Thanks to the generosity of the ICP Acquisitions Committee and the photographer, ICP has recently acquired six prints from Gideon Mendel’s Drowning World series. Since 2007, Mendel has tracked the worsening floods around the world, one of the most destructive and visible signs of climate change. What he has found is that in poor countries, floodwaters take a long time to recede, help is not often on the way, and a majority of people don’t have the time or resources to clean up and rebuild. Instead, they must carry on with their lives, making dinner, selling produce, or grilling takeaway meats with thigh-deep, brackish water standing in their homes, stores, and temples of worship for weeks or months. The photographs in the series are mostly frontal portraits of single figures or small groups facing the camera, standing in boundless water and wearing expressions that telegraph a range of emotions, from stoicism to desolation.
Certainly Mendel’s career as a photojournalist informs his current and other long-term projects. He started out in 1983 photographing the battles, deaths, and funerals of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. A decade later, he turned his attention to AIDS and the ravaging effects it was having in Africa. As he continues his interventionist project today, he has taken on another killer: climate change, which millions have already experienced firsthand.
–Carol Squiers, Curator