Environmental Photography leaves an impression

The bright lights glaring over the photographs on the wall, combined with the crowd in the small room, quickly heated up the gallery at the Environmental Photography: 7 Photographers, 7 Issues exhibit. The heat did not stop the crowd from talking excitedly as they read the information cards next to each of the seven sets of photographs.

A project was set forth by Santa Monica College photography instructors Bob Ware, Larry Jones, and Gerard Burkhart, along with input from photographers from the Getty.

The project is for seven SMC photography students to capture environmental issues of their interest.

Projects range from broad topics like pollution in the Los Angeles water system, to odd and specific topics like diapers. But all of the topics concern the same thing, and in the words of project instructor Ware, they all have the same goal which is to “leave the viewer with an impression."

Paola Roblesgil, a student focusing her project on oil independence asked, “Can we really be independent from petroleum?”

Photographs show distant but ever-present oilrigs off the Pacific Coast and are set against everyday items that are made from petroleum, like running shorts and bicycles, possibly implying the impossible independence from petroleum in a society that depends on it tremendously.

Matthew Anderson, another exhibit participant, concerned himself more with the damage to local wildlife in his project on the Ballona Wetlands.

Anderson's work portrays a shot of a jogger above a highly polluted river and that of a dead rabbit on the road with cars racing off in the distance.

Nestor Miranda captured the extent of waste in the local Los Angeles waterways by biking along 51 miles along Compton Creek, the L.A. River, and the Pacific Coast to get photos of animals calling the toxic environments their homes.

Some of the projects have a more positive focus. Angie Graves’ project on choosing local food over processed food shined a light on the fact that because we live in L.A., it is much easier to do the former.

The families in her pictures are shown milking cows, growing vegetable gardens, and raising chickens. For Graves, the more important photos are the ones not taken – “the average food item travels 1,500 miles before reaching an American table,” says Graves, which wastes resources like oil.

However, farming can be hard work, as Paulo Marquín captures in his project on organic farms, taking the romance out of organic food by demonstrating the human cost that supplements the high food cost of buying and eating organic.

Marquin's photographs focus on struggling migrant farmers, who cannot afford to buy the very food they labor over.

Simone Paz’s project on diapers documented the fact that the average baby will go through 8,000 to 13,000 diapers from birth to potty training. Paz suggests using cloth diapers, the non-disposable option, use two times less oil and three times less water.

The last photograph of Jen May’s Pollution Solution project captures the biggest problem with the environment. It shows a garbage can with a ‘Keep Our Beaches Clean’ sign – and a bottle in the sand right next to it.

Environmental Photography: 7 Photographers, 7 Issues is on display on the 2nd floor gallery of Drescher Hall until Sept. 30.

Click here for a campus map showing the location of Drescher Hall.