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Everything is Energy

Joy King: Team Chicago

Team led by Dirk Fletcher

Project Essay:

My initial intent for this project was to give evidence of the ways in which our collective energy addiction has engineered our world. I immediately envisioned sobering images of the steel and concrete landscapes most of us call home, which simultaneously define and endanger everything that sustains us. I was struck by the irony of a species that creates a world in which it has no viable future.

Throughout my travels I had no difficulty finding the material I sought, but, fortunately, material of a very different sort as well. I came across a flourishing Amish population, an ever-increasing sect of traditionalists who, because of a strict religious ethic, have rejected our modern, energy-hungry lifestyle. They live limited, but energy independent, lives. They build, eat, manufacture, and travel in ways that are entirely (or very nearly) locally sustainable, and that require nothing from the “outside world”. Whatever they use or need, they produce themselves. They are a picture of the world that was, one in which we played a small but significant part.

A short distance away, the cooling towers of a nuclear power plant cast vast shadows over the landscape. I realize that, despite their separation from the mainstream, these people will inevitably share the repercussions of our choices as a whole — as a human family.

So where do we stand? We find ourselves at a crossroads, individually and as communities, countries and citizens of the world. We have the capacity to produce all the energy we could want, but at the cost of leaving behind waste that will remain for thousands of generations, and landscapes devoid of the basic substance of life: sunlight, plants, animals and food. Or we can begin learning to forego, to simplify, to shift our perception away from “What is convenient” and towards “What is truly feasible and sustainable in the long term.”

Creative Brief: Kick the Can, August 15th, 2011

“Kick the can down the road” is a political catchphrase used to imply procrastination in problem solving. This strikes me as worryingly similar to our attitude towards environmental responsibility, especially in the wake of disastrous energy and resource exploitation. While I have my own personal and political feelings about this issue, it is not my intention to state my position in words; but to simply show, in images, the state of our world when the long view is not in the hearts and minds of a post-industrial citizenry.

The purpose of this project is to ask the viewer to form his or her own questions. To take a step back from our day-to-day lifestyle and consider the existence of alternatives.

Target Audience:
All the citizens of the modern world. My view is that most people are aware of the less apparent aspects of these images. The point is to spur thought, not to be obvious or leading. I hope that inquisitiveness is produced that goes beyond the subjects of these images.

Most important outcome:
If these images inspire someone to look deeper into their own lifestyle or surroundings I feel they have served a purpose.

The approach to this project was simply to shoot what was happening in the world around me. If I had an opportunity to travel I shot pictures, I shot in the day and at night, I shot in a controlled environment and in an environment where I had to get the shot regardless of the conditions. I consider my style to be documentary in nature. I enjoy telling a story with a photo-journalistic eye. People are not typically at the center of my photographs. The relationship between people and their spaces (surroundings) is what intrigues me.

“Chicago Hit”
All images in this article © Joy King


“One Room Schoolhouse”

For more about Joy King and her photography, visit her Web site: