Book Review: Human Nature by Lucas Foglia
By Claudia Shaldervan
Images provided by Lucas Foglia
The 21st Century often feels like the intermission before an apocalyptic fanfare. According to The Guardian, humans have an estimated 15 years to remedy the effects of climate change before our terrifying reality becomes irreversible. In the face of the planetary crisis, Lucas Foglia journeys through remote and urban areas across the globe to document how humans impact their surrounding environment, and to understand what role nature assumes in modern life.
Lucas Foglia presents a painfully ironic, unsettling reality; that human development is intrinsic to worsening climate change. Just this summer California, Portugal, and Greece experienced some of the most ferocious wildfires recorded in centuries, and the disasters are only going to increase due to rising temperatures. Level 3 storms ravaged The Americas and Southeast Asia, leaving hundreds buried under rubble and without proper means to care for survivors. This week, NASA observed a significant breakage from the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica, a rectangular behemoth two miles long and hundreds of feet deep. In the Trump Administration, organizations fighting climate change face significant budget cuts. This acknowledges but a few urgencies.
Lucas Foglia’s story begins in North America and draws from past projects of documenting communities thriving in the countryside by alternative means. The narrative is extrapolated to Hawaii, Singapore, and the expansive Alaskan glaciers. One could call Human Nature a manifesto. Human Nature juxtaposes images of paradise with the ubiquity of industry and urbanization. The opening triptych is saturated with Emersonian tranquility: Matt, a mechanical engineer, swings naked between trees in Lost Coast, California. He is followed by a reinterpreted Monet of Maddie submerged in a pool choked by water lilies, and an image of Rachel smothered in mud, experiencing convulsions of joy. The three individuals share backgrounds of environmental activism and live in communities where cooperatives, foraging, and environmental education is practiced. Conceived but a year ago using digital means, some photographs nonetheless invoke a primordial, sacred experience of Nature despite their dependency on technology to exist.
Oregon: A ghostly mist creeps up the hill, seeping through decimated stumps. Nate kneels with a chainsaw in hand, indulging in a brief respite before resuming the battle. He gazes at the canopy of a tree he is going to fell; one of thousands in a forest planted 60 years before. Nate’s melancholy expression contains a saint-like grief, eyes reflecting the exhaustion of the forest and the human body. In the Colorado Space Weather Prediction Center, Charles monitors the sun, gazing up at renderings of the glowing orb which rest complacently inside computer monitors. In California, Alicia stands before a mountain of flames: one can almost hear the deafening sound of the fire. Her pose exudes a confrontational energy, conjuring emotional and physical hardship. A new crop will be sown on the place of its ashes, and the cycle will resume. Passion blooms on the last page in an image of Goda and Lev performing as the modern Adam and Eve. The couple makes love on a carpet of lush grass, their act proposing a possibility for change.
Human Nature’s power emanates from its diversity: the inclusion of different generations, professions, and locations. The manner in which people occupy and behave in metropolitan or rural settings express a truth about humanity,“...now there is no place on Earth unaltered by people,” Lucas Foglia says in an article, “which has led many to argue that Nature no longer exists.” Less time is spent in nature, and “wild” places untarnished by human footprint are scarce. It is our generation’s duty to understand the gravity of what the future holds for Earth, and collaborate on repairing the planet’s dearest gift before time has trickled out. The passion and masterful way with which Lucas Foglia crafted Human Nature shows how intimate the artist is with the subject of climate change, and how he mediates between the viewer (who might not spend the quotidian pondering this emergency), and the terrifying, desolate world to come.