First created as a response to the one dimensional and sensationalist reporting by the US media, the work looks at the long term effects of the climate crisis on the lives of individuals
The beginning of the Biden presidency has been viewed by many as the start of a new era of climate policy in the US – one that hopes to undo the significant damage caused by Trump during his four-year tenure in the White House. But, regardless of how earnestly the government addresses this issue, one thing seems unlikely to change: the way it is portrayed by its media. Despite engaging with a subject as pervasive and impactful as climate change, the coverage of climate disasters in the US media is often sensationalist and ephemeral. No sooner have networks picked up a story and run it than it has been archived and forgotten, shrinking into the distance as the next climate disaster rushes in to dominate the headlines.
Photographer Bryan Anselm’s ongoing project Between the Wood and Tide was initiated in direct response to this fleeting and often unsatisfactory coverage. After photographing the disasters as they unfold on assignment for various publications, he then returns to the affected areas months or even years later in order to capture the troubles that continue to plague nearby communities. In his photographs we witness the slow recovery of affected residents who remain in temporary accommodation for months following the destruction of their homes. “Even when revisiting regions six months after a disaster you’ll find people still living without power or drinkable water,” explains Anselm. “Others live in FEMA trailers next to the rubble of their home or in government allocated hotels for years.”
So far, Between the Wood and Tide encompasses images of the aftermath of six hurricanes and countless floods that have wreaked havoc across the US. The project recognises the endless struggle faced by residents who remain in a liminal existence between ruin and recovery long after the dust has settled. Their stories are replaced by those who have since been affected by the most recent disaster, and the cycle continues. By photographing the long-term effects of climate change for many different communities, Anselm also hopes to create a body of work that can engage with the macro through the micro. He hopes to capture a more general, “country-wide malaise” associated with the subject, and creating a space to pose questions around the US’ future: “Can someone adapt to live in a home that floods every single year? Can we relocate millions of people from portions of Miami, New Orleans, Houston, Charleston and New York in the next 100 years, or will we just abandon parts of these cities?” are some of his lines of inquiry.
With the global temperature set to rise by at least 3.5°C degrees over the next century, bringing with it an onslaught of disasters, Anselm envisions Between the Wood and Tide to be a lifelong project. It will capture the US’ developing relationship with climate change, showing how it attempts to tackle a problem that should have been addressed a long time ago. Anselm, looks despairingly but realistically at the future. He realises that his work may well become a testament to humanity’s reluctance to deal with inconvenient truths: “We’ve never liked to change the way that we do things until it’s absolutely necessary, but if we choose to wait until necessity here, then there’s really no reason to change at all – it will be too late.”
Daniel Milroy Maher is a London-based writer and editor specialising in photographic journalism. His work has been published by The New York Times, Magnum Photos, Paper Journal, GUP Magazine, and VICE, among others. He also co-founded SWIM Magazine, an annual art and photography publication.