Visualizing the Environmental Emergency – Contemporary Photography and Public Engagement

March 23, 2022
10:00–11:15AM EDT
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Photo credit: PhEST

The power of photographs to engage the general public is complex and it has a global scope, when we talk about climate change and environmental crisis. Using sensational images to hook the audience in the story have often left the public distant and unengaged. Furthermore, most of the current photographic exhibition depicting urgent matters are displayed in museums and galleries, limiting access to the large public.

Now the question is: what are – not only the images – but also the places, formats, channels and supports we could possibly put in place in order to emotionally engage the public at large so we can increase concern and moved towards action? Can contemporary photography re-imagine its social role and go to public spaces beyond temporary open-air exhibitions?

The benefits of putting a work of art in a public space can be many: it can add visual quality to an environment, promote higher level of integration between art, architecture, landscape and institutions, increase cultural awareness, make works more easily reachable for the public, provide new jobs for free-lance artists, attract tourists, and generate a sense of pride and belonging for the citizens.

Above all this, is it possible to think of public spaces as canvases on which we could experiment and redefine the role of photography? Can we make public photography the language that translates important scientific and cultural messages to inspire a sustainable and cultural shift, by making people feel connected and engaged with the issue.

This event is curated by Maria Teresa Salvati, with guest speakers Arianna Rinaldo and Rosella Ferorelli, and is moderated by Dr Paul Lowe. This event is supported by the Photography and the Archive Research Centre, London College of Communication, University of the Arts London, and Everything is Connected.

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