Tristes Tropiques, photographing Brazil’s environmental exploitation

Using geographic information system (GIS) technology, photographer Richard Mosse documented the ongoing ecological deterioration in Brazil due to illegal activities.

“Counter mapping”, a form of resistance mapmaking intended to reveal endangered landscapes, is how photographer Richard Mosse's last project Tristes Tropiques has been described as.

With his series of large-scale, vibrantly hued aerial photographs, in fact, the artist documented ongoing environmental exploitation across Brazil in terms of deforestation, concentration of CO2, toxic pollution and other aspects of ecological damage – most of which result from illegal activities.

To capture these aspects that wouldn’t be otherwise easily revealed through conventional photography, Mosse employed geographic information system (GIS) technology which processed thousands of the multispectral images captured by drone along Brazil's “arc of fire” and converted them into searing maps.

This way, with Tristes Tropiques the photographer managed to turn images into storytelling tools that carry a wealth of data highlighting how deforestation, land invasion, illegal mining, and other environmental crimes are threatening the entire Amazon area.

The body of work will be on display at the Jack Shainman Gallery of New York until May 15, 2021.

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