We all love to watch those movies that happen in a world after the End Of the World. As the main characters wander through these lifeless deserts, they strive to find hope and survival. We follow them as they search for a better chance at life, yet we never truly stop believing that this is a mere moment from a fictional tale occurring in a movie. Whether at the movie theater or in the comfort of our home, we know that we are safe and removed from this situation. Yet, how far are we from experiencing these horrors? When we see the proposed actions and measures from governmental organizations, we think that’s all it takes to rescue our planet from dire consequences. Yet that relaxed response implies that we never truly believe Earth can reach apocalyptic situations.
Ignacio Navarro is a Chilean photographer whose artistic inspiration is all about conservation. Featuring bold nudes that force viewers to witness devastation we’d usually turn away from, we’re also left with confronting our inner prudishness to also avoid the human body in it’s natural form. His series Anima Terrae explores both the selfish decadence that has led to wildlife and ecosystems being destroyed over time, to the constant shame pointed towards anyone who chooses to go without the need for artifice and superficiality. As a culture and society we are completely contradictory. We claim to love open spaces full of trees and fresh air, yet these are continuously erased from sight to make way for urban settings. We say the human body is perfect as it is, yet we shy away from any notion of nudity that is free from shame and guilt.
In a recent interview with the artist, we were able to talk about his vision and inspiration, the process through which he creates these images, as well as his insight into our imminently depressing future.
“This all came about a couple years ago during a trip I did to a natural reserve in Conguillío Park. I was volunteering, with the Chilean National Forest Corporation, educating park visitors to respect and protect the wildlife that exists there. One of the tasks I had was to keep the trails clean from all the trash people throw away. Hundreds of cigarette butts and tissues in the middle of forests that have existed for millions of years led me to reflect on the lack of respect humans have for their environment. As I walked through these impressive landscapes, I took the first images of the series, not knowing what it would eventually become.”
“I use two main landscapes for the setting of the images: pure wilderness, where humans have not drastically intervened in the environment, as well as damaged nature spots. It’s in the latter where we can observe human carelessness and disregard towards the natural world, that has been assaulted in a way.”
“I’m constantly searching for landscapes and people who are interested in participating. I do open calls for models through social media or radio stations across the different towns and cities I visit. I meet up with those who volunteer to be part of the series. It’s important for us to get to know each other in order to build trust, which is why we engage in a deep conversation where I explain about my motivations and ideas. In this meeting we also talk about possible spaces to work in. During the session we intuitively explore the setting to find interesting spots. We also play with postures and attitudes that connect with our surroundings.”
“[When it comes to the models], I’m not interested in capturing perfect bodies or professional models. I like to work with each person’s reality. The strength that supports my images comes from the different motivations behind the participants’ desire to be part of this project.”
“Each photograph is a faithful representation of what was happening at that moment, without adding or removing anything through editing software like Photoshop. So in that sense you could say that they have a realist esthetic.”
I asked Navarro regarding his opinion on the constant censorship of the body on both social media and public places. For centuries, the human body has been at the center of art. Yet, it seems that there are some forms that are preferred over others. As if there are bodies that belong in the public sphere while others are meant to be covered up.
“I think that censoring the body is an entirely cultural situation, heavily influenced by religious beliefs and moral compass. There are very fine lines between artistic nudes, erotic nudes, and sexual nudes. Since these borders are not easily marked and differentiated, censorship is used to protect the viewer from the possible impact the image might create. But that disruption is generated by the same construct that chooses to censor. Think about other cultures where everybody is naked from the moment they were born. In that sense, being naked is not inappropriate or obscene. It’s like what happens at a nudist beach where being dressed feels uncomfortable and dissonant.”
The narrative behind Navarro’s work is a marriage between the political and the artistic. It’s a heavy statement that is presented through mesmerizing imagery. We cannot look away like we would with other environmental discourse because the art is inviting us to observe and participate. I asked the photographer what was his vision and role as a storyteller within this medium.
“I’m interested in telling stories that speak of the wonders of nature, prior to human intervention. Paradise exists where humans have not entered with catastrophic predatorial intentions that have resulted in the extinction of entire species and ecosystems for profit. This is what has drastically altered the planet’s pace, leading us to the edge of environmental collapse. What will be the final scene to these stories? Can we do something? Or is there no hope for the future generations?”
So can we continue to pretend that we are unaffected by our disregard and apathy towards nature? Is it possible that we can observe that the beauty in the human body is just as natural as what we’re able to observe in the wilderness? In order to move forward as a planet, we need to look back and reassess our place and accountability to both our home and ourselves. In Ignacio Navarro’s words,
“To avoid our planet becoming the backdrop to a scene in Mad Max or Waterworld, awareness and changing mindsets are crucial.”