The dangerous effects of climate change make headlines every day. But to drive it home, sometimes a face-to-face meeting is required.
That’s the concept behind the photography exhibit “The Face of Climate Change."
Hosted by art gallery Converge Las Cruces, it showcases images taken by a dozen local and national artists.
Some photos reveal the destruction of landscapes, like the aftermath of a wildfire at Yellowstone National Park or a waterless riverbed along the Rio Grande. Others are more conceptual works.
All convey different perspectives on the same issue, according to Director John Craig.
“There are so many images being taken, taking place today and put on Instagram and on Facebook and what they end up doing is a lot of them are just pretty pictures. But some people are turning out some really beautiful work and some really poignant work about what we’re going through and how we’re changing our environment," Craig said.
The photos reaffirm the findings that climate scientists have warned about for decades. That includes a 2018 report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It said to limit global warming to 1.5°C, worldwide emissions of carbon dioxide must be cut about 45 percent by 2030 and reach "net zero" by 2050.
But those numbers don’t mean much to someone who doesn’t regularly experience drought or wildfires. Craig said that’s why a photo can make a powerful point.
“I think photography is much more immediate. People understand it. People look at it, they get the idea," Craig said. "There is very little in the way of trying to interpret in a lot of cases. Now again, we have some people that are doing more conceptual stuff. But even with that, the image itself, a photography image seems to be universal.”
Converge Las Cruces put out a call to artists nationwide to submit their work for the show. 22 photos made the final cut.
Director of Exhibitions Deborah Sperry, Craig’s wife, describes one of her favorite pieces entitled “Kim’s Feet” by artist Leona Steiner. The feet are standing on the floor of a bamboo forest.
“And what I think is very interesting about this is that it’s almost a romanticized ideal of the human interaction with the Earth. And here we have feet, a person of color and another person of color standing in what clearly is not hospitable territory. So, it’s a metaphor for our human selves standing in something that is really untenable," Sperry said.
Local artist Dave Levine makes the environment his living. Levine, an engineer with Organ Mountain Solar & Electric, said his time outdoors motivated him to pick up a camera.
His piece entitled “Casa No Mas”–Spanish for “Home No More”–shows ruins he found while hiking in northern New Mexico.
“It was the Querencia Arroyo and what struck me here was just the ruins and really as it relates to climate change is that you know climate change is more than just how it’s affecting our future, but also the past," Levine said. "And here are some ruins that are going to start decomposing quicker because of the climate change. You know the climate change is affecting the ground and the foundation and that’s going to deteriorate the ruins even sooner. And so really with climate change, we’re also losing a little bit of the history and eventually the ruins will no longer be there.”
That’s why Levine said it’s important for people to put down their devices and explore the outdoors. Not only for its beauty, but the history and culture in danger of disappearing.
For Sperry, viewing photos through the lenses of artists across the country helps expand the conversation of what she calls the major moral issue of our day.
“You know people don’t like to talk about it that way but it really is," Sperry said. "What’s so difficult about it is that it’s a deferred problem. It isn’t a problem that we necessarily are suffering from at this very minute but we’re suffering from it in the future. Our children, our children’s children are going to have all of the devastating effects of what we as human beings couldn’t really deal with. So that’s why we need reminding.”
Through visual reminders of a habitat already at risk.
The exhibit “The Face of Climate Change” will on be on display at the Southwest Environmental Center through June 14. Prints are available for purchase online.