Virginia Hanusik’s shots of Louisiana challenge disaster-focused depictions of climate change

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Whereas in the past, Virginia would drive around endlessly trying to find visually interesting sites (inspired in part by the iconic cross-country photographers of the past.) But now, an increasing consciousness of her own carbon footprint means that she now chooses sites through reading and research. Here she looks into zoning laws, the demographics of certain areas and the statistics on who carries flood insurance as starting points, to find locations that have something larger to say about human behaviour.

As well as challenging the visual narrative around climate change, Virginia hopes that her work will also inspire others to ask similar questions about who is impacted by environmental changes. “The most important thing for me as an artist is to not just be an entry point for people to learn about the topics of my projects, but to also provide resources for further engagement,” she says. For example, for the upcoming show, Virginia has worked with colleagues in the climate policy world to develop a small booklet that visitors can take which includes information on additional reading related to the environmental history of South Louisiana as well as organisations working to progress climate policy in the region.

In terms of composition and lighting, it was important for Virginia to capture Louisiana as is – a truthful depiction of what she could see in front of her. “If you’ve ever seen a sunset in South Louisiana you’ll understand me saying that I really don’t have to work that hard for the light and colour,” he says. “That being said, the harsh mid-day light is something that I’ve tried to incorporate into projects in a way that balances out the softness of the morning and golden hour.”

Matter of fact but also hinting at the wider implications, A Receding Coast is part study, part visual record. What will be interesting, as Virginia continues her work, is to see how the landscape alters further and how humans intervene in the increasing vulnerability of Louisiana, striving to adapt to this new norm.

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