, we are doomed to the same fate.

Photographed in Zimbabwe and Kenya in late 2020, The day may breakis the first in a series that takes place around the world to portray people and animals affected by environmental degradation and destruction. The people depicted in these photographs have been affected by climate change, displaced by cyclones and droughts that have lasted for years. Animals, on the other hand, are survivors who will never be able to go wild again and who find refuge in sanctuaries. Accustomed to the human presence, it was quite easy to put them next to humans.

The fog that surrounds the characters in these black and white planes is the symbol of a known world that is fading, as if we are stepping out of what we know to enter instability, into a kind of limbo. The book sounds the alarm: the climate crisis has already begun and some are already suffering the tangible consequences … While the West seems cloaked in denial, Nick Brandt wants to provoke a good “rain of reality” to get us out of our chimeras of metavers and virtuality to remind us that reality is tragic.

Helen and Sky, Zimbabwe, 2020.© Nick Brandt

In the preface to the book by the author of Polsi The sea of ​​the dragonfly Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, we read: “Nick Brandt is an artist and a witness who seizes dark and desperate destinies and, through a certain mystery and a certain alchemy, transmutes them into a gesture of poignant and painful beauty. For years, if not more, I have not seen contemporary photographs of people of African descent created by someone of Euro-American descent who were so tender, human and beautiful. »

To follow Nick Brandt’s project, visit his Instagram account.

Nick Brandt, The day may breakHatje Cantz, 2021, 168 pages, € 54.

3 Beth Moon, Baobab: in defense of the sacred trees of Madagascar

Published by Abbeville Press in 2022, Baobab of Beth Moon is one of the best photo books ever published. A spectacular large format photo book celebrating the most majestic trees in Africa, facing an unprecedented ecological threat today.

Since 2006, Beth Moon has photographed the fascinating sacred trees of Madagascar, trying to shed light on the intimate and deep spiritual relationships that unite the baobabs and the inhabitants of the island. These millennial giants are often the home of local deities and the epidemic now hitting them is undermining the balance and social fabric of these populations. In 2018, the photographer went to photograph the most impressive of these trees, the Tsitakakoike, “the tree where we don’t hear from one end to the other”. For nearly 1,400 years, this tree provided wood, food, and shelter for the animals and humans that lived around it. Inside its huge trunk resided the deities of the Masikoro people. Due to prolonged droughts, baobabs will collapse and die throughout South Africa and Madagascar. The Tsitakakoike did not escape this sad fate and collapsed in 2018. The photographer went there to pay his last respects. He describes an overwhelming spectacle: the roots of the tree had come out of the ground, like arms stretched out into the sky in search of water.

The book travels this true pilgrimage to this magnificent tree, described with emotion and poetry by the photographer. As if to end the adventure with a note of hope, Beth Moon also pays a visit to the tree that will succeed the Tsitakakoike, the Tsitakakansa, in which the village elders invite the old spirits to go through an ancestral ritual. . Baobabs are an invaluable heritage for our planet, a rare and complex plant species. A baobab can live up to 2,500 years and its trunk that stores water is a true marvel of nature, as it can exceed 30 meters in width.

As the most imposing of these giants disappear, scientists are sounding the alarm about the great catastrophe threatening the habitats that depend on these sacred trees. With her book, Beth Moon wants to open our eyes to the importance of its conservation. You can browse the captivating online exhibition curated by the photographer by entering here.

© Beth Moon

Beth Moon, BaobabEditorial Museo, 2022, 120 pages, € 44.50.

4 Brice Portolano, No sign, living closer to nature : meeting with those who gave up everything to live differently

No signalby Brice Portolano is the result of successful crowdfunding. A photo book that takes us from the wild archipelagos of Alaska to the snowy forests of Lapland to meet those who have decided to live closer to nature. Without completely renouncing modernity, however, these people question the functioning of our societies that constantly brutalize life and the environment.

A photographic project that raises a central observation: today, more than half of humanity lives in urban areas and is increasingly detached from nature, which leads to a misunderstanding of the environmental problems that run through our time. With one of the highest rates of urbanization in the world, Europe (73%) and North America (82%) are the setting for this project built around four portraits. For five years, the photographer has woven this narrative around the world in the cinematic way he loves, meeting couples who are embarking on a self-sufficient lifestyle, a former teacher turned to equestrian shooting, a sled breeder. of dogs in northern Lapland. , Utah farmers, after leaving everything behind to pursue a desire for freedom and connection to the living. This new life, guided by the imperative will to follow another path, is transformed despite the obstacles into a real search for meaning and freedom.

Brice Portolano was born in Paris in 1991. After a childhood in Provence, he developed a passion for nature, travel and photography from a very young age. After his studies, he decided to go and explore the large outdoor spaces to photograph those who live in them. His style of mixing documentary photography and cinematic atmospheres has made him one of the great new talents in French photography. His work is regularly published in the French and international press, especially in GEO Magazine, National Geographic, The guardiani 6 MONTHS.

Book cover No sign, live closer to nature.© Brice Portolano

Brice Portolano, No signalHoëbeke / Gallimard, 2021, 272 pages, € 35.

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