Gideon Mendel, born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1959, has been documenting the consequences of flood disasters for those affected around the globe since 2007 and in this way impressively draws attention to climate change and the need and urgency for action. His travels for his photo series entitled Drowning World take him to some of the poorest as well as to some of the most prosperous regions of this earth. The flood disasters and their aftermath seem to level out these economic and social differences and unite the affected people in their hardship.
The Drowning World works are divided into three series.
In Submerged Portraits, Mendel photographs people affected by the floods in their flooded houses or in their devastated surroundings. The protagonists look calmly and directly into the photographer's camera. The result is impressive photographs in which the portrayed people radiate a fascinating mixture of suffering and the will to leave, of hardship and strength.
In the series Floodlines, Gideon Mendel creates quiet and impressive works by depicting flooded houses and living spaces. These are aesthetic images that radiate a great calm through the symmetry determined by the floodline and at the same time appear almost surreal in what is actually a catastrophic environment.
Finally, the Watermarks series shows flood-damaged photographs from family albums that Mendel collected on his various journeys. These are either anonymous photographs that floated among the debris in the floods or photos from the possessions of the people he portrayed. Gideon Mendel is fascinated by the chemical effect water has on the surface of these photographs and the changes it creates. He photographs and enlarges the most interesting of these images to emphasise the background meaning of these contemporary documents.
In July 2021, Gideon Mendel photographed the consequences of the flood disaster in the affected places in North Rhine-Westphalia for the "Zeit" newspaper, among others. On another trip, he was then also in Stolberg, where a number of his older works were destroyed or damaged in the flooding of the ARTCO Galleries art warehouse. Mendel also took portraits of those affected in their devastated surroundings in Stolberg, but only after the flood waters had receded.
The exhibition at ARTCO Galerie shows new works created in Germany in 2021, including a collage of damaged, alienated family photos by Gisela Pietsch-Marx, who lost practically everything in the flood.