Sustainability vs. Photography

An analog image of a woman draging a sledge with her son through the snow in Berlin.

At first glance, sustainability and photography don’t seem to go against each other. What could be detrimental to the environment if you took an image? Let’s think about it, shall we? 

The first thing that comes to mind are the tools. Cameras and film needs to be produced and developed — with chemicals that have traditionally not been very kind to the environment. I would argue, though, that the behavior of photographers is arguably more important to look at. All the traveling to far-off places and the emissions from it are supercharged by promoting these places and attracting ever more people to go travel, which includes flying and driving for the most part. In short, I think there is a responsibility as photographers to consume less ourselves, and be aware of what we project into the world, because we do tend to have an amplified voice. 

What does that mean for my photography personally? Apart from using the most sustainable chemicals one can buy and repairing and recycling my gear whenever possible, it’s the choice of subject. Looking at our everyday lives and the world we live in, my visual interpretation is a tender and positive look at our closest surroundings, without the need for travel. If that small radius foreshadows our future or if it really is just a personal preference remains to be seen.