The atmosphere is strange, disturbing. The sky glows. The earth turns green. The looks are frightened or resigned. In the middle of the night, in the rain, a man gathered his suitcases. Something abnormal is happening, that’s for sure. The scene takes place in the Sundarbans, in the delta of the Ganges, also called the delta of Bengal, straddling India and Bangladesh.
In this intertwining of canals, islands and mangroves, the elements are implacable enemies. Water infiltrates everywhere, the sky carries its devastating cyclones. Even the earth is no longer a refuge. It sags, slips away under the feet of the inhabitants, forced to move each time erosion carries away houses, goods, crops. Dozens of islands have already disappeared.
The largest delta in the world and the most densely populated, formed by the confluence of three rivers, the Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna, is a fragile lace that is under attack from climate change. Abnormality has become the daily life of the inhabitants.
“A dystopia in real time”
Indian photographer Arko Datto, 37, originally from West Bengal, wanted to capture this urgency, explore the precariousness of these existences and document the ongoing catastrophization. His work on the visual representation of climate change was started nine years ago and has evolved considerably over time. He began to photograph by day, portraits and landscapes, in a rather documentary approach, where, despite the light, everything seems grey, the earth, the sky, the river and even the freshwater fish, which are less and less numerous. due to water salinization.
Then he focused on the night, with garish flash images that accentuate the dramatic nature of the threat. “People rush to try to escape the clutches of water and live their lives around them. It’s kind of like a real-time dystopia,” explains Arko Datto.
Ruins of houses everywhere, in the water or on the ground, crumbly like shortbread. The last chapter of his work, “Terra Mutata”, produced in large format and with infrared (a photographic technique used in war zones), reveals landscapes “postapocalyptic” where the inhabitants are nothing more than ghosts. Of the “Ghosts of the Anthropocene”.
“It was while I was working on this project that people started talking to me about how at night they were faced with a situation of terror in the face of water that could come from anywhere, and at any time. at any time, attack them and take the family home or farm, explains the photographer. In the Sundarbans, when it is dark, it is pitch black. The night is synonymous with terror. »
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