Greenpeace: half a century at the forefront of environmental photo activism | Environment


Fifty years ago, on September 15, 1971, a ship named Greenpeace set out to confront and stop US nuclear weapons testing at Amchitka, one of the Aleutian Islands in southwestern Alaska.

Two years later, a small boat called the Vega, piloted by David McTaggart, Ann-Marie Horne, Mary Horne and Nigel Ingram sailed into the area of ​​the French nuclear test site at Moruroa, French Polynesia in southern l ‘Pacific Ocean. Photographers had used their images for years to publicize situations around the world. But Greenpeace was a young organization pioneering a new kind of activism: that’s when they began to realize that capturing footage of what they did and saw would play a vital role in their work. .

French commandos board the Vega and attack McTaggart and Ingram. However, in the confusion, Ann-Marie Horne managed to get a few secret snapshots and managed to squeeze the film out of the incident by hiding it inside her vagina. His photos showed commandos armed with knives and batons. The pictures and history therefore made groundbreaking news, fueling controversy over nuclear testing.

After the Vega incident, Greenpeace vowed to photograph everything it did. He quickly learned to harness the power and force of moving images bringing to the world shocking scenes of baby seals pummeled by hunters and inspiring images of activists standing up to whalers.

Activists in protective gear paint
  • Activists in protective gear paint “Amazon Crime!” In white paint on the freighter MV Enif which was loaded with timber from Brazil in Hamburg, Germany, in 2000. Photograph: Fred Dott

In the mid-1980s, the growing organization began to take photography seriously and needed a communications division to professionally manage the growing archive of negatives and rush films that were stored on the floors. of offices, as well as a space dedicated to the condition of the accommodation. – advanced image technology.

A film production area, a photo office and a darkroom have been created in London; there was equipment ranging from the first Leefax AP transmitters to advanced teletext machines for news updates. The processing, printing, editing, captioning and cataloging of the film were all done in-house by a small, dedicated team.

Greenpeace activists disrupt coal loading at world's largest coal port
  • Greenpeace activists disrupt the loading of coal at the world’s largest coal port in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia 2005. Photograph: Richard Green

The Greenpeace images were often featured on Reuters and AP, the BBC and other influential media using the images. A core team of Greenpeace photographers has emerged; these people were industry professionals with empathy for Greenpeace’s ethics and mentally equipped to face the challenges of the organization’s ambitious campaigns.

Greenpeace activists swim with buoys in front of the Finnish icebreaker 'Nordica' in the Baltic Sea near the island of Fehmarn.  They are protesting the ship heading for Shell's Arctic oil drilling project in northern Alaska.  A sign on the buoy with a modified Shell logo reads “Stop Shell”.
University of Miami students and Florida residents show their support for clean energy legislation by holding reels at an electrical substation near campus just before President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry did meet on campus during the first campaign debate, 2004
Fire in the APA (Environmental Protection Zone) of Jamanxim in the city of Novo Progresso, State of Pará, 2019
Dr. Kirsten Thompson, Senior Arctic Sunrise Scientist, collects water samples for eDNA sampling near Paulet Island at the entrance to the Weddell Sea in Antarctica during the Antarctic portion of pole-to-pole expedition, 2020

As the organization continued to grow, newly opened national offices across the world created images for their own national media in different and culturally sensitive styles. The actions have become more ambitious and grandiose, with two or three photographers sometimes mandated for an event.

Over the past 20 years, digital communication has transformed and revolutionized the photography industry. Many small agencies have not survived the changing media landscape generated by the vast consumption and over-saturation of photos available on the Internet. The viewer has the privilege of knowing more about the issue, getting closer to reality, interacting and playing their own role in the story. Climate change, extreme weather events, human displacement, political struggles and even wars can be directly linked to environmental issues and are now the subject of intense debate.

Adult brown pelicans wait in an enclosure to be cleaned up by volunteers at the Fort Jackson International Bird Rescue Research Center in Buras
  • Adult brown pelicans wait in an enclosure to be cleaned up by volunteers at the Fort Jackson International Bird Rescue Research Center in Buras following the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Louisiana 2010. Photo: Daniel Beltrá

Greenpeace’s image bureaus globally encompass all distribution portals – from its relationships with global news agencies to established social networks, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. Photographic technology has gone digital over the 50 years of Greenpeace, but the fundamental tenet of photographic activism remains unchanged. The photographer skillfully captures an important, controversial and revolutionary event and a strategic decision is made as to when and how to release the story to the world.

Through the dedication of a critical ecological campaign, the bravery of the activists, the professionalism of the photographers, knowledgeable communicators and the careful preservation of the organization’s images.

Greenpeace – the pioneer of photographic activism – has remained committed to its core values ​​of exposing environmental injustice through its imagery over the past 50 years.

A man tries to rescue two firefighters, Zhang Liang and Han Xiaoxiong, who are struggling with a thick oil slick, 2010
  • A man tries to rescue two oil firefighters, Zhang Liang and Han Xiaoxiong, who are struggling in a thick oil slick in Dalian, China, in 2010. Photo: Lu Guang


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