The title is another name for particle pollution, a dangerous mixture of acids, metals, and other toxins that can infiltrate the lungs and even the bloodstream.Seven million people died from air pollution worldwide in 2012, and the World Health Organization calls it the world’s single biggest environmental health threat. Many of those at risk live in Asia, and the Chinese government publishes live updates on current air pollution across the country.
Partenheimer spent five months visiting cities with some of the country’s worst air quality. He shot with a film camera, working mainly from the roofs of tall buildings, where low visibility emphasized the contamination. In his photos, the smog is almost impenetrable, offering eerie glimpses of the city beyond. Each photo is titled for the AQI (Air Quality Index), which indicates the level of pollution, with anything lower than 50 being “good” and anything over 300 as “hazardous.”
The photographs are as beautiful as they are alarming. Their muted, subtle colors evoke images of foggy skies in San Francisco or London, but are far more sinister. Partenheimer says this unsettling duality is intentional.
“The aesthetic and almost romantic depiction was interesting for me,” he says. “It’s a way to get the viewer’s attention, to deceive him and to then confront him with the unpleasant reality and the facts. I am interested in the contrast between the appearance of the images and the inherent harsh reality.”
While choosing the best vantage point and camera settings was difficult, Partenheimer’s biggest challenge was breathing. Even when wearing a mask, he could feel and taste the pollution. The experience intensified Partenheimer’s desire to discuss our stewardship of the planet.
“I think we have reached a point in history where we seriously have to think about how we want to proceed as a species and how we want to treat the world we inhabit,” he says.
source: wired.com by JORDAN G. TEICHER