For a couple of years now, photographer Gideon Mendel has taken it upon himself to show the world what it is like in other parts of the world where the climate is very unfavourable to them. Mendel has not minded the dangers and lengths he has to go through to make sure he delivers the pictures in the clearest form possible. In his most recent project, Drowning World, he takes us round the world through his camera lenses and shows us calm portraits of flood victims in areas we would not expect. Drowning World shows the real picture of climate change around the world, the real picture behind the statistics and with real people the floods affect directly.
The project is inspired a great deal by the biblical symbolism of the flood and the way Mendel captures his images show people in environments submerged by water. In all of the images, the victims often appear still, dormant, numb, stoic or paralyzed in various cases but according to Mendel, he says the subjects usually tell him they are glad he is there as a witness to document their situations.
The images show how vulnerable and fragile some people are in certain parts of the world. This only goes a long way to prove that there is a shared vulnerability amongst races, cultures and tribes across the world. Although most of the images are taken just moments after he has met the subjects, they still show a kind of intimacy between the photographer and the victims. He always works with an assistant who helps him communicate with the victims and carry his equipment. The unique part of his work is he uses a camera that makes use of films instead of using a digital camera. He thinks that this way is magical to the results he achieves with the images he captures.
In most of the areas Mendel has taken pictures, the victim all had one common angst which is the fact that they were not pre-warned about the floods. Most of them had less than 20 minutes to run from their homes when the floods started which made them lose a lot of valuable properties. They were all angry with their governments.
The significance of the work Mendel is doing with the portraits of the flood victims is to sensitize us towards the plight of the victims. He is asking us to put ourselves in their shoes and realize that it could have been us instead of them. Mendel believes climate change is a very big problem around the world, to children and upcoming generations. As much as there is little control over the climate, it is still important that people get warned beforehand about upcoming floods. There are a lot of flood disasters in different parts of the world and Mendel’s work only makes for a tiny percentage.
Gideon Mendel works in Srinigar, India
Photo: Gowhar Fazili