Tuesday, February 18, 2014

How We Visualize Disaster


Villagers walking around in front of one of the few concrete buildings in the village, the Jhapa Brojobihari. Padmapukur. Bangladesh. 2009. 

When natural disasters hit, they're often met with an avalanche of support and press coverage—and then things peter out. Less documented are the months, years, and even decades of healing, repairing, and rebuilding, whether it's post-Katrina New Orleans or the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan. "Unintended Journeys," a new exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, sheds light on the consequences of human displacement long after the media storm has calmed.

Resilience in the face of adversity is the star quality of the show. From the plights of environmental refugees left devastated by the Haitian earthquake to the Japanese tsunami, the pictures tell a story about challenge and global community. Co-curated by Joshua A. Bell and Gwyn Isaac, the show highlights the works of 13 photographers from the award-winning Magnum Photos agency (see the VICE loves Magnum series) who have shot natural disasters throughout the past decade in Japan, Bangladesh, Louisiana, Haiti, and East Africa.

The show is not only based around people and their immediate environments, but also on the relationship between photography and the press. The show is a reminder of the impact of natural and environmental disasters, following those who have migrated away from their destroyed homes. I spoke with Bell and Isaac about survival, the deep need for humanitarian aid, and what it's like to curate an exhibit dedicated to disaster.

How did you select shots the shots to reveal the impact of natural disasters?

Gwyn Isaac: Our first selection of images was based on the decision to show how these disasters affect a wide range of cultures and environments, which led us to choose Japan, Bangladesh, East Africa, Louisiana and Haiti as our focus for the exhibit. One of the considerations we also took into account was scale—both of the subject and then later, the size of the print exhibited—exploring how these shape the relationship between the viewer and photograph.

For the rest of the story: http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/how-we-visualize-disaster

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