‘Capture 2012’ to explore photography’s role in capturing slo-mo environmental disasters

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This image by Thomas Hoepker is part of the "Coal + Ice" exhibition, which Yale scholar Laura Wexler cites as a model of how photography can be used to link environmental abuse to human societies.

How can photography capture the slow depletion of the world’s natural resources, the imperceptible but steady rise in atmospheric temperature, or the long-term consequences of environmental degradation on human survival? This is among the questions that will be raised by an international group of historians, photographers, human-rights specialists, filmmakers and environmentalists when they gather at Yale Law School Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 12 and 13, for a conference titled “Capture 2012.”

Free and open to the public, the conference takes place on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 12 and 13, at Yale Law School, 127 Wall St. See the complete schedule.

“Capture 2012” aims to create a new interdisciplinary discussion about the relations between contemporary practices of photography, the defense of rights, and the protection of the environment, say the meeting’s organizers. Joined by young researchers in the humanities and social sciences, the multidisciplinary group of scholars and practitioners will present and discuss their ideas about how these spheres of action interact.  

“Photography is often thought of as a way to collect and disseminate evidence of human rights violations in order to call for immediate action, but ‘Capture 2012’ proposes to draw attention to the fact that human rights violations are almost never presented in the larger environmental context in which they occur,” notes Laura Wexler, who heads the Photographic Memory Workshop at Yale and organized the event with Noam Gal and Itamar Mann of Yale.

Photography has been used effectively to link environmental abuses to human societies, Wexler notes, pointing to the documentary photography exhibition “Coal + Ice,” in which photographers from all over the world follow the trajectory of coal from underground mines to the glaciers of the Himalayas — which, because of the widespread use of coal, are melting at an accelerated pace, ultimately disrupting the lives of millions downstream.

The conference is supported by Public Humanities at Yale, the Orville H. Schell, Jr., Center for International Human Rights, Yale Law School, The Shpilman Institute for Photography, and The Photographic Memory Workshop at Yale.