Agriculture drives climate change, extinction, erosion and water depletion. It uses about 40 percent of all land on earth and more than 70 percent of all freshwater, drying up riverbeds and draining aquifers. Due to over-exploitation of the soil and climate change, desertification is one of the greatest threats to life on earth. Every minute of every day, 23 hectares of arable land are lost to growing deserts, and land degradation has reduced the productivity of 23 percent of the global land surface.
Meanwhile, by 2048 the world population is expected to increase to nearly ten billion. Combined with changing diets – from plant based to meat and fish – this means a higher demand for food and the threat of an even faster degradation of our soil due to exhaustion, while at the same time more and more harvests will fail as a result of climate change.
Fertilizer disposal from industrial farming activities harm the ecosystems of rivers and coastal areas, while deforestation and the transformation of grassland into farmland cause soil erosion and loss of biodiversity. Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history and agriculture and land-use changes are the main drivers that also contribute roughly a quarter of greenhouse gases driving the global climate crisis.
All combined, agriculture is the single most transformative thing humans are collectively doing to the planet. Yet, most people don’t realize how fragile our food systems are.
That is why we have been documenting the social and environmental consequences of global agriculture since 2007. In a slow journalism approach we build close relationships with farmers, ranchers and fishermen, policy makers, activists and scientists. Our projects grow organically, chapter by chapter, in a constant cycle of research, production, and presentation. This open process allows them to surface in ever-new contexts, gradually building bridges from magazine publications and documentary films, linear web documentaries, and interactive apps to spatial installations at art institutions.
The ReefReporter cooperative (“RiffReporter”, in German) is a crossover between a collaborative publishing platform and a business accelerator for entrepreneurial freelance journalists. ReefReporter derives its name from the diversity, depth, and collaborative nature of coral reefs. It strives to be an ecosystem that provides tools to collaborate, and to publish and monetize independent journalism.
ReefReporter is cooperatively owned by the independent storytellers who use the platform and collaborate with each other, and are united under one strong brand. As a platform cooperative, ReefReporter combines the quality assurance of professional journalism with the logic and scalability of platforms that produce network effects for their participants.
I founded ReefReporter together with Christian Schwägerl, Tanja Krämer, Maximilian Steinbeis, and Sebastian Brink, in 2017. ReefReporter has been named Germany’s most innovative journalism project by the Netzwende Award (a collaborative project of the ZEIT Foundation, August Schwingenstein Foundation, and SPIEGEL-related Rudolf Augstein Foundation), and has won the prestigious Grimme Online Award 2018 in the category “Knowledge and Education”.
World of Matter is an international art, exhibition and online project investigating primary materials (fossil, mineral, agrarian, maritime) and the complex ecologies of which they are a part. The project brings artists, architects, photojournalists, designers and programmers with notable bodies of previous work on natural resources and spatial politics together with theorists working in the areas of geography, art history and cultural theory.
The project seeks to develop innovative and ethical approaches to the handling of resources, while at the same time challenging the very assumption that the planet’s materials are inevitably a resource for human consumption; this human-centered vision has been the motor for many environmentally and socially disastrous developments. The social ecologies presented on the World of Matter site give evidence to the interdependence between human and non-human actants in this fragile system.
Bombay Flying Club is a close collaboration between professional photographers who are all driven by their personal passion and common love for great storytelling. Individually we shoot and produce compelling and important visual narratives that often focus on social- , environmental- or humanitarian issues. Together we create bigger and more complex journalistic projects that often turn into multi-media experiences and innovative story universes.
In 2014 we initiated the Mentorship Program where a select number of talented photographers were invited to work with us for a period of up to two years. The idea is to share knowledge and to help shape succesfull storylines that can captivate a global audience.
Philadelphia is home to some of the last remaining urban riding stables in the United States. What once started as a traditional cowboy community now mixed up with influences of modern times in Philadelphia’s ghettos. I have been mentoring Ann Sophie Lindström since the beginning of her diploma thesis Don‘t Fence Me In. After her diploma Ann Sophie has continued her work in Philadelphia in the context of the Bombay Flying Club mentor program. As her mentor I have been supporting her over four years, before Ann Sophie became a full member at the Bombay Flying Club in 2018.
Don‘t Fence Me In was published as a magazine story in GEO, GEO International and The Atlantic and the multimedia story has won several international awards, including a first prize at the College Photographer of the Year Award and a second prize at the Photographer of the Year International Award.
In the Middle Ages the plague killed millions of people in Europe. In parts of the world the plague still occurs today. Experts consider the plague bacterium to be one of the most dangerous biological pathogens in the world. Nowhere is the situation as threatening as in Madagascar.
Christian Werner’s and Isabelle Buckow’s story Black Death was published as a multimedia scroll reportage on the website of the Süddeutsche Zeitung and won numerous international awards, including World Health Summit Award, Prix Bayeux-Calvados des Correspondants de Guerre, Axel Springer Prize, Lumix Multimedia Award, and the Hansel Mieth Prize Digital.
I tutored Christian Werner during his Bachelor at the University of Hannover.
Columbia 2016: In search of hope and visions of the future, the students of the workshop – conducted by the journalism program (JONA) of the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation – drove to nine different places around the country. Places where foreign journalists normally do not travel to because they are too small, too remote, too dangerous. But it is precisely in these places that fear and hope, pain and lust for life, despair and optimism meet. http://projekte.jonamag.de/colombia/de/
„A sustainable Europe – a sustainable future“, is the ambitious motto chosen by Finland for its EU Presidency in 2019. In this workshop, organized by the journalism program (JONA) of the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation, journalism students from Germany collaborated with journalists form Finland to dive into questions of sustainability.
In Morocco journalism students from Germany collaborated with journalists form the MENA region to tell a range of multimedia stories on water: about policy and usage, as well as environmental and social aspects. As with all the international workshops organized by the journalism program (JONA) of the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation a very important, challenging and often eyeopening aspect is the intercultural experience that is an integral part of collaborating with diverse partners.
The Bitter with the Sweet is a love story on the verge of madness. Cowboy Ricky, 62, and Gretchen, 55, have been dating since 2008. Marked by injuries from the past, their relationship is an emotional roller coaster ride between dependence and love. Nevertheless, Ricky and Gretchen try to grow old together as they can not master the harsh everyday life in North Philadelphia without each other.
The intimate documentary takes the viewer on a wild emotional ride from personal resentment to deep love, from tender moments to total rage and forces to think about ones own relationships, triggers and emotions.
I collaborated with Ann Sophie Lindström on the production of this film during her mentorship at the Bombay Flying Club. Together we developed the script, storyline, and edited and produced the film that ended up winning the German Short Film Award (LOLA) in 2018.
Uwe H. Martin is an independent visual storyteller, slow journalist, researcher and educator. His long-term projects, which combine photography with documentary film, text and sound, focus on the great environmental issues of the Anthropocene.
Together with his partner, Frauke Huber, Uwe documents the social and environmental consequences of global agriculture since 2007. Using a slow journalism approach, their projects build bridges from traditional journalistic publications, over linear web-documentaries and interactive apps, to spatial installations at art institutions.
Their projects are part of the collaborative art and research project World of Matter, which Uwe cofounded in 2010. World of Matter investigates primary materials and the complex ecologies of which they are a part. The project brings artists, architects, photojournalists, designers and programmers with notable bodies of previous work on natural resources and spatial politics together with theorists working in the areas of geography, art history and cultural theory.
Uwe studied photojournalism in Hanover, Germany, and, with the support of a Fulbright grant, at the Missouri School of Journalism. Besides his visual practice, he teaches photography and multimedia storytelling, mentors young journalists and photographers and is often invited as a speaker on topics such as trans-media storytelling, slow journalism, water policies and the Anthropocene.
Over the years Uwe has received numerous recognitions and awards for his work, including the German Reporter Award, the Greenpeace Award, the Development Media Award and the German Short Film Award (LOLA). He served on the jury of the World Press Photo Digital Storytelling Contest, the German Reporter Award, the Lumix Multimedia Award, the CPOY and the Bosch master class Future of Science Journalism, where he was also part of the faculty.
Recognizing the urgent need for new ways to finance quality freelance journalism, Uwe also cofounded the RiffReporter cooperative, a crossover between a collaborative publishing platform and a business accelerator for entrepreneurial freelance journalists. As of 2020, some 100 of Germany’s best science journalists have already launched more than 30 small journalism startups. RiffReporter has been named Germany’s most innovative journalism project by the Netzwende Award, and it won the prestigious Grimme Online Award 2018 for “Knowledge and Education”.
His new initiative – the „Earth Vision Lab“ – brings together diverse expert teams envisaging solutions to the Water-Land-Energy-Food-Climate-Nexus.