Through the Lens: Nyani Quarmyne

As part of the day-job, my head has been in "climate change" for quite some time so I was thrilled to come across this piece (it will probably help to read the article right about now) featuring the work of Ghanian photographer Nyani Quarmyne documenting the gradual erosion of an entire village in coastal Ghana. Looking at these homes, it is difficult to image that these houses were once 3 miles from the ocean!

While this type of erosion is certainly not new (see Helga Kohl's documentation of the same challenge taking place in Namibia or National Geographic's journey through The Sahel), Quarmyne adds a unique angle by photographing individuals in their sand-invaded homes. According to the artist:

“I tried to create images that look someone in the eye and through the connection that’s created — experience for a moment what they’re going through,” he said. “I was trying to humanize, to personalize, to individualize, rather than get away from the big picture, the common stereotypes that I see.”

I found myself very intrigued by the idea that by having a person in a picture, especially one in which the subject is looking directly into the camera, may "humanizes" an image. In this case, I personally found the structure of the images less personalized. When a person is posed, I tend to associate that more with the artist (in this case a photographer) creating a work of art in which his own version is included, rather than being a 100% caption of how that person is without the artist. I guess since I tend to look at more photojournalists images, I have come to associate their work with the realm of fully humanizing an experience. In addition, at times, the absence of a person can be just as powerful as I found to be the case with Helga Kohl's work and why I'm often so drawn to images of abandoned spaces.

Nevertheless, Quarmyne certainly captures a phenomenon in a distinct and beautiful way and makes me ponder the reality of the lives of those from this village as well as other areas whose lives are being uprooted by environmental changes beyond their control....

{Photos: Nyani Quarmyne via (including quote) The Lens}

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