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Documentary photographer reveals the dangerous beauty of Living with Volcanoes

Living With Volcanoes by Cris Toala Olivares
(Image credit: Cris Toala Olivares)

Volcanoes have long fascinated people, both for the destruction that they unleash combined with the mesmerizing awe they convey. As beautiful as volcanoes may be, they exude powerful forces that emanate from the deep core, and can lead to mass eradication of local towns, villages and crops.

Cris Toala Olivares is a documentary photographer having experienced with his own eyes the dangerous eruption in 2014 of the volcano Tungurahua, in Ecuador near to where he grew up. Olivares has since visited 13 volcanoes, curating a stunning collection of photographs, along with interviews had with people living there.

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In his new book Living with Volcanoes (Lannoo Publishers), Dutch-Ecuadorian documentary photographer Cris Toala Olivares (opens in new tab) has decided to delve deeper into the different relationships that people situated all over the world have with volcanoes active in their close vicinity. 

Fagradalsfjall volcano erupted on March 19 2021, after 800 years of dormancy in Iceland. (Image credit: Cris Toala Olivares)
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Traveling everywhere from Iceland to Indonesia, he began taking a detailed look into how volcanoes influence the way their inhabitants have developed a deeper respect for nature.

For Olivares, volcanoes are givers just as much as they are destroyers, considering their fertile soils and incredible geothermal power that can be harnessed and used for homes and by local industries. 

Mount Gunung Agung in Bali,  (Image credit: Cris Toala Olivares)
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He believes that by having such a powerful and unpredictable neighbor, it helps local residents to put things into perspective and can remind them of how small they are, existing in a much larger and interconnected world, fostering a sense of humility. 

A completely different way of life and looming imminent danger than many of us are accustomed to, Olivares' powerful photographs spark a new kind of appreciation for volcanoes and our own stable environments. 

Having stood literally on top of his giant subjects, he talked to residents who lived on or underneath a volcano, and whom expressed that they would never leave their beloved yet threatened homes, despite the dangers. From these experiences, the 320-page collection that is Living with Volcanoes was born.

(Image credit: Cris Toala Olivares)
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Olivares' determined vision as a photographer and traveller have earned him numerous awards, including a Magnum Photography Award. He is also a popular speaker giving TED Talks and now works for major media such as Reuters, National Geographic and Der Spiegel.

Living with Volcanoes is available now in the UK priced at £50, and can be preordered worldwide and purchased through Amazon, priced at $80 / AU$106. 

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Beth Nicholls
Beth Nicholls

A staff writer for Digital Camera World, Beth has an extensive background in various elements of technology with five years of experience working as a tester and sales assistant for CeX. After completing a degree in Music Journalism, followed by obtaining a Master's degree in Photography awarded by the University of Brighton, she spends her time outside of DCW as a freelance photographer specialising in live music events and band press shots under the alias 'bethshootsbands'.