There are some strong and striking pictures — attributed to photographic collectives rather than individuals — in the “E.CO” show of photographs that engage the environment. Curated by Claudi Carreras, the show is presented by the Spanish Ministry of Culture, the Embassy of Spain and the Spain-USA Foundation, in conjunction with Artspace at Untitled.
“Pandora” is the aptly chosen name of a collective of Spanish photographers addressing the issue of “electronic waste.” The collective's imagery makes us wonder if Pandora's mythical box is in a giant pile of appliances, or is one of the computer or television monitors being broken apart by two men with small sledge hammers.
Chinese bicycle riders in tight outfits with the word “Nophoto,” the name of another Spanish collective on them, seem to be trying to ride over a large pile of rubble, or in circles on a building's roof. The pictures were taken in Wuhan, one of China's most polluted cities, a gallery note informs us.
Even more ironic and hard-hitting are eight large black-and-white pictures of stuffed bird and animal “Pets” by members of Portugal's first photographic collective, “Kameraphoto.” Many of these stuffed creatures not only represent endangered species in the wild, but seem in danger of decaying, often in bizarre fashion, due to “bad taxidermic practices” as well.
Perhaps the most intriguing single “Pets” image, however, is that of a house cat that seems almost alive, as it places its front paws on a pillow, and looks up at us or the camera.
An anguished woman holding an umbrella in a Sao Paulo crowd becomes a symbol of the negative consequences of excessive “Rain,” in a large color picture from Brazil's “Cia de Foto” collective. The high rainfall amounts were the result of global warming of Atlantic waters, a text, accompanying the Brazilian collective's photo-essay, informs us.
Almost equally eye-catching are the butterflies on a man's bare chest in a giant color picture from “Border,” a photographic essay by a collective of press photographers in Peru, called Supay Fotos.
Other Supay Fotos depict a black dog devouring street waste and a girl or young woman, chest-deep in dark waters, holding the head of what looks like a snake, its body wrapped around her neck and shoulders.
A statement for Supay Fotos notes that the collective is concerned with the “rift between man and nature, between the city and the Amazon: an uncertain frontier, a magical and voracious territory.”
Venezuela's Organization Nelson Garrido (ONG) collective plays visual games with our romantic idea of attractive, body-painted aboriginal women, who turn out to be a lot more contemporary than we think.
Wonderfully witty and provocative is an ONG color photo of a nearly naked lady, holding a supersized fast-food chain soft drink cup, her head covered with beads and her body with painted golden “m's.”
“Captive Notes” is the title of a photo-essay by Costa Rica's Collectivo Nomada, which includes haunting imagery of an old wrecked ship, and of a person in a rabbit costume, coming out of junglelike vegetation.
An expansive photo of trash spreading across the horizontal picture plane is the most disturbing depiction of “Urbanization” in a photographic essay by the London-based “Documentography” collective.
Other images from the British-based collective portray a group village dwelling, children running on top of a pile of debris, and young swimmers, apparently enjoying bathing in polluted waters.
Providing visual punctuation for the London group's photo-essay are tiny color photos, displayed on a white background, of plastic containers, bags, junk food and other frequently discarded objects.
Confronting us with powerful pictures of environmental subjects we might rather not think about, the “E.CO” show isn't always easy viewing, but it is recommended, during its run.
— John Brandenburg