Agriculture drives climate change, extinction, erosion, and water depletion.
It is the single most transformative thing humans are doing to the planet.
Yet, most people don’t realize how fragile our food systems are.
With my partner Frauke Huber, I have been documenting global agriculture’s social and environmental consequences since 2007. We collaborate with farmers, fishers, scientists, indigenous peoples, and activists to investigate seed-, water- and land rights, environmental justice, climate change, and the future of agriculture worldwide.
LandRush uses a slow journalism approach bridging traditional journalistic publications, linear web documentaries, interactive apps, video archives, books, and spatial multichannel installations at art institutions and museums.
Over 80% of the world’s almonds grow in California’s arid Central Valley, which regularly suffers from drought and further aridification due to climate change. One pound of these almonds uses about 1,230 gallons of water to grow – almost 12 liters for a single kernel.
One Pound of Almonds makes almonds’ water footprint tangible. It consists of 17 concentric circles of gallon jugs (3.78 liters each) filled with water. A one-pound glass jar of almonds stands in the center of these circles on top of a small pillar. To get to the almonds, visitors pass along a narrow pathway through the field of water in 1,230 plastic gallons.
One Pound of Almonds makes our foods’ water footprint tangible and invites visitors to reflect on humankind’s responsibility in the Anthropocene.
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.
The Bombay Flying Club was a close collaboration between professional photographers who were 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 created 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 was to share knowledge and to help shape succesfull storylines that can captivate a global audience.
The media landscape has changed since and so have members personal lives. Our professional journeys diverged, and so in 2022 we decided it was time for the Bombay Flying Club to retire.
The RiffReporter cooperative is a crossover between a collaborative publishing platform and a business incubator for entrepreneurial freelance journalists. It provides tools to collaborate, and to publish and monetize independent journalism. RiffReporter is cooperatively owned by the independent storytellers who use the platform and collaborate with each other, and are united under one strong brand.
I founded RiffReporter together with Christian Schwägerl, Tanja Krämer, Maximilian Steinbeis, and Sebastian Brink, in 2017. In addition, the separate nonprofit Riff Freie Medien gGmbH has supported journalistic projects and research with six-figure funding. As a result, RiffReporter has been named Germany’s most innovative journalism project by the Netzwende Award, and has won numerous prestigious journalism awards, among them the Grimme Online Award 2018 in the category “Knowledge and Education.”
Since 2010 I have been teaching multimedia storytelling, moving images, slow journalism, fragmented narratives and storytelling for eco-social impact at universities, journalism schools and workshops at many different locations in Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Luxemburg as well as in Rome, Athens, Bogota, Kathmandhu and Rabat. Currently I teach the Thesis Preparation project at the Master for Eco Social Design and filmmaking at the Freie Universität Bozen, Planet Centric & Circular Design at the FH Vorarlberg, and Moving Images and Storytelling for Eco Social Impact at the HSLU in Lucerne.
My storytelling workshops run between six days and three weeks. During this time students learn all the basics of producing web-documentaries, from interview technics and film production to video editing and online production, research and develop a concept for a story, report and finally edit this story. Each story is treated in a different manner, depending on which format serves it best.
My Vision Labs are wide-open, deeply personal, challenging, and hands-on workshops for people who desire to develop journalism/film/photography beyond traditional limits, reach new audiences, build a sustainable media practice, and initiate change. The workshop covers a wide range of alternative publication- and financing strategies for documentary work. It dives into grant writing, expert status, personal brand, and professional identity. It focuses on the long tail and explores what makes projects connectable to contexts far beyond media. At the same time, you will be developing your personal and professional vision, projects, and strategies. In previous versions of this workshop, participants have created linear web documentaries and storyboards, developed ideas on building a publication bridge from print, online, and mobile into spacial installations and theatre plays, wrote proposals and financing plans, and developed concepts for tying individual stories into a larger narrative. Some reset their creative business and identified a new client base aligned with their values. Others set off living in a van or building a collaborative project in an African nation, training the next generation of storytellers.
I also have the pleasure to support emerging journalists, photographers, filmmakers, and designer as a mentor and coaching professional longterm journalism and art projects.
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.
I am an independent visual storyteller, slow journalist, artist, researcher, and educator. My long-term projects, which combine photography with documentary film, text, and sound, focus on the significant environmental issues of the Anthropocene.
With my partner, Frauke Huber, I have documented global agriculture’s social and environmental consequences since 2007. Using a slow journalism approach, our projects build bridges from traditional journalistic publications, over linear web-documentaries and interactive apps, to spatial installations at art institutions.
Over the years, I received numerous recognitions and awards for my work, including the German Reporter Award, the Greenpeace Award, the Development Media Award, and the German Short Film Award (LOLA). In addition, I served on the jury of the World Press Photo Digital Storytelling Contest, the German Reporter Award, and the Lumix Multimedia Award, among others.
As an integral part of my artistic practice, I teach photography, film, journalism, and storytelling for eco-social impact at universities, workshops, and journalism schools worldwide. I strive to empower people to become independent, expand their scope of action and bring about lasting changes in society and the environment:
In 2010 I cofounded the international art and research project World of Matter, which investigates primary materials and their complex ecologies. In the same year, I also founded Aggrey’s Dream, which supported a school in Mombasa, Kenya, with four teachers, a school lunch program, and built a bakery that generates an independent income for the school. Finally, recognizing the urgent need for new ways to finance quality freelance journalism, I cofounded the RiffReporter cooperative in 2017, a crossover between a collaborative publishing platform and a business incubator for entrepreneurial freelance journalists.
My new initiative – the Earth Vision Lab – brings together diverse expert teams envisaging solutions to the Water-Food-Energy-Climate-Nexus. In parallel, I am considering a new practice of Transition Journalism that explores how journalists and visual storytellers can become agents for eco-social change.