Barbara Dombrowski, photographer and visual artist
Please let me introduce myself: I am a German renowned photographer and artist. After studying visual communication at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Dortmund I was granted a scholarship in art which enabled me to live in Paris for four years pursuing my career as a photographer. Returning to Hamburg where I live for over twenty years, I dedicated my work to places affected by climate change.
I am focusing on relevant and specific climate localities and their population living between established tradition and global modernity. Their existence and their space to live are seriously threatened by outer influences of our modern world, be it through direct or indirect impacts of climate change.
I initiated my project on two continents of two extreme climate zones: In East Greenland and at the Amazon basin in Ecuador. My approach towards indigenous people of the rain forest in comparison to the other side of the world, native people at the North Pole within their environment inevitably meant for me participating in their daily lives, spending time with them on a personal level and observing their habits, their way of life. Thus I was able to take intimate portraits with their natural surroundings.
Building bridges between cultures: In 2013 I returned to these places with large format photographs only to implement my vision of confronting two peoples living in two climate extremes. Showing them their photographs and gaining their trust I realized a large format installation. Integrating and enclosing the photographs to the rain forest and mounting them on icebergs I achieved my goal, creating a bridge between two cultures (Vimeo video: Tropic Ice).
For my installations I chose light textile banners with a measurement of a small upright standing human being of 112 cm x 165 cm. Being hung up in very different climate zones they had their own challenging situations: Either the emulsion of the banners had to last in high humidity inside the rainforest or remain despite strong cold winds in Greenland. Nevertheless their journey displayed harsh evidence of extreme conditions. It almost seemed as if they were racked with pain and it really hurt me when I looked at them again. Being under influence of nature which is destroying my images, a new level of perspective opened up for me.
Continuing my project on other continents I recently worked in Gobi Desert in southern Mongolia, stayed with the Maasai Tribe People in the Republic of Tansania at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro and lived a small period of time with the people of North Tarawa in Kiribati, Oceania, the third, forth and fifth continent affected by climate change.
Not only did the selected communities represent all continents they also emblematized other criteria such as climate zones and tipping points. I lived with the Maasai tribe in Tansania, with Mongolian nomads of the Desert Gobi and last I stayed in a village of the south pacific island Kiribati.
After completing the photo-documentation which was basically the starting point for my ideas and which was delivering the tangible material to work with, I am now able to bring together all the people I photographed in a more comprehensive and larger installation. Again, as in Greenland and for the Amazonia Rainforest I chose for the textile banners a rather light material.
Through my long-lasting years of intensive work, by visiting diverse peoples, and through the contact to shamans I gained an insight into widely different realities of life. As being animists many peoples have still an ancient belief. A direct and close connection to nature is very relevant to them and they cherish the traditional laws. Animists believe that everything is filled with life, that everything takes an equal space within a circle: Every animal, every plant, every stone and every human being.
We, as the people of the global North, our relationship towards nature had been under influences of christian religion, as well as through education, and can thus be characterized as a superior position resulting in an exploitation of resources.
We are now in the era of Anthropocene in which man became nature’s most influencing factor. As distinguished from our relationship towards nature I was more inspired by the belief of animists towards their natural surroundings. I decided to frame my second installation cycle borrowing from the depiction of a circle in multiple cultures, their symbolic and its meaning: The center of the circle is represented by five people of five continents shaping a pentagon. On the outer circle path people from all continents are facing each other or standing next to each other. Various dialogues developed between people and connected images and their depicted persons. However, all of them remained a part as a whole united inside the circle.
What are my goals and whom am I targeting?
Climate change is not an abstract phenomenon anymore. Furthermore not only you’ll find change at the global South it is omnipresent at the global North as well. Last year’s significant demonstrations and protests around the Hambacher Forest showed clearly our own situation. Therefore I will proceed on my cycle of installations and will start soon close to the Hambacher Coal Mines in late summer 2019. Following this project I will be exhibiting in Tansania, the Gobi Desert and on the Islands of Kiribati. There, inside the South Pacific Ocean at the lagoon area of Tarawa I am planning to erect the medicine wheel on which I will mount the images. Eventually and inevitably the large format photographs will be drowned by rising waters. I will be filming this second important cycle.
My goal is to reach out to the public to gain interest for our immediate life situation affected by climate change. Showcasing sensitive portraits of Indigenous and other people within their natural environment and the direct impact of our behavior towards nature is tackling the situation in a tangible way. It can be experienced through the stories of those people already struggling and suffering by the change of climate. I hope my project will challenge our general western attitude to an improved consumption behavior. By taking all continents into account I am creating a tension enabling me to publish the global dimension of climate change.
Become an important part of my art-project of climate change!
Every person can become a part of it! How does it work? All peoples can integrate themselves by uploading their photograph with name and nationality and a little support of some Euro. Small praying flags will carry their picture around the next installations and will be shown on the website as a part of the community. #Art-4-future.de
Barbara Dombrowski ist Fotografin und Künstlerin. Sie wurde in Stuttgart geboren und lebt nach dem Studium der visuellen Kommunikation in Dortmund und 4 Jahren in Paris seit 1996 in Hamburg. Seit dieser Zeit ist sie auch Mitglied der Fotoagentur laif in Köln.
Neben Auftragsarbeiten für namhafte Magazine, Hilfsorganisationen und Direktkunden unterrichtet sie Dokumentarfotografie. Sie erhielt für ihre Arbeiten bereits mehrfach Stipendien und Preise und stellt diese regelmäßig aus.
Tropic Ice, Barbara Dombrowski gibt dem Klimawandel ein Gesicht.
Bereits im 10. Jahr arbeitet sie an einem ambitionierten, weltweiten Foto-Kunstprojekt, dass den Klimawandel zum Thema hat. Auf 5 Kontinenten besuchte sie an klimarelevanten Orten Menschen und portraitierte diese und die sie umgebenden Landschaften und machte sie damit zu Botschaftern ihrer Kontinente und Klimazonen. In der Gegenüberstellung der Menschen in Form eines Kreises verknüpft sie diese mit eindringlichen, großformatigen Fotografien in Installationen. Der Klimawandel bedroht nicht nur abstrakte Orte, sondern auch die Menschen. Das ist das wesentliche Thema des Installationsprojekts Tropic Ice.
In Folge der Arbeit Tropic Ice konnte sie bereits mehrfach ihre Expertise in die Diskussion über die Visualisierung des Klimawandels einbringen. Dazu zählen Vorträge an der Universität Salzburg, der 3 Klimaclusterkonferrenz in Berlin, im Klimahaus Bremerhaven, dem Enjust Workshop der Universität Kiel uvm. Mit ihrer Ausstellung Tropic Ice war sie offizieller Partner der Stadt Bonn und der UN zum COP23.
Mit dem Klimaexzellenzcluster Hamburg und der Soziologieprofessorin Anita Engels erarbeitete sie aktuell das Buch „Alltagswelten im Klimawandel“. Mit dem Klimaxzellenzcluster "Future Ocean“ der Universität Kiel kooperierte sie in Kiribati zum Thema Klimawandelanpassung, Klimamigration und Klimagerechtigkeit in Ozeanien.
Further information about awards and exhibitions please click on:
The book Tropic Ice_amazonia and Tropic Ice_greenland, pictures and posters are on sale in my webshop: