Don’t Turn Away
Colin Finlay photographs the consequences of climate change.
Examining the work of acclaimed photojournalist Colin Finlay often evokes a curious awe—surreal, color-drenched photographs that could easily pass for the swirling handiwork of a painter. They’re beautiful. It’s only when the subjects of Finlay’s work are revealed that the sentiment turns to one of shock.
See, Finlay photographs a particularly grim subject—the destruction of our planet. Each work in his striking aerial series displays the stunning results of climate change and irresponsible human activity. For this, he has spent decades traveling the world, training his lens on vast areas of environmental ruin to draw the public’s attention to the rapidly deteriorating state of our Earth. One of his biggest challenges is access: Some are in hard-to-get-to locations. Others are blocked by the facilities, governments, or companies responsible for the damage. So Finlay takes to the skies, repressing his fear of heights to hang out of helicopters, photographing the devastation below.
“The only way to access these places is through the helicopter. Really, it’s the best way to see the overall impact,” Finlay says. “From the ground, how do I convey a 2-billion-gallon tailing pond? It’s just not possible.”
Though Finlay has a rough sense of what he’s going to photograph before up in the air, nothing prepares him for the moments when the helicopter door slides open. “There are perspectives that are only going to come from committing to that seat in the helicopter, opening up the door, and looking at the vastness of what’s below,” Finlay says.
When he thinks about his travels, he communicates a combination of marvel and dread—admiring the bluish desert oasis of the Bahamas during the full moon while capturing the waters being slowly sucked off the reefs, or the extraordinary aerial view of the monstrous, melting glaciers disappearing in Iceland.
It’s an odd juxtaposition, Finlay knows, that out of such environmental devastation can come magnificent images, but both the beauty and ambiguity of his photographs serve to provoke deeper, and more difficult, questions and conversation.
“We need to be able to look at it. And we need to not be able to turn away. That’s my job as a photographer, to make sure that they don’t turn away.”
Photos Copyright 2014 ColinFinlay.com
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