Abstract

In his body of photographs, Samalada (2008), the Chinese artist Adou uses extremely expired film; the resulting artifacts—marks of the animal, vegetable, and mineral matter composing film surfaces—are as visible a part of the photographs as their depictions of relations among humans, animals, plants, cultural artifacts, earth and sky in southwestern China. Adou and other photographers in China, Japan, and the West working in a time of environmental crisis understand film itself in ecological terms. The very materiality and forms of photographic images are emergent from and interact with larger ecosystems of matter, bodies, spaces, surfaces, markings, liquids, pollution, light, and the atmosphere, thereby allowing the human to be seen as one among many contingent agents within ecological processes. Photography thus becomes a crucial site for staging and rethinking fundamental questions of the relations between culture and nature—and for learning to picture the Anthropocene.

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