The recent conference, ‘Representing Climate Change: Ecology, media and the arts‘, hosted at Cambridge’s CRASSH highlighted for me the difficult question of is it possible to effectively represent a phenomenon that is dispersed and enmeshed in almost every aspect of our day to day lives – climate change.
Though, the intellectual debate of how to go about this is interesting and rewarding, it is important to engage with representations that have already been made and to find value in both their successes and limitations.
For example, take the Hard Rain Project
. Initiated by Mark Edwards, the book and subsequent exhibitions are a compelling personal editorial photographic look at the ways we live within the world, how we impact it and how the changing of the world impacts our own human stories.
Many climate change representations focus exclusively on the ‘world’ – or the ‘natural’ environment – removing the human story. Edwards’ project though foregrounds the human stories in a changing world, beginning with his own personal story of inspiration when he was rescued in the Sahara by a Tuareg nomad in 1969. He was taken to his people who had a cassette player, and he was played Bob Dylan’s ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’
. Edwards, inspired by this experience, began a project to document and editorialise the human story within a changing global climate. The result Hard Rain: Our Headlong Collision with Nature
offers a series of meditative pauses in a world rapidly changing. Juxtaposing the photographs with lines from Dylan’s song, the book steps away from the tradition of documentary photographs of climate change being exhibited as scientific objects with explanatory texts. The grounding of the project in the human emotive discovery of the world gives it a palpable immediacy which is often lacking in other projects.