Republic of Dust (2012)

The Republic of Gabon is largely rainforest. It is part of a forest that covers a large area of Central Africa, and because of its dense canopy and variety of its plant life, it is considered one the world’s most precious ecosystems.

 Nowadays, an unlikely mix of locals and foreigners coexist in this forest, often with great tension. There are Gabonese villagers and indigenous Pygmies, migrant workers from neighboring countries, European technicians working in extracting industries, Chinese laborers, drug tourists, and a motley crew of conservationists, scientists, activists that come together in resource rich regions of the developing world.

 This forest is crisscrossed by logging roads that cut deep into the interior. The dust created in the wake of passing trucks, which cart enormous trees to the port, covers everything in sight. The rainforest turns deep red as the trucks leave behind clouds of dust. This dust settles on plants, smothering them and transforming their natural greens with an industrial concoction of red glow. The foliage flanking these roads becomes a witness to this exploitation.

 Republic of Dust is a series of portraits of foreigners and locals who coexist in this threatened environment: a microcosm of global trade and its ruinous effects. Also, running through this series and anchoring its various layers of record and meaning are two related series of dust images. One series of dust images are made in the immediate aftermath of a passing logging truck. The immense cloud of dust this common event unleashes looks similar to an act of terror. The second series are photographs made of the dense rain forest, which the logging roads crisscross. Made with an 8x10 inch camera and printed large scale, these detailed images describe what was once a lush, green, majestic forest - now covered with layer upon layer of dust. In these images the dust becomes a constant presence, insidious reminder, and symbol of our destructive relationship with nature.