Drowning World

3 July - 24 September 2017

Rencontres d'Arles‏

Arles, France


Drowning World explores the human dimension of climate change by focusing on floods across geographical and cultural boundaries.

Rather than the literal depiction of disaster zones, Gideon Mendel focuses on the personal impact of flooding to evoke our shared vulnerability to global warming and question our sense of stability in the world.

The Drowning World project consists of four related series. Submerged Portraits are intimate portraits of flood victims. Their poses may seem conventional but their unsettling gazes challenge us to consider their context.

The Floodlines series records the physical incursion of rising water through intimate living quarters and public spaces, presenting a paradox of order and calm within chaos. The Watermarks series consists of enlargements of flood-damaged personal snapshots, sometimes anonymous flotsam fished from the water or mud, sometimes given by homeowners.

Through floods, chemical interaction with water—ironically, essential to developing photographs— Mendel has transformed these private moments into metaphors of our exposure to environmental disorder. Tideline presents this collection as a framed archive of archaeological memory. The video component of Drowning World, The Water Chapters, explores the tension between the frozen photographic moment and the perpetual movement and uncertainty of dystopian, post-flood environments.

Since 2007, Mendel has documented floods in 13 countries: the UK (2007 & 2014), India (2007 & 2014), Haiti (2008), Pakistan (2010), Australia (2011), Thailand (2011), Nigeria (2012), Germany (2013), Philippines (2013), Brazil (2015), Bangladesh (2015), the USA (2015), and France (2016).

Curated by Dr Mark Sealy at Autograph ABP.

About Gideon Mendel

Gideon Mendel (b. 1959, Johannesburg, South Africa) is a leading contemporary photographer, whose intimate style of image-making and long-term commitment to projects, has earned him international recognition and many awards, including the Pollock Prize for Creativity.

He is renowned for his work as a ‘struggle photographer’ and his 20-year photographic odyssey on the impact of HIV/AIDS. This project culminated with the publication in 2001 of his first book, A Broken Landscape: HIV & AIDS in Africa.

Mendel has been occupied with ‘Drowning World’ since 2007, an art and advocacy project about flooding that is his personal response to climate change. It was shortlisted for the Prix Pictet Prize 2015.

Curated by

Drowning World is curated by Dr Mark Sealy at Autograph ABP

Who to follow on social media

For Drowning World, we recommend following:

Gideon Mendel's popular Instagram account

Les Rencontres d'Arles festival on Instagram 

Autograph ABP on TwitterInstagram and Facebook

Additional Info


Ground Control
Les Rencontres d'Arles
Arles, France

Venues and tickets >