While that damned volcanic ash kept American photographer Ed Kashi, the man of the hour, from attending the launch night of his latest exhibition at Diemar/Noble Photography in west London, the gallery was packed with people eager to finally see his winning Prix Pictet commission.
Prix Pictet is the world’s only photography competition that combines photography with sustainability, using the talents of some of the world’s most influential and innovative photographers to raise awareness of some of the world’s most desperate, and often unreported, environmental causes.
Gaining notoriety from Curse of the Black Gold, his harrowing portrayal of the oil industry in the Niger Delta, Ed Kashi is widely considered a master in documenting socio-political issues. This year, under the theme of ‘Earth’, he turned his photographic lens to Madagascar and, judging by this stunning collection of photographs, Kashi was the ideal choice to finally capture the true essence of this fascinating put poverty stricken country.
Working with UK charity and Malagasy registered NGO, Azafady, an organisation committed to helping Madagascar’s poorest communities develop sustainable ways of living, these photographs not only pay testament to the charity’s work but also offer a rare insight into the lives of the Malagasy people in the face of poverty, drought and deforestation.
Saturated with colour to match the intensity of the scenes the images depict, this exhibition not only works to represent a country that is, shamefully, so often left out of the public eye but by showing its raw beauty next to the ecological threats it faces, we are faced with the brutal reality of man’s impact on our planet. Profound as this may sound, these photographs demonstrate Kashi’s ability to capture such intimate and honest photographs of Malagasy life and people, telling the untold story of a scoured earth and those who must live amongst the consequences.
Following the work of Azafady’s Voly Hazo project, which works to combat desertification with tree planting and forest preservation schemes, the photos show the devastating effects of slash and burn agriculture throughout Madagascar and the unsettling lengths people go to find drinking water in droughts. However, alongside these harsh realities, Kashi encapsulates the unshakable sense of community of the Malagasy people, working together with the land and learning to earn sustainable livings by fishing or planting rice.
Through these breathtaking photographs, Kashi is able to tell the real story and articulate the real message behind this exhibition: to give a voice to Madagascar’s plight. It is a call for us to take responsibility for the damage we are doing to our earth, vocalised through Kashi’s innovative and expert lens and the eyes of the Malagasy people. A brutally enlightening look into a sadly underexposed country which will hopefully enlighten us all about the lives of those who are tied to an Earth under threat.
Madagascar: A Land Out Of Balance runs from 20 April – 1 May at:
66/7 Wells Street
Azafady is an award-winning UK registered charity and Malagasy NGO works to provide support to Madagascan communities and Madagascar’s threatened environments.