January 7th, 2015

New Instagram Feed Highlights Effects of Climate Change

Everyday Climate Change (photos © the individual photographers)

Everyday Climate Change (photos © the individual photographers)

An Instagram feed showcasing the work of photographers documenting the causes and effects of global climate change launched on January 1. Founded by Tokyo-based photographer James Whitlow Delano, @everydayclimagechange was inspired by the @everydayeverywhere feed, which presents selected images of daily life around the world, and will show how extreme weather and changes to the climate affect life in the developing and the developed world. So far, the feed has featured images by Sara Terry, Katharina Hesse, Michael Robinson Chavez, Janet Jarman, Paolo Patrizi, Ed Kashi, David Butow, John Trotter, Delano and other photographers who have covered such topics as water shortages, pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, forest fires, rising sea levels and the destruction of crops by infestations of funguses and insects.

Delano says that before launching the feed, he contacted photographers he knew who had completed bodies of work relating to climate issues. “I am looking for photographers who are able to see how local climate changes relate to the bigger, global picture,” he says. Delano, who has covered logging and deforestation in Southeast Asia, says he sought photographers based around the world. The contributing photographers are from five continents, and the images featured so far have shown diverse locations: a farm in Mexico; wetlands in Guinea Bissau; a denuded rain forest in southern Papua; a stretch of beach in Far Rockaway, Brooklyn. Says Delano, “I love the way that the photographs tell us that we must all consider how to deal with these issues.”

Though he gave contributors suggestions for hashtags, Delano says he wants to take a hands-off approach to editing. “I have told photographers that I will not curate or interfere unless photos go way off theme. As a photographer, I cherish latitude and freedom.”

Seven days after its launch, the feed has attracted over 1,600 followers. Photographers who have agreed to contribute in the future include Patrick Brown, Ron Haviv, Dominic Bracco II, Veejay Villafranca, Suthep Krisanavarin and Peter DiCampo, co-founder of @EverydayAfrica and @EverydayEverywhere. Delano says he’s happy with the work so far, but might expand the feed in the future. “In a month or so, we may start accepting hashtags or doing a Follow Friday like other everyday feeds. I like the democratization of the feeds that way,” he says. “First, though, I wanted to have a look how the feed functioned. So far, so good.”

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November 14th, 2012

The Failure in Crowd-Sourcing News Photos

© Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

At a time of cost cutting for media budgets, lots of news organizations imagine that user-generated content can fill the void. But the recent failure of crowd-sourced news photos of Hurricane Sandy, and the shortage of coverage of other climate change-fueled disasters around the world, demonstrate how far we are from truly democratizing the medium of photography. Photographers worry that the lowering of technological barriers means “everyone’s a photographer now,” but in fact, the number of people who can take and share news photos is still limited by economics, infrastructure and geography.

Now that news organizations have quit crowd-sourcing instantaneous images of the approaching storm, we are seeing enterprising professional photojournalists who are focused less on flooded tunnels and wrecked cars, and have been seeking out the less obvious stories behind the slow process of rebuilding, rehousing the displaced, and supporting those underserved by relief efforts. (The New York Times photographer Ruth Fremson’s November 2 coverage of people coping without power, elevators, heat or  a sense of security on the upper floors of public housing projects is one example.)

Among the critics of the media’s immediate response to the storm, photographer Kenneth Jarecke  and Prison Photography’s Pete Brook  (who gathered a round-up of storm coverage) seem most irked by the poor quality of many of the images editors chose to publish (by professionals commissioned to shoot on iPhones and by amateurs).  “Most of the photographs are REALLY bad,” Jarecke wrote. “It’s history. It changes people’s lives. You’re not allowed to make excuses or drop the ball, but sadly most of you did.”

As a New Yorker who was seeking up-to-date information about friends and loved ones the day after the storm made landfall, I’ll forgive esthetic lapses in favor of timely and useful information. The problem was, amateur photographers don’t seem to know how to write captions, and they lack  journalistic instincts.

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