2007 - Ongoing
Brazil; United States; United Kingdom; India; Bangladesh; France; Nigeria; Haiti; Thailand
‘Drowning World, explores the human dimension of climate change by focusing on floods across geographical and cultural boundaries. Through highlighting the personal impact of flooding the intent is to evoke our vulnerability to global warming and question our sense of stability in the world.
The work began in 2007, when Mendel photographed floods in the UK and in India within weeks of each other. He was deeply struck by the contrasting impact of these events, and the shared experiences of those affected.
Since then he has endeavoured to travel to flood zones around the world visiting Haiti (2008), Pakistan (2010), Australia (2011), Thailand (2011), Nigeria (2012), Germany (2013), The Philippines (2013), The UK (2014), India (2014), Brazil (2015), Bangladesh (2015), the USA (2015 and 2017) and France (2016 and 2018).
As the work progressed photographing floods became both a literal and allegorical means of documenting the tension between the personal and the global effects of climate change. Each location added has intensified the narrative impact of the endeavour.
Drowning World now consists of three parallel and connected elements:
This set of intimate portraits of flood victims is at the core of the project. Mendel’s subjects address the camera looking out from their devastated environments and inundated homes. The poses may seem conventional but their confrontational gazes challenge us to consider their context of catastrophe across cultures and time Temporal. Coming from disparate parts of the world they reveal their linked exposure to climate change despite vast differences in lives and circumstances
This series records the physical incursion of rising water through intimate living quarters and public spaces, presenting a paradox of order and calm in the invasive presence of the repeated line drawn by floodwater indoors and outdoors—through intimate living quarters, public spaces, and landscapes turned liquid. The precise reflected symmetry of these photographs is disconcerting given the chaotic circumstances in which they were created.
These are enlargements of flood-damaged personal snapshots, sometimes anonymous flotsam fished from the water or mud, sometimes given by homeowners. The impact of floods, chemical interaction with water—ironically, essential to developing photographs—has transformed these private moments into metaphors of our exposure to environmental disorder. Through the act of collecting selecting and enlarging these fragments, he amplifies them as artworks, presenting them as an archive of private moments surrendered to climate change.