American photographer and environmental activist J. Henry Fair captures disastrously beautiful aerial photographs of Earth for his series, Industrial Scars. In reality, these stunning images document the toll that our rampant consumerism is taking on our environment. By peeling back the layers of what it takes to produce the modern luxuries we take for granted, Fair forces us to confront the price we are paying for convenience.
Fair’s book, Industrial Scars: The Hidden Costs of Consumption, is a compelling work where the photographer’s images are accompanied by text written by award-winner science writer Lewis Smith. Smith helps break down each industry, for instance, explaining in detail how we move from burning coal to producing electricity and what effects it has on the planet. Coupled together, they empower readers with the knowledge to make more informed decisions.
“I hope my pictures will help people realize the power they have as consumers,” Fair shares with us via email. “Everything that we purchase has a hidden cost to our planetary life support systems that is usually not included in the purchase price. Our situation is dire, but we can all affect it by changing our buying habits, which will force the producers to change their methods, and by demanding that our governments enact regulations to protect our children.”
Fair shot his work from small planes, supported by Southwings and Lighthawk. Pushing himself creatively, he came away with a series of photographs in which industrial waste is twisted into abstract beauty. Coal appears as thick daubs of oil paint across a blue canvas in Louisiana, and a colorful kaleidoscope of colorful rivers is actually a sign of aluminum pollution.
“In developing this series, the essential challenge was to make a compelling image that moves viewers emotionally, but with those many layers of information and relevance available to anyone that wanted to dig deeper. Beauty without meaning is decoration, context without beauty is pedantic.”