Since my initiation of The Polar Project in 2004, my creative instinct has become increasingly more environmentally and socially minded. We live on a rare and magnificent planet of profound beauty. Though human beings hold the wisdom for remarkable and benevolent creativity and innovation, lingering in the shadows is the devastating consequences of our avarice. This “beauty and the beast” conundrum presents a compelling place for me as an artist to begin witnessing our relationship to Earth. The visible consequences of humanity’s footprint upon the natural world has ignited within me a desire to document these impacts more directly.
In the wake of the oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, I realized the extent to which I felt impassioned to protect and preserve our natural world. The images from those first few weeks after the Macondo Well exploded showing the gushing oil spreading along the gorgeous Gulf Coast, which was killing marine and wildlife and contaminating the ocean, was simply devastating. The experience was a turning point in my work, and I decided to point my lens in a new direction for a while and document the catastrophe. The experience of being a witness is a powerful one, and I’ve come to the understanding that my eco-photojournalism work is paramount to my work as a whole, and is influencing my artworks and other projects.
From my work on the Gulf Coast, I was invited to document the plight of the communities along the coast of El Salvador to establish a healthy environment, and to build solutions for the effects of climate disruption. It was deeply inspiring to see the tangible progress and successes these people have made through committed effort, and to learn of the struggles they continue to confront. More recently, I joined a floating think-tank of artists and scientists, which sailed the Scottish Islands to learn what solutions the communities on these remote northern islands are implementing to improve energy consumption and manage signs of climate disruption along their shores. I’m grateful that much of this photojournalistic work has been published by Al Jazeera English, Inter Press Service, Truthout, The Indypendent, ClimateStoryTellers.org and has appeared on Democracy Now!, among others.
The natural world has held a profound place in our collective cultural mythologies, and has inspired us throughout time to reflect deeply on what it means to be human. We are literally holding Earth’s health and balance in our hands, and the urgency for solutions cannot be overemphasized. Our need for a healthy, habitable environment is contradicted by a simultaneous obsession with power, greed, and money. Humanity seems to be at a crossroads: shall we continue along the path that got us here, or do we choose to awaken our natural instincts and protect the only home we have? -EB, 2011