When we think about imagery depicting the effects of climate change, photographs of polar bears swimming in melting northern regions or other cinematic images of geological trauma are usually called to mind. Rarely do we see how the degradation of our natural environment affects us in subtler ways, like the ethereal shifts in our atmosphere or the texture of unprecedented balmy climate on our skin. These more discrete sensations are the very moments photographer George Marazakis seeks to highlight in his series A Cure for the Anthropocene – a photographic project likening our degradation of the planet to an autoimmune disease.
The Holocene is the official name of our current epoch on the Geologic Time Scale, characterized by a shift in temperature that was initiated by the last ice age – approximately 11,650 calendar years before our present day. But as we know, with the steady growth of technology after the Industrial Revolution, humans have negatively impacted the planet in a far shorter, more recent period of time. This has caused many scientists to define a new epoch for our current situation: the Anthropocene – characterized by carbon emissions, and in particular the production and over-consumption of plastic goods. The term for this era is derived from the Greek term anthropos, which means ‘human,’ directly calling out the primary role of human civilization in the degradation of our planet.
The idea to frame his natural landscape as a symbol for disease did not come to Marazakis right away. Instead, he slowly made the connection over time, after realizing he was continuously drawn to a generating a certain type of landscape photography. “While I was photographing the landscapes affected by human interactions in the middle of natural spaces, the topography started looking like a body to me – like something with the early stages of psoriasis on its skin,” he explains. “If humans are a product of nature, then we can say that we are a disease attacking our own organism, just like an immune system can attack its own body – like autoimmune diseases.”
The ominous tone of Marazakis’ images are grounded in their muted color scheme, which makes the scenes appear somewhat extraterrestrial. It’s surprising to learn that they were all taken in Greece, where overcast days are few and far between. “These are the original colors and scenes,” Marazakis says. “I almost never go out shooting in harsh light, and I really love heavy clouds and fog, which are hard to find in Greece. To achieve this result, most of my work is made in the winter, in the early morning or late afternoon.”
While the photographer’s work deals with the critical issue of climate degradation, he hopes this series can shed light on the possibilities of finding a cure. “While from this perspective, our very existence is the autoimmune disease, the cure doesn’t aim for the salvation of the planet. Rather, it aims for the salvation of human existence on the planet.” That hope is solidified in the title, which directly points to the possibility for this ‘cure.’ Marazakis concludes, “If human civilization is in fact a disease, then it can also be the cure. But if the cure to the planet’s disease isn’t self-restriction, it will result in self-extermination. After all, the salvation of the planet is a different concept than the salvation of humanity.”