Photographer Gideon Mendel shows global flooding in Drowning World at Somerset House

By Ben Miller | 23 May 2012
A photo of two Indian women submerged under floodwater outside their homes
© Gideon Mendel
Exhibition: Drowning World, Somerset House, London, until June 5 2012

Since 2007, Gideon Mendel has watched the effects of flooding in the UK, India, Haiti, Pakistan, Australia and Thailand, picturing those caught up within their homes on old Rolleiflex cameras using film.

“Making these images often involved returning with them through waist-high floodwaters so they could show their circumstances to the world,” he recalls, returning to record footage for two accompanying video works.

“My intention is to depict them as individuals, not as nameless statistics. Coming from disparate parts of the world, their faces show us their linked vulnerability despite the vast differences in their lives and circumstances.”

Mendel says he shows his subjects “within the landscape of their own personal calamity”, and it’s never been a theme he’s shied from, however unsettling that might prove.

While the size of an issue might make its personal consequences less visible to the world – Mendel has spent years studying various aspects of the complex AIDS crisis across Africa – these portraits aim to make the reality of flooding more immediate to viewers.

He doesn’t show people fleeing, as is often the norm: in Pakistan and Australia (shown in videos made within six months of each other), communities are calmly rebuilding. In Bangkok, they are resigned to change.

Occasionally, when the images themselves are damaged, they testify to the lengths Mendel had to go to in pursuit of telling a more tangible story. They should raise awareness of an increasingly pressing environmental problem.

  • Open 10am-6pm. Admission free.

More pictures:

A photo of two young people mopping the floor inside a room of their flooded home
© Gideon Mendel
A photo of a group of people in Buddhist robes standing over floodwaters near their home
© Gideon Mendel
A photo of a hut surrounded by floodwater under a blue sky next to thin trees
© Gideon Mendel
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