Saturday, May 14, 2016

Photography as Advocacy

“The stewardship of natural resources
and the challenging complexity of human interaction with our world
are of utmost importance to me.”
Dornith Doherty

The University of North Texas’ Research Professor of Photography, Dornith Doherty’s interest in the environment is a driving force behind her photography.

As she said of her turn of the century Constructed Landscapes project “By combining the precise detailing of photographic realism with the extravagant exaggeration of the still life, my photographs navigate the border between nature and artifice in order to explore my interest in the human presence in the environment.

With projects that have included the examination of US and Mexican cultures in her Rio Grande project and the resilience of coyotes in her back yard, Doherty’s current preoccupation is the exploration of “the role of seed banks and their preservation efforts in the face of climate change.” Archiving Eden has been an eight year and counting labor of love for Doherty.

As she told Hyperallergic’s Laura Mallonee Archiving Eden was inspired by an article about the opening of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault near the North Pole. When I read John Seabrook’s “Sowing for Apocalypse” in The New Yorker, the simultaneously pessimistic and optimistic aspects of a global seed vault built to save the word’s botanical life from catastrophic events made a profound impression on me.

Since 2008 Doherty has collaborated with biologists around the world from the US to Australia, from Britain to the Arctic circle documenting the vital role seed banks play in protecting the genetic diversity of both wild and agricultural species.

Doherty has also explored the poetic beauty inherent in her core subject matter through the use of x-ray photography.

About which said in an exhibition press release “The amazing visual power of magnified x-ray images, which springs from the technology’s ability to record what is invisible to the human eye, illuminates my considerations not only of the complex philosophical, anthropological, and ecological issues surrounding the role of science and human agency in relation to gene banking, but also of the poetic questions about life and time on a macro and micro scale.”

To which she has added “And while they are an incomplete and subjective response to this global effort, it is my hope that these poetic visual artifacts may inspire conversation and awareness of this important effort.

Doherty’s current exhibition Stow is on show at the Houston Center for Photography until the 10th of July.


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