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Faculty for Biology, Chemistry, and Earth Sciences

Environmental Geochemistry Group - Prof. Dr. Britta Planer-Friedrich

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Bachelor Thesis

An environmental-geochemistry backgound analysis of photographs by J. Henry Fair

Madeleine Steeb (12/2018-09/2019)

Support: Britta Planer-Friedrich, Johannes Besold

The photographer and environmental activist J. Henry Fair takes detailed photographs of landscapes that uncover the impacts of mankind on the environment. In his book “Industrial Scars: The Hidden Costs of Consumption” he shows a series of seemingly abstract photographs which point towards the processes hidden behind products of daily consumption. Three of these photographs were selected for this thesis showing mining and processing activities of metal extraction. A comprehensive research has been conducted in compliance with the basic intention of the photographer to deal with the background information and the environmental effects at the locations illustrates in the photographs. The metals extracted at these locations are copper, aluminum, and iron. Three of the main metals our modern civilization relies on. The analysis was structured in several steps. Primarily information about the location and extraction methods were collected, followed by reporting on the physical and environmental-chemical behavior of each metal. Further, the problematics at each site are presented, concluding with an overview of the topic on a global scale. The results prove the possibility of conducting comprehensive research and analysis with the photographs as source material and inspiration. Although every metal has diverse properties and various methods are applicated at each location, they all share a big-scale influence on landscapes and the problematics of accumulating huge amounts of waste, that can have negative impacts on the environment. Therefore, the analyzed photographs can convey an initial visual impression of complex connections and effects of industrial mining and metal processing on the environment.

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