“My hope is that awareness will make us work faster and that we will adopt more and more sustainable solutions. It’s important that the Western countries help the countries that are most impacted by climate change.”
Should we start out with you introducing yourself?
My name is Jakob Dall and I’m a photographer. I’ve always wanted to become the photographer that I am today. I was born in 1971 in Denmark and I grew up deep within a forest called Rold Skov. The nature that I experienced in the forest was very peaceful and quiet. I think my childhood has given me reflections on nature and on life since then.
Why have you chosen to do a photographic book on climate change?
I was in Malawi in 2006 making a children’s educational book. At that time there were all these reports in the media about climate change and that the global temperature would rise and there would be all kinds of disasters. They all talked about it as if it was something that would happen in the future. But what I experienced in Malawi was that climate change was already here. The people I spoke to told me about how they were affected by a famine in 2005 and that they never got any rain and didn’t get anything out of their crops. Rivers were dried out and they had to dig deeper and deeper to fetch water. They were really affected by the drought. I asked people about climate change, but they didn’t know what it was, only that their climate had changed.
Why is hope important?
It’s important that we don’t just look at these pictures in the book with a hopeless feeling that we can’t do anything because it’s already too late. I call this book two degrees, as a reference to both the Paris Agreement with the world leaders’ decision on the two-degree global warming limit, and the tipping point of when the climate disasters will occur much more frequently.
What the scientists see right now in Greenland is that the ice is melting faster and faster. As a result of the snow becomes darker, which absorbs the heat from the sun and makes it melt even faster.
I’ve documented Svalbard, the island group of Norway and a polar area. They have experienced an eight degree temperature rise during wintertime and their winters have also shortened in duration. The shortened period makes the ice melt a lot more. The glaciers are also decreasing a much faster rate like in many other parts of the world. The houses in Longyearbyen are built on permafrost, but the ice is melting and some of the houses are no longer livable. They must be taken down due to the wooden pillars rotting in the wet permafrost. So, it’s a whole new issue.
You have taken pictures in 18 countries – how did you choose which countries to focus on?
The planet will survive. But will people survive? Will the animals survive? Will life on Earth be gone? If the climate changes how will that affect people? I read the UN climate reports and articles on climate change and found that I wanted to focus on these 18 countries and show the changes in pictures.
So you’ve seen a lot of people being affected on all these travels. Is there one episode in particular that has affected you personally?
Well, there are many. I believe that when I take a picture I have to feel it within my heart. I have to be there with the person. I have to be there with the child who has lost their family. There is a boy who I also write about in the beginning of the book. I was in Kenya with the Danish newspaper “Information” working on stories about climate change during the COP in 2011. We were driving into this desert-like landscape and all of a sudden, I saw some people hiding in a bush. It looked strange because we were in the middle of nowhere. There were not any villages close by. So my translator and I drove over there.
There were 60 -70 people. Their village had been attacked by another clan for their water resources, goats and cattle because of the drought. It had been the worst drought in 2011.
But the boy Akuuta Elilim (6) was laying on the ground. Him and 20 other kids were just laying in the shade of the bushes. You could tell they were suffering so much and if they didn’t get any help they would die within a few days. That really touched me. So, of course we gave them our water, biscuits and fruit. It was tough sitting there in front of children. You didn’t know if they were going to live or die. That is what happens when temperatures rise. We drove three hours to alert the local Red Cross about the situation and came back the day after with a medical team and aid, so they survived.
Droughts are happening more frequently. There was the big deadly drought in 2011. There was a drought in 2015, 2016. There was a drought in 2018. There’s drought right now, starting that started in 2020. It’s still one of the worst droughts that is going on right now.
What does working with photography mean to you?
Photography means a lot to me. I’m trying to document people’s daily life in as neutral a way as I can. Even though I know there’s nothing that is completely neutral. I’m simply documenting daily life. And that’s the most powerful thing you can do, as I see it.
This book is a statement from me. It’s big and yellow and shouting +2˚C! The yellow is the colour of temperature +2˚C. When you look inside the book I hope that people will remember that we have to do something. That we have to face the impacts of climate change and we cannot look away.
I want to go a little bit back to how we started this interview with you. Can you talk a little bit more about your childhood?
I grew up with a father who was an architect. He had a really holistic view on life. Every month we got the National Geographic Magazine and I grew up with all the great pictures from around the world. I was looking at the pictures before I could read English. Photography gives you an instant feeling and a story. Even if you cannot read you’ll still be impacted by a strong picture. It made me want to become a photographer, so I one day could tell important stories.
The nature was what I started to photograph because it was in my backyard. For me nature gives us hope and it’s also where you can find your own calmness. When I visit different countries I also see nature, but I often see nature that suffers. And that’s what’s worrying me a lot. I see rivers are drying up where you would normally see elephants drink and it’s devastating. We have to take care of nature, but we also have to take care of the people. It’s in the same solution. We have to do something to keep our world alive.