Art should foster dialogue and ask the difficult questions. The recent discovery of the impending collapse of the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica reminds us that sudden catastrophe has struck civilization too often in history, always unexpectedly and with world-changing impacts. Pompeii, Katrina, Covid, all changed civilizations overnight, some local, some global. And the list of catastrophic storms around the world and at home has become too long to compile. Climate change is increasing storm activity and ocean rise, which will directly impact coastal areas. Natural shoreline features such as beaches, sand dunes, marshes, and mangroves act as buffers to weather systems, pliably absorbing the impact of storms and high tides and thus protecting the hinterlands. Coastal development usually replaces these features with man-made structures that fare less well in storms and require expensive repair.
There are essential dialogues about adaptation to this inevitable drastic change that our societies ignore and postpone at their peril. Art can address and initiate these dialogues in a world where debate has been polemicized.
J Henry Fair is a photographer and environmental activist, best known for his “chillingly beautiful” (Audubon Magazine) environmental aerial photos. He holds a degree in journalism from Fordham University, and is widely published: from The New York Times, National Geographic, Vanity Fair, TIME, and New York, to Die Zeit, The Guardian, and Le Figaro. He has appeared on television on Arte, TTT, CBC News, and The Today Show. J Henry is the winner of the 2019 Environmental Photographer of the Year award and the 2012 Earth Through A Lens award and was shortlisted for the Sony World Photography Awards. Among the three solo books J Henry has published, he is best known for his Industrial Scars series, about which Roberta Smith, chief art critic of The New York Times, said, “The vivid color photographs of J Henry Fair lead an uneasy double life as potent records of environmental pollution and as ersatz evocations of abstract painting… information and form work together, to devastating effect.”