Passepartout is all about documentaries and visual stuff I find worth seeing.

The beautiful drama: photos of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill

The 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was an environmental disaster. Photographer Daniel Beltra took these amazing photos of the spill and I find it fascinating how such a drama can look so beautiful. I cannot stop looking at these photos and I wonder, does the beauty blind the eye for what really happened?

In the research I conducted at the University of Amsterdam, I tested people’s perceptions of beautiful photos depicting drama (World Press Photo images). I found out that the beauty does blind the eye to what really happens in the photos. The photos were depicting human drama though, and I wonder whether these photos of the Gulf of Mexico spill would bring similar results if people’s perception was tested.

Despite the undeniable quality of these photos, I think it would be interested to research more into the effects of the aesthetics on perception and what can such photos – which can be found quite easily these days – do on the long term. Do we become immune? Less involved? Less likely to act?

Daniel Beltra has been awarded the Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year for the 2011 Veolia Environment photo contest. And he received the Wildlife Photography of the Year award from the jury for the photos with the pelicans, which I find the most illustrative of the drama. But how illustrative?

You can see more and buy the beautiful book – SPILL – here.

Daniel Beltra book on Deepwater oil spill pollution








All images © Daniel Beltra

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