“Our world should be called ‘Water’ not ‘Earth'” according to Spanish photographer Hector Garrido. Water is a fundamental source of life and our planet is made up largely of water – as is our own body. Yet water has, over the years, received relatively less attention than the land in the environmental world. We talk of a ‘land ethic’ whereas water is largely seen as a resource – comparable to other extractable resources such as oil or minerals. A lifelong ornithologist, naturalist and nature photographer, Garrido has experienced at first hand the importance of water to our whole existence. In his series of aerial photographs he discovers water as the tree of life (above) or as the circulatory system on which our continued health depends (below).
More recently, water has received more attention but, as land based creatures, I suppose that it is only ‘natural’ that we should tend to be more focused on the land than on our waters. I remember that as a young kid being brought up in a hot and dry Mediterranean country, intermittent water shortages were a fact of life. Being careful with how one uses water was part of our normal habits. In many places, this ‘respect’ for water has largely disappeared. Water is readily available or can be produced through desalination. Agriculture keeps diverting and consuming large amounts of water with significant amounts of waste.
Yet water shortages seem to be returning even in ‘developed’ countries. US States such as California have to fight with neighbouring States on which they depend for their water supply. Around the world, millions of people still have limited access to water and need to walk miles a day to their water sources. Droughts still account for many lives lost – human and non-human.
“Can nature create art” is another of Hector Garrido’s questions. Is the image above a nature photograph or a piece of abstract art? It is, of course, both. Nature has not created it as a piece of abstract art but we choose to re-interpret it in that fashion when we see dynamic expressiveness in the flow of shapes and color.
Water has the power to create drama. When toxic chemicals on the Ohio river caught fire, it was that unimaginable drama of ‘water on fire’ that finally brought home Rachel Carson’s pollution narrative. But today for most of us water is that prosaic liquid that flows out of our kitchen taps or a product packaged in plastic that we consume. It is neither an object of respect not of much interest except for those who don’t have enough of it.
Can we harness some of the visual drama that water has the potential to create to encourage a greater emotional connection with water? Hector Garrido’s work starts us on that path as did some of the work of David Maisel previously reviewed in this blog.