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Picture preview: Gideon Mendel – Drowning World


In an attempt to search for ways to show the world the effects of climate change through a Drowning World, Gideon Mendel's only other camera on his journey was, alongside the lives affected, paralysed by flood waters.

Click here to view a gallery of images from Gideon Mendel's upcoming exhibition

Capturing images from recent floods in the UK, India, Haiti, Pakistan, Australia and Thailand Gideon takes a look at the still format to focus on the long term threatening values. From a halting, non-journalistic, perspective he catches the after-affect shots, as opposed to the frantic journalist, capturing images during a flood.

“The look is more of a question,” says the philanthropic photographer, pondering at the thought, to what extent is what we are doing affecting the world?

The definition of the type of imagery for his exhibition lies in the way he depicts the photographic engagement with people. They appear to give an accusing gaze at the camera and for Mendel this does not necessarily give a clear didactic and obvious explanation for their looks.

“I’m a complete flood vulture and it’s about getting there in time,” said the rolleiflex camera user.

It was while he was in Haiti that one of these “basic-to-use” cameras were dropped into the floods and evidently sucked up water. Bear in mind he usually takes two or three cameras with him and on this occasion, only took two.

The affects, although not deliberate, were that the flood waters not only immersed themselves forcefully into people’s lives but they also found their way to mediating directly onto the film.

Although being left slightly frustrated with a damaged, gradually depleting camera, he did not lose focus of the stagnant look he was trying to gather from the surrounding locals.

Undeniably flooding and climate change is a complex subject. With increasing weather events it would most certainly be ironic if more floods occurred during his exhibition.

“There are lots of flood alerts at the moment and nothing is comparable with floods.

“I am a parent and have young children so I wanted to make a statement. I wanted to show the effects climate change will have on our younger generations. Usually images of climate change are of polar bears. I wanted to show further evidence of issues and flooding is a particularly difficult issue to take on."

In 2007 he photographed the last major floods in the North of England and was then on the path of alternative routes to portray his views on the way the world is changing through its climate.

“When I was in Australia the floods were like toilets; flushing up and down quickly. You had to get there in time.”

For Gideon it is about getting to the floods in time and according to him flooding in places like Thailand is more obtainable.

“The floods in Thailand last for several weeks and it’s easy to get access to people and get pictures.

“It is the physical challenge in poor countries as it is difficult to get to the flooding situations."

Previously having worked on several projects in Africa focusing on HIV/AIDS and during his time in 2008 in Mexico the seemingly humanitarian said: “I pray. But not for myself.” He wanted a metaphorical way of looking at the severity of flooding and the photos at his upcoming Somerset House exhibition, Drowning World, look at the key issues of this.


“I was walking through a village, the road was about 200m away and these women were walking to the road through the flood to get cooking oil. They were trying to continue with their necessities of life and I caught them walking neck-deep in water.”


“I took some pictures on high water and some of the locals even took me to their home. I went to different locations and they wanted to show me their homes. They wanted to show an alternative view of what they go through. For me it is not manipulation but collaboration and then I get to show the rest of the world.”


“Among the residual structure from flood water damage I found some photographs in Australia damaged by flood waters. They were all that was left from the flood so we’re trying to discover how we’re going to exhibit them. It’s definitely going to be interesting…”

Drowning World is at Somerset House, London, from 10 May until 5 June