Australia is the driest inhabited continent, and therefore identified as one of the most vulnerable areas impacted by the affects of climate change. The excessive heat is responsible for drought, destruction of habitats and dangerous bushfires.
A critical issue, many female and non-binary photographers have joined forces to highlight the devastating impact and results of climate change in Australia, through methods of powerful and intense imagery.
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Professional photographer Hilary Wardhaugh is based in Queanbeyan, the south-eastern region of New South Wales in Australia, and has initiated the Everyday Climate Crisis Visual Petition. This project by Women Photographers Australia is a call to action from women and non-binary people to contribute and supply images that illustrate climate change in Australia.
The project began with an image from Wardhaugh of deceased ladybirds, sharing in conversation with ABC News that, "[I saw] lots of ash everywhere along the beach, and within the ash were millions of ladybirds. You could still see them, so they hadn't been burnt, but they were all dead." The image of the poor ladybirds acted as an unintentional catalyst that kickstarted the project. "It was heartbreaking, and that's why I wanted to start this project".
She continues "I wanted to crowdsource images that illustrate climate change in Australia, and sourcing images from women and non-binary people only… I think it's important that women have a voice, and a voice through photography and creativity."
The goal is to collect 1,000 photographs from photographers and, once that number has been reached, the petition will be submitted to Australia's federal parliament as a visual response to the government's climate change policies.
Australia's climate change crisis continues to intensify, largely attributed to emissions of greenhouse gases, resulting in dangerous bushfires and drought, as well as restriction of agricultural growing seasons and hotter days. If action isn't taken to reverse the current climate crisis, some events are likely to be catastrophic, as well as damage being irreversible.
Submission of the Visual Petition and 1,000 images in digital and printed form will be offered to the National Library of Australia. Contributors have produced some varying creative works in response to how climate change has made them feel and the way that these emotions are interpreted in the project overall. The project and petition are important in recognizing the extensive cultural contribution that female and non-binary photographic artists have made in Australia.
Women Photographers Australia notes that historically, and to this day, most images commissioned by media organizations have been made by those who identify as white men. The initiative and concept of the visual petition promotes diversity and differs such that women and non-binary people of any ability and background can submit images (the deadline being 13 May 2022).
This extremely important visual petition asks for personal images to be supplied and used in the form of protest, for the greater good. Wardhaugh describes the project as photo activism and a method of speaking truth to power. "It is documentation of our environment by lesser represented members of the photographic community".
Wardhaugh feels that by having only women and non-binary people submitting images for the project challenges the industrial, capitalist and economic systems that have gotten residents of Australia to this point.
For more information about the project visual petition and resources you can visit Women Photographers Australia as well as the National Congress of Women website, an initiative of the Women’s Climate Congress.