It’s the end of the world – or at least of world’s civilizations. An increasing world population is depending on a shrinking amount of resources. Oil, water, fertile soil, fish grounds – among many other resources – are all near exploited yet we depend on them to survive. Mankind is stumbling into a disaster of inconceivable extent yet we ignore the facts. Not unprecedented, we are in denial of our dooming future – a future similar to what extinguished civilizations like the Sumerian or Maya. With near certainty, we will share their destiny. It is still time to wake up and change our live – but: will we?
It is always exciting to look at the first frames of a new project. Is it any good? Do the images live up to the expectations? As the winter sun of Brussels illilluminated the first role of 120 Ilford Delta 400 film from Ethiopia, I knew I am on the right track. It’s all there: the quiet, humble aesthetic of slow portraits, the aura of people that are firmly self-assured of their duty.
My current project, Apocalypse, is a long and multi-faceted documentary project. I look at foreshadow of a mega-earthquake that scientist expect to hit Istanbul in the near future. I investigate architecture designed to withstand the future – the Onkalo-Project in Finland (designed to last 100’000 years), the Norwegian Svalbard Global Seed Vault, etc. And I portrait traditional leader figures such as village elders, tribal leaders, sheikhs, and the like, whose authority is of a quality that is – to some extend – immune to changes in the sophisticated political organization of modern states. I shot sheikhs in Yemen (as part of my Socotra project), and now priests in Ethiopia – a country that adopted Christianity almost two millennia ago. (In two days, I will fly to South-East Asia (for security reasons I can’t disclose the country yet) and -among others- will continue the project there.)
I am in Istanbul, experimenting with a new project. It’s long and difficult to explain but it goes along the lines of: some human settlements (for example the megapolis Istanbul, located in one of the earth’s most active seismic areas) are built in a way or at a place that is prone to destruction of apocalyptic dimensions. Global change made more humans settle in improper places and accumulate more possessions and assets than ever before, multiplying the hazard. We know that most of the houses in Istanbul won’t stand any more in 50 or 100 years – either because they were replaced by quake proof constructions or because they were ruined by an earth quake. Seismologists say the risk of a 7.6-magnitude earthquake striking Istanbul by 2030 is seventy percent. Worst-case scenarios see 40 percent hit by an earthquake with 5 million people affected. Best case scenarios see ‘only’ 10’000 houses collapse and 1.5 million people affected.