A camera, a lamp, a child’s tricycle … Photographer Gideon Mendel’s latest project highlights the everyday impact of the climate crisis
was looking for a way to respond to the climate crisis for a long time,” says Gideon Mendel. Since the 1980s, the South African photographer has dedicated his career to documenting social issues around the globe – from the atrocities of apartheid to the Syrian refugee crisis. His images have sought to centre the lives and voices of the people who have been affected. But when he turned his attention to the warming planet around 15 years ago, the standard visual language seemed to be all “glaciers and polar bears”. “I wanted to make my work more personal and visceral,” he says.
Now Mendel travels the world, visiting places where increased flooding and wildfires have destroyed homes and ravaged communities. He does not consider himself a photojournalist: you won’t find any dramatic scenes of fleeing or rescue in his portfolio. Rather, he sticks around to see what’s left behind. The Climate Artefact series, from his Burning World project, depicts personal possessions and other objects burnt in unplanned blazes. Mendel began collecting these charred mementoes after the intense bushfires in Australia in 2019–20; further items were acquired on subsequent trips to wildfire sites in Greece, Canada and the US.