We’ve all seen sad, depressing, and otherwise disturbing photos of animals or people suffering after a human made disaster. You know, like the ducks dying in the tar sands or photos from the Bhopal disaster. Photographers have long thought that by showing these disturbing and truth-capturing photos people will start to care about the damage we are doing to the environment. Years of neglect and a lack of change has proven this point wrong.
So what do we do?
Artist Chris Jordan examined this very question and has found new ways to use art to get people to acknowledge the natural world and what we’re doing to it.
Slowly, the way Jordan thought about his work on Midway changed. His job wasn’t to soak up what he calls the darkness of the world; he could face it, he realized, without taking it in. “You acknowledge the presence of the darkness,” he says, “and you shine your light into it.” And his job wasn’t to be transformed by fire or to find a hidden door to hope: “We have this cultural obsession with hope. I’m not sure how useful hope really is.” When he gives a talk and someone stands up—someone always does—to ask, “But what do I do about this? What’s the solution?” he no longer wants to answer them. “That person,” he says, “may be feeling something uncomfortable that they don’t want to feel. They’re feeling the enormity and the complexity of the problems of our world, and that makes them feel anxious.” To give them an easy answer, he says, would be “like pulling the plug in a bathtub: the feeling all drains out. My job is to help people connect with what they feel, even if it’s uncomfortable.”