In the Air
In the Air: Tragedy of the Commons
In the Air: (smoke studies)
In the Air: Residue and Repercussions
Garrett Hardin coined the term Tragedy of the Commons, in which entities act in self-interest at the expense of the many. Some examples include overhunting, overfishing, and overgrazing. Air pollution falls in this category; its generation can come from concentrated sources, yet it affects everyone.
In 2016, I began photographing airborne particles, including byproducts of conservation, energy production, natural disasters, and agriculture. These minuscule items can travel a few feet, a few miles, or circle the earth. We breathe them into our lungs, and the smallest ones can enter the bloodstream. Despite their tiny size, they have serious repercussions including respiratory problems and death.
Over time, my concern about the toxic effects of air pollution has played a stronger role in the direction of this project. And there is serious cause for concern: seven million premature deaths a year are linked to air pollution. In addition, air pollution is linked not only to respiratory illnesses, but also to strokes, heart disease, cancer, and a reduction in intelligence. Finally, people in poverty and communities of color are disproportionately affected by air pollution.
During research into this project, I was astonished to discover that each of us breathes in about 2,900 gallons of air a day. Since primary sources of air pollution include transportation, industry, fire, and agriculture, I ask of society: why can't we have systems that don't harm our citizens and communities (or how can we improve the ones we have to be less toxic)? I also ask of myself: am I examining my habits and making changes? Am I effectively communicating my concerns in my work? Am I voting and making my voice heard?
Air seems invisible; however, it is a thriving ecosystem teeming with solids, liquids, and gases. With this work I am exploring what goes into the air, where it travels, and the impact it has. I am interested in protections that are in place, ones that are needed, and ones that are being removed. The goals of this work are to raise awareness, to make the invisible visible, and to make the ephemeral permanent.
Thank you to the Philip C. Curtis Artist-in-Residence Program for support of this project and the time to develop it! Thanks also to the Art and Art History Department at Albion College for the time and space to make and show this work.
Thank you to the Puffin Foundation for a grant in support of this project.
Thank you to the Jentel Artist Residency for their support of this work. I shot, edited, and printed much of this project while in residence there during the summer of 2017.
Thank you to Iowa State University for their grant support through the Center for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities.
Thank you to Iowa Lakeside Lab for their support. In 2018, I photographed, recorded audio, and shot video of prescribed burns for this project during a two-week residency.