Aperture Magazine

The magazine of photography and ideas

Philip Gourevitch: Varieties of the Apocalypse

For What Matters Now, a regular column in the new Aperture, our editors ask leading thinkers, scholars, and artists to explain new developments and examine pressing matters in photography. This is journalist Philip Gourevitch’s contribution to the Spring issue.

 - January 15, 2013

For “What Matters Now,” a regular column in the new Aperture, our editors ask leading thinkers, scholars, and artists to explain new developments and examine pressing matters in photography. Below is journalist Philip Gourevitch’s contribution to the Spring issue; for the other four, subscribe now or pick up the magazine when it launches on February 26.

color photograph

Jonas Bendiksen, Klo, Norway, 2012. Courtesy Jonas Bendiksen.


 

Long before the words “climate change” were part of daily discourse and our understanding of our destiny, Robert Frost wrote a short poem that told us what to expect: “Some say the world will end in fire, / Some say in ice.” Those lines leapt to mind when I saw this fantastic picture—at once operatic and existential—and got to thinking about how Jonas Bendiksen harnesses Instagram, the most to-the-minute smartphone technology, to depict indelibly the primal line humankind is walking (individually and as a species) between varieties of apocalypse.

He reminds us beautifully, too, that “man-made” is also natural, and he makes us ask if perhaps that means it is natural for us to be destroying nature.

—Philip Gourevitch, a longtime staff writer at the New Yorker, is the author most recently of The Ballad of Abu Ghraib (originally published as Standard Operating Procedure, Penguin, 2008)