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25 November 2022 to 31 May 2023 The Photographers’ Gallery

Image: @drowningworld-GideonMandel
Launching in the immediate aftermath of COP27, the exhibition will transport pedestrians from the streets of Soho to the heart of the climate crisis via a series of powerful portrait images that offer an urgent window into lives that are being devastated by floods and wildfires around the world. 

Drowning World

Since 2007, South African photographer Mendel has made twenty trips to document floods in thirteen countries, witnessing a shared human experience of climate catastrophe that transcends geographical, cultural and economic divides. Shown for the first time in the UK, Mendel’s most recent portraits were shot in Bayelsa State, Nigeria and in Sindh Province, Pakistan. Since August 2022, both regions experienced unprecedented rain and were devastated by the worst floods in living memory. Countless structures and buildings were destroyed and millions left homeless. Visiting these communities months after the initial flooding Mendel found that the water levels remained high, still filling people’s homes. Even as the waters recede, the damage to people's lives is immense. Mendel's images record this in a deeply intimate and graphically precise way.

Burning World

The Burning World series is Mendel’s response to the unprecedented increase in the extremity of wildfires around the world, as global temperatures rise. Since the start of 2020 he has documented the aftermath of fires that have destroyed homes, killed numerous people and burnt millions of acres of land. Mendel chooses not to document the burning flames, but rather seeks out their aftermath, the traces left behind on lives and landscapes. Made across different communities around the world, the people in his Portraits in Ashes series are framed by the skeletons of their burnt homes and invite us to engage with the scorched world that surrounds them. Mendel said “My subjects have taken the time – in a situation of great distress – to engage the camera, looking out at us from their inundated homes and devastated surroundings. They are showing the world the calamity that has befallen them. They are not victims in this exchange: the camera records their dignity and resilience. They bear witness to the brutal reality that the poorest people on the planet almost always suffer the most from climate change.” The presentation of Mendel’s images in Soho Photography Quarter (SPQ) includes a 40m-long frieze of images and large-scale over-street banners, as well as a projection of the new film from dusk every day.

Shot over five continents, with the most recent images taken in Nigeria in the past few weeks and Pakistan in September this year, the images are a stark reminder of the effects that the climate crisis is having right now in many corners of the world.

Fire / Flood will be exhibited at Soho Photography Quarter - until May 2023. 

Further Information:  Gideon Mendel: Fire / Flood | The Photographers Gallery