When you think of leadership, the focus is not often on photographers. Yet they have a powerful ability to zoom in on issues we need to know about, engaging us on an emotional level. That’s why 5 asked three photo curators to pick a project that changes the way we look at the world.
This ongoing international project is all about using art to go beyond awareness and inspire action and behavioural change. How? By commissioning world-renowned names such as Edward Burtynsky, Simon Norfolk and Noémi Goudal to visualise the climate crisis. The current focus is on glaciers, as powerful visual symbols of what is going on with the planet at large.
Project Pressure was initiated in 2008 by Danish photographer, filmmaker and creative director Klaus Thymann and since then has supported more than 30 expeditions around the world, creating works that together have a cumulative impact, opening our eyes to what we know but find hard to imagine.
5 photo editor Lotti Pronk: “Project Pressure is a highly relevant collaboration between committed photographers. They strengthen each other with their different visual styles and approaches, making it artistically engaging – while also addressing climate change in a way that you can see and feel. And they execute it really well, working together with climate scientists and established institutions. It’s visually important art with activism and impact. Let’s change the scene for a better world!”
Ça Va Aller
In Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, people do not discuss their emotions, photographer Joana Choumali explains. Mental issues are seen as a sign of weakness and conversations about feelings are quickly cut off with a resigned “ça va aller”, French for “it will be ok”. The phrase is even used for situations that clearly are not ok.
Like the situation in Grand-Bassam after terrorists attacked the quiet seaside resort in 2016. Choumali visited the town three weeks afterwards as a way to come to terms with the events. She took to the streets, capturing the changed atmosphere of a place that until then she had always associated with happy childhood memories of days at the beach with family. Adding colourful embroidery over the images helped her to heal and create a sense of hope. With the project she also aims to break through the taboo about mental health issues and expressing your inner emotions.
Lagos Photo Festival founder Azu Nwagbogu: “From telling the story of child labour in the cocoa industry to portraying women eking out a living making charcoal, Joana Choumali is very ethically aware in all of her projects. Since her Ça Va Aller project, she frequently returns to Grand-Bassam to share her success with the community, contributing financially and mentoring artists and filmmakers. She is a rare talent and a very special artist.”
Japanese photographer Kazuhiko Matsumura became interested in aging after the death of his grandmother and in this project he brings dementia and the invisible suffering that comes with it into focus. It’s a disease that usually unfolds behind closed doors and by bringing it out into the open, those affected can feel less isolated. Rather than simply capturing images of those with dementia, Matsumura also interviewed people to better understand the person behind the symptoms. “People with dementia have the same humanity as we do,” he says, and that’s what he wanted to convey in his images. Adding an extra interpretive layer, he captured several mental images that emerged from his conversations.
Tokyo photography curator Yumi Goto: “The problem of dementia is becoming more serious every day, not just in Japan, but globally. It doesn’t only affect the individual but also family members and friends. Many of us are aware of dementia as a vague image, but do not understand its reality. We need a better understanding of it, both from the human perspective of modern society and from the perspective of medicine and welfare. This is difficult to do and I think that this series by Kazuhiko Matsumura is very strong. I think it is very important to visualise things that are hard to see at first glance and to make people empathise with the problem.”