Both images — from The Day After Tomorrow, by J Henry Fair — are as deceptive as they are beautiful.
Mr. Fair documents the environmental degradation of our planet by focusing his camera on mining, toxic sludge, the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and more. (The red image on top is from an unknown location; the bottom image shows toxic water in Geismar, Louisiana.)
Here at Society Matters, we’re fascinated by these photos because they illustrate a point we make regularly: Pictures often are not windows that reveal the world, but walls that obscure it. Images become objects to admire (the colors! the contrast! the symmetry!) instead of visual reminders of reality (we are poisoning our planet).
Which strongly suggests that photography doesn’t necessarily “inspire people to care about the planet” (the mission of the National Geographic Society); instead, photography often inspires us to care about photography.
Reality and pictures of reality: They’re not the same thing.