suckerPUNCH: Describe your project.
Melissa ANDERSON: This project attempts to make people become more empathetic by relating environmental issues to the human body by pairing portraits with unadulterated photographs of a local stream. By doing this, I encourage the viewer to question our relationship with nature.
The photographs depict a local water quality issue. Blue tongue disease is directly related to water quality and quantity. Extreme salivation and fatigue are just a few characteristics of the virus, blue tongue disease, infecting and killing up to 80% of deer population in certain regions in the United States this year due to drought. The illness can usually be treated with water. But this year with low water levels coupled with high levels of contamination from agriculture and urban run-off: infection surely means death. The list of environmental issues linked with low-water levels doesn’t stop with this virus.
A warning from our own health authority, KDHE, accurately captures the gravity of the problem: “Do not eat bottom-feeding fish taken in the Kansas River from Lawrence, Kansas: limited to certain portion sizes per month”
The warning relates to concerns about mercury content. We are reminded of the devastating physical and neurological deformities which afflicted thousands of Japanese in the city of Minamata due to the release of methylmercury into Minamata Bay over a thirty year period. It would seem that there is a widespread tendency to ignore the lessons of the past, much as there is to ignore the consequences our actions have established for the future demanding the question of what is the price being paid upon our land due to industry and luxury comforts.
sP: What or who influenced this project?
MA: I returned home for a couple of months after studying abroad for a year and the landscape looked so different to me. I think the time away really allowed for me to see the differences compared to how people usually don’t notice the subtle changes.
sP: What were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?
MA: What inspired me the most for this project was Cohen Van Balen’s Cook Me Project. I loved how I couldn’t get the imagery from the project out of my head.
sP: Whose work is currently on your radar?
MA: Lucy McRae.
I would like to thank my friends for being models or being helpful critics: Andy Haverkamp, Charles Passmore, Lea Anderson, Macey Hundley , Alicia Bigelow, Andy Massey, and Lauree Tomson.