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Water - Signed

Water - Signed

by Ian Berry

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Over the course of 15 years, Magnum photojournalist Ian Berry travelled the globe to document the inextricable links between landscape, life and water. This new book brings together a selection of the resulting images which collectively tell the story of man’s complex relationship with water — at a time when climate change demonstrates just how precariously water and life are intertwined.

More about this book

The inspiration for Berry to embark on this ambitious project was reporting Greenland’s shrinking glaciers and ice melt, working alongside Danish climatologists, for The Climate Group. This coincided with increased concern and awareness of climate change acceleration, and he found himself increasingly documenting the extremes of wildfires, droughts, floods, pollution, deforestation, and the people impacted by these events.

The photographs in the book illustrate the dichotomy of our relationship with water—the role it plays in ancient religious rituals and in building communities, to its exploitation and the devastating result of too little or too much water. They depict Hindus bathing in the Ganges, shellfish-gatherers in coastal Spain; cities leveled to be flooded for the Three Gorges Dam in China; polluted sea surrounding oil infrastructure in Baku, Azerbaijan; fishermen in Greenland navigating melting ice in the ocean; landscapes transformed to dust bowls by drought in South Africa and to villages made into islands by annual flooding in Bangladesh. It was not Berry’s intention to make a political book, nor an authoritative catalog of man’s interactions with water, but instead to share the most memorable stories from his assignments that illustrate how water shapes our lives and what the future may hold.

An exhibition of the project will be on display at Visa Pour I’image in Perpignan from 2 -17 September 2023.

Published 25 May 2023
Essay by Kathie Webber
215 x 307mm
180pp, 93 images
ISBN 978-1-910401-94-1

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  • 'The images of human suffering are offset by shots of sublime natural beauty including The Nelchina Glacier in the US, and New Zealand’s Fox Glacier. Yet these awe-inspiring landscapes shouldn’t lull the reader into complacency. Considering the speed at which glaciers are melting has doubled in the last 20 years, the subtext of these particular images is that catastrophe is waiting to happen, unless we mend our ways.'

    Aesthetica magazine

  • Ian Berry was born in Lancashire, England. He made his reputation in South Africa, where he worked for the Daily Mail and later for Drum magazine. He was the only photographer to document the massacre at Sharpeville in 1960, and his photographs were used in the trial to prove the victims' innocence.

    Henri Cartier-Bresson invited Berry to join Magnum in 1962 when he was based in Paris. He moved to London in 1964 to become the first contract photographer for The Observer Magazine. Since then assignments have taken him around the world: he has documented Russia's invasion of Czechoslovakia; The Troubles in Northern Ireland; conflicts in Israel, Vietnam, and the Congo; famine in Ethiopia; and apartheid in South Africa. The major body of work produced in South Africa is represented in two of his books: Black and Whites: L'Afrique du Sud, with a foreword by the then French president François Mitterrand, and Living Apart (1996) foreword by the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

    Important editorial assignments have included work for National Geographic, Fortune, Stern, Geo, national Sunday magazines, Esquire, Paris-Match, and Life. Berry has also reported on the political and social transformations in China and the former USSR. Recent projects have involved tracing the route of the Silk Road through Turkey, Iran, and southern Central Asia to northern China for Conde Nast Traveler, photographing Berlin for a Stern supplement, the Three Gorges Dam project.

  • ‘I have gradually become aware through the years of my gathering images that something extraordinary was happening to our world—this year has shown above all others that the planet is struggling. There is too much water in some places, too little in others. Ice is melting at an unprecedented pace and it’s so very easy to dismiss what is happening when we see it briefly on TV and then it’s gone. I am concerned that our ecosystem is less than robust and if just a few people think of ways in which we can support it, I feel I can rest and let my work tell its tale.’

    - Ian Berry