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Looking at Suzanne’s stunning photos of the Sahara desert while I have been working on this site, I have often been reminded of one of the most moving photographic exhibitions I have ever seen. Here’s a review of it I wrote for a now-defunct blog back in 2008.
Oh where have you been, my blue-eyed son? *
I’ve been to the Botanic Gardens.
And if that sounds like the opening line from Edward Albee’s “The Zoo Story” (“I’ve been to the zoo. I said, I’ve been to the zoo. MISTER! I’VE BEEN TO THE ZOO!”), then it’s because what followed was every bit as moving and scrotum-grabbingly arresting as the tale told by Albee’s Christ-protagonist, Jerry.
The Jerry-tale here begins thus: in 1969 the young photographer Mark Edwards was in the Sahara desert. And he was lost. As he put it so succinctly in an interview “beautiful place, but no signposts”. Along came a Tuereg nomad (I guess it’s hard to get truly lost in the Sahara, what with all the traffic) who took him to meet his companions and put him up for the night.
There in the Sahara dusk the Tuereg produced two sticks and, using an art lost now even to boy scouts, lit a fire. Then, in a startling juxtaposition of technologies, he used the fire to warm some UM1 batteries, before inserting the latter into a portable cassette player. As the sun set on the desert and the cold kicked in, Edwards found himself listening to the familiar nasal tones of an American-Jewish icon from Duluth, Minnesota, singing “… it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.”
Moments like this one change the flow of history. For Edwards, it began a path that led him to today heading up the leading photo agency specialising in environmental issues, climate change and nature. But it also planted in his mind the seeds of a parallel project.
In the 40 years since, Mark Edwards has visited over 150 countries, photographing and documenting the not always noble effects that mankind has on its fellow man and on the planet that nurtures us. Along with others of his fellows he has put together an exhibition of photos, each illustrating one line of Bob Dylan’s epic.
“Hard Rain – Our Headlong Collision With Nature” is exhibiting in the National Botanic Gardens until August 31st. The images are striking, moving, shocking and beautiful, bringing into bas relief Dylan’s apocalyptic vision of a world gone mad.
The contrast with the idyllic surroundings of the Botanic Gardens adds an ironic drumroll to the message.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Dublin this month, go and see this. Admission is free and there’s much more to see in the gardens besides. Thereafter it will move to the Kilmacurragh Arboretum in Co Wicklow from September 26th to December 1st. It’s also on simultaneous display at other locations around the world.
See it. And react.
* Fortunately for the verisimilitude of this article, I do have blue eyes.
Remember that dates and details above refer to 2008. You can find out more about the Hard Rain Project, and watch the video, here.