Founded by Sarah Krause and Sarah Seb, the sustainable fashion brand uses soil regeneration to combat climate change 

Photography by The Earth Issue

The thoughts of fashion becoming fully sustainable has left many feeling hopeless, uninspired or drained by the constant disappointment of the industry. Not only are brands not doing enough in terms of curbing the warming climate, but consumers are left slightly bemused as to the active steps they should be taking – thrifting, buying less, choosing consciously and buying from conscious brands all seem like reasonable guidelines. But what does it really mean for a brand to be sustainable? And is our trust dwindling?

Helping to rebuild confidence is Sarah Krause, a Londoner with an Austrian and Mexican heritage. She set up Solai alongside Sarah Seb, fashion designer and creative director, as a response to the increasing pressures on the planet. Left feeling “disheartened” by the fashion industry, there remained a glimmer of excitement as she noticed the influx of sustainable practices coming into the fore. “I wanted to see clothing on the market that was creative and modern whilst also being ethnically made and genuinely good for the planet,” she shares. “Ultimately though, I wanted to go a step beyond and create clothing that was not just sustainable, but actively climate-beneficial.” 

Photography by The Earth Issue

To address this, Sarah turned her focus towards soil regeneration. Perhaps a term that some may not be familiar with, regenerative farming looks at exhausted soil, and is the solution for creating healthy ecology and, among other things, helps to reverse the effects of climate change. By definition, to regenerate means to regrow or be renewed; so think of the clothing lifecycle in this sense as being continuous and mindful of damage and restoration. “If we could work with regenerative farmers to grow our clothing fibres, we would play a role in reviving degraded lands and creating a carbon sink in the soil,” she says. “This approach to land management has proven to be one of the most effective ways of combating climate change and, to me, there was a clear interesting with the fashion industry. The idea was simple, but incredibly powerful.”

Solai therefore partners with a collective of farmers and artisans in Erode, Tamil Nadu, that of which had “successfully revitalised” acres of once degraded lands through regenerative agriculture and “indigenous wisdom”. The proof is in the output, and Solai’s collections since birth have shown the benefits of tech and conscious sourcing. By 2022, for instance, the brand will make the majority of its clothing carbon negative, derived from regeneratively grown cotton. “The remainder will be made from pre and post-consumer recycled materials, including cotton and wool, so that we can keep existing fabrics out of the waste stream and save ample natural resources in the process,” says Sarah. A recent product in the works, for example, is the “very first photosynthetic top”, which translates to a coating which “captures carbon” and “releases oxygen” while being used. Like something from a dystopian future, perhaps a photosynthetic garment is hard to comprehend, yet Solai are making it a reality.

Photography by The Earth Issue

Besides the somewhat biophillic sounding clothing design, Solai has also recently launched its Revival and Eco Collection, shot and produced by the environmentally conscious agency The Earth Issue, headed up by Elena Cremona and Isabelle Landicho. Captured amongst the Italiante Glasshouse and Tea Garden in the Ramsgate area, the collection presents soft silhouettes, intricate embroidery and mossy undertones – crafted from tencel, linen and sustainably farmed organic cotton, plus naturally dyed colour palettes drawn from annatto seeds. It’s type of clothing that doesn’t adhere to any outdated stereotypes of what sustainable clothing may look like. 

“Although seeing a constant barrage of greenwashing can be demoralising at times, overall I’m hopeful for the future of the fashion industry,” says Sarah of her hopes for the future. “I remember even a few short years ago, so few people were talking about sustainability in fashion and I’d have a hard time trying to get people interested in the topic. But now, I think it’s increasingly on people’s radar and I’ve seen a genuine shift in attitude, with greater commitments to make better, more conscious choices. Crucially, I think fast fashion brands have to majorly scale down their production and put some of their vast marketing budgets into the hands of their labourers. It’ll be interesting to see if people and planet prevail over hefty profit margins!”

Photography by The Earth Issue
Photography by The Earth Issue

Music for climate change

100 cities threatened by rising seas can listen to a piece composed by Cecilia Damström, played by the Lahti symphony orchestra and conducted by Dalia Stasevksa

The Finnish tabloid Helsingin Sanomat once referred to Cecilia Damström as the Greta Thunberg of music, and quite frankly, there is no better description. The Helsinki-born composer, who grew up in a German-Scottish-Finnish family, has so far written four chamber operas, music for orchestra, choir and chamber music plus a host of other solo works. Her most recent piece, however, confirms her essence – the drive, spirit and temper – of her career entirely. In collaboration with the carbon-neutral symphony orchestra of Finnish city Lahti, Cecilia has crafted a 10-minute piece entitled ICE. 

Conducted by Dalia Stasevksa, the music is available only to 100 cities worldwide that are endangered by climate change and its consequent rising sea levels. Artistically strict, upon landing on ICE’s very own homepage, users are given the option to input their city to test out whether or not their lands are threatened. Myself in London, I popped the data in and therein flashed a harsh yet necessary statement: that the city is under threat from rising sea levels. The only positive of this message, though, is that I’m now able to listen to Cecilia’s composition of playful and peaceful melodies that rashly intensify as it strives to replicate the impending danger of our world. “The piece begins with depicting beautiful ice scenes,” says Cecilia. “Every chord is a symmetrical chord consisting of six notes, because when water freezes it always becomes a symmetrical hexagon.” The first three or so minutes, in this sense, depicts a “normal” winter period before “alarm signals” begin to change the pace, “and the winds that grow ever louder every time the winter shortens.” 

“At around five minutes,” she continues, “you can hear ecosystems starting to collapse and the strings playing frantic rhythmic repetition, how time is ticking away. While at six and a half minutes, we will again hear alarm signals, like when a big vehicle is trying to reverse. The alarms begin to ring out clearly SOS (three short, three long and three short signals). Soon after we can hear ‘total’ collapse, the heart’s irregular beat in a duet with a bicycle bell, also signalling SOS. The bicycle bell is a symbol for how human (personal) action can impact and make a change, and make things turn around. We hear a fast speed rewind of the collapse from about eight minutes until we are finally back at the beginning, back to normal winters at around nine minutes. The bicycle bell is also the last thing we hear, human action is the note of hope for the future.”

Lahti Symphony, Sibelius Festival 2019. Photo by Maarit Kytöharju

ICE is an apt example of how music can be employed as a tool for steering change, particularly when it comes to addressing the impact of our warming world. And cities, like Lahti, are at the forefront of this: consuming less resources; making urban areas more sustainable; consciously encouraging sustainable urban planning like transportation; and actively sourcing renewable energy are a few instances. Leading the way and setting an example for all, Lathi has been coal-free since 2016 and will be a zero-waste, carbon-neutral city by 2025. It’s also proud to state that 99% of its household waste is received and recycled, and has plans to protect 8% of its nature and resources by 2030.

If urgent action isn’t taken now, then disastrous effects will be brought to the surface, quite literally, by the end of the century. No city will be unaffected by the climate crisis. “Together with Lathi,” says Cecilia, “I wanted to draw attention to the alarming state of these coastal cities by highlighting them and bringing together the people who live in these areas, and share the concern about the future. On the one hand, we are asking the questions about what unique things will be lost if we lose these areas, and on the other hand, we wanted to focus the piece’s message of hope and prompt action on the endangered areas.”

Photo by Marthe Veian

The cities declared under this powerful merging of music and activism have been chosen based on reports and findings by the Urban Climate Change Research Network, The World Economic Forum, OECD and Climate Central. Along with London, these other locations include Copenhagen, Dakar, Istanbul, New York, Buenos Aires, Shenzhen, Venice, Melbourne, Tokyo, Faro, Liverpool, Amsterdam and many more. According the project’s research, rising sea levels are set to threaten several coastal cities by 2050 and 2100. “I hope we can raise awareness of the acute situation of the glaciers and get people to act on the behalf of nature,” she says of her impactful messaging. So what does Cecilia hope for the future? “Nonviolent protests are twice as likely to succeed as armed conflicts – and from those engaging, at least 3.5% of the population have never failed to bring about change. My hope is that we can be part of those who bring about the changes needed for stopping climate change.”

The Same Sea

Port takes a trip to the Finnish island of Vallisaari for the Helsinki Biennial 2021

©Matti Pyykko, Helsinki Biennial

A group of 330 islands conjugate around the coastline of Helsinki, establishing an untrammelled and easy getaway from the humdrum of city life. It’s normal for locals to boat around here, whether that’s in lieu of the sauna, work or heading home from the mainland. Life in the Finnish capital feels serene, and the calm streets of the more urban environments – free from any queues – only solidifies this as a place where happiness, nature and the environment matter above anything else. 

While leaving the port of Helsinki on a refreshingly crisp day – the locals explained it was unusually cold for the time of year – that’s when I first caught sight of the many tiny islands, most of which are decorated with a wooden hut or left untamed and completely wild. Some are homes, others are summer houses or places to soak up the heat of the sauna. Then there’s the rocks, poking out of the water with abnormally smooth edges; they sink into the sea bed with little effort, windswept and altered by the tectonic shifts of the surface below. It took a mere 20 minutes to arrive at our destination of Vallisaari, an enchanting island and home of the Helsinki Biennial – an event presented by Helsinki Art Museum (HAM), directed by Maija Tanninen-Mattila, and curated by Pirkko Siitari and Taru Tappola.

Making its debut on the island with 41 artists from Finland and across the globe, the biennial’s new location is a land that’s diverse and rich in its formation. Few people could have entered Vallisaari a handful of years ago, due to it being used as a military base for the Russian Army – the remnants of which are still astonishingly present today. With a title of The Same Sea, the works involved in the biennial’s festivities reflect on the island’s history, as well as the interconnectedness and dependence that the world has on its oceans. With the climate at the fore, this is highlighted immediately as you board the island, where visitors are stunned by the confrontational work of Finnish artist Jaakko Niemelä’s Quay 6 (2021) a large, red structure that cups the shore line as it explicitly denotes the impending threat of rising sea levels. Below, I round up a few key highlights from the event, consisting of sculpture, sound and installation that each reflect on our climate emergency. 

Jaakko Niemelä: Quay 6, 2021 ©Maija Toivanen/HAM/Helsinki Biennial 2021

Jaakko Niemelä: Quay 6 (2021)

Designed as the island’s greeting, Jaakko’s installation has been construed of scaffolding, painted wood structures, water pipe and pumps. Commenting on the drastic effects of climate change and how the rising sea levels will greatly affect our lands and civilisation, the alarming piece directs its focus onto the melting of Greenland’s northern ice sheet; if it were to disappear in entirely, then sea levels will rise to six metres – the height of the structure.

Teemu Lehmusruusu: House of Polypores, 2021 ©Maija Toivanen/HAM/Helsinki Biennial 2021

Teemu Lehmusruusu: House of Polypores (2021)

A hybrid of natural processes, research and sound, the Helsinki-based artist’s installation is given anthropomorphic qualities as it listens to decaying trees before converting the noise into music. The work is likened to an instrument made of soil, and visitors are invited to touch and place their ears onto the large tubular structures to listen to its deep and vibrating hum. There are four structures in total, each of which is crafted from mushrooms, electronics and decaying wood. 

Margaret & Christine Wertheim and the Institute For Figuring: Helsinki Satellite Reef, 2021 ©Maija Toivanen/HAM/Helsinki Biennial 2021

Margaret & Christine Wetheim: Crochet Coral Reef, The Helsinki Satellite Reef (2021)

The world’s coral reefs are depleting, suffering greatly from pollution and heat exhaustion as a result of climate change. This handmade crochet piece, crafted by two LA-based sisters, is a passionate response to the matter; it reflects on the long process of building the sculptures as well as the lack of time that animals (and the reefs) have on our planet. The project has travelled to New York, London, Riga and Abu Dhabi in engaging with more than 10,000 participants; the sisters will also work with local Finnish communities to crochet a reef in Helsinki.

Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller: FOREST (for a thousand years…), 2012 ©Maija Toivanen/HAM/Helsinki Biennial 2021

Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller: Forest (for a thousand years…) (2021) 

In a calming corner of the island’s woodland, an immersive sound installation encourages its visitors to perch on tree stumps as they listen to various sounds: aircrafts flying above, birds, explosions and choir song. The Canadian artists’ work comments on the sounds that a forest will hear in a lifetime and, in this case, the different points in history for Vallisaar. Its listeners are exposed to yelling, screaming and gun fire, but equally they are connected to the trees around them, personifying nature as a delicate and fragile entity. 

Vanishing Points

Over nine years, Michael Sherwin has documented significant sites of Indigenous American presence across the United States

Wild Horses and Road, Crow Indian Reservation, MT © Michael Sherwin

In 2011, Michael Sherwin uncovered a piece of history: he came to learn that his local shopping centre had been built atop a sacred burial ground. Located in what’s now western Pennsylvania, western Maryland, eastern Ohio and West Virginia, the area is linked with the Monogahelan culture – what Mary Butler had named in 1939 after the Monongahela River, which runs through the vast majority of the culture’s sites. Known for practicing maize agriculture, building villages, pottery and structures, the culture disappeared, evaporating along with around six hundred years’ worth of history. 

Michael was born and raised in Southwestern Ohio on “unwed and stolen territories”, which includes the Hopewell, Adena, Myaamia (otherwise known as Miami), Shawandasse Tula (known as Shawanwaki or Shawnee) and Wazhazhe Maⁿzhaⁿ (Osage) peoples, “who have continuously lived upon this land since time immemorial,” he tells me. This is where he studied for a BFA in Photography from The Ohio State University during the late-90s, followed by an MFA from the University of Oregon a few years proceeding. After nine years spent working deep in the American West, he returned east for a position at West Virginia University in Morgantown – which is where he currently works as a coordinator, and professor of photography and intermedia.

Mural, Point Pleasant Riverfront Park, Point Pleasant, WV © Michael Sherwin

So upon discovering the roots of the Monogahelan culture, Michael was predisposed to unearth more of its mystery; he shopped at the centre regularly, too, so this slice of information undeniably transformed the ways in which he viewed the landscape. “Reflected in the scene in front of me was an ancient, spiritually important and hallowed landscape clouded by the tangible constructions of modern Western culture,” he shares. “I’m really interested in the stories the land holds, both seen and unseen, and in the contrast, or intersection of spiritual beliefs between indigenous and colonial, native and non-native traditions.”

Having always fostered an interest in the physical world, Michael was more than intrigued after exhuming the origins of his hometown. To such lengths that it inspired him to pick up his camera, harvesting the books and historical research on the mid-Atlantic and Ohio River Valley region. The more he read, the more he was pushed to find out more. And that’s exactly how Vanishing Points came into fruition – a long-term photography project of nine years shot on a large format Wista field camera throughout significant sites of indigenous American presence. Composed over several trips to southern and central Ohio, the project took him to the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site and various nearby spots in Illinois and Missouri, during which he’d traverse across the American West and visit sites in South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah.

Antelope House Ruins, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, AZ © Michael Sherwin

Michael never set out with a clear intention in mind, and rather, the project arose from a mix of personal and cultural catalysts. Paired with an undulated interest in the project’s history, Vanishing Points also references his quest for a deeper connection to the ancestry of the land, “acknowledging and challenging erasure and exploring complicated histories,” he notes. “It’s an effort to form a new understanding and perspective of the place I call home.” The photographs, in this sense, represent a kind of duality. One that documents the earth as we see it, as well as the stories hidden beneath the rocky terrains, grasslands and buildings.

Past and present are equally exposed throughout these pictures, where man-made structures, picnic benches and entertainment venues are built above the lands that were once occupied by prehistoric cultures. But rather than addressing or respecting these histories, mankind has constructed a new narrative; the type of story arc that monopolises such sacred locations. This gives the work – and even the title – an incredibly powerful meaning. It’s a double entendre, he says, “referencing the literal visual aid used to depict depth on a two-dimensional plane, while also suggesting sites in the landscape where the traces of events, or remnants of a previous cultures’ existence has all but faded from view. I’m certainly not trying to suggest that the indigenous American people have vanished, but I am interesting in highlighting how many have been removed from view, especially here in the East.”

Eagle Feather, Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark, Bighorn Natio- nal Forest, WY © Michael Sherwin

Vanishing Points certainly provokes a sense of questioning from the viewer; a motive that forces us all to question our roots and links with colonialism and the imposition of western civilisation. And throughout Michael’s own journey – one that’s lasted for a lengthy nine years – he’s set foot into many wonderful encounters as he progressively learned about the land. For example, one of the sites he was most excited about visiting was the Bighorn Medicine Wheel, located over 10,000 feet high in the mountain range of northeastern Wyoming. “I drove for two pitch black, predawn hours without seeing another vehicle and dodging all sorts of wildlife to reach the trailhead,” he recalls, hiking for two miles with nearly 50 pounds of camera gear strapped to his back, before eventually reaching “the wheel” at sunrise with the entire landscape to himself. “Before setting up my camera, I walked the full circle of the wheel as the sun crested the horizon. Being present and experiencing the sensations of a place that warrants so much reverence and wonderment is more important to me than the actual photograph.” The resulting image from this memory presents a feather stuck onto a post – a seemingly simple event that signals to heaps more than just a beautiful composition.

“With these photographs,” he continues, “I am not attempting to tell you how to live, or what we’ve done wrong, but rather to reckon with my own belonging in the physical and spiritual world. Having said that, I think this work can also promote awareness of indigenous land rights and the importance of protecting cultural and historical sacred sites. Spending time with these images may encourage one to reconsider their own presence in this country and the land they live and work on. There are still countless stories to be told and lessons to be learned as long as we are willing to sit quietly and listen.”

Michael Sherwin’s Vanishing Points is available here.

John Wayne Point, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, NM © Michael Sherwin
Prairie Juniper, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND © Michael Sherwin
Shrum Mound, Columbus, OH © Michael Sherwin
Big Bottom Massacre State Memorial, Morgan County, OH © Michael Sherwin
Stockade Wall, Fort Phil Kearney State Historic Site, Banner, WY © Michael Sherwin
George Washington, Black Hills National Forest, Keystone, SD © Michael Sherwin
Laundry, Indian Mound Campground, New Marshfield, OH © Michael Sherwin
Suncrest Towne Centre, Morgantown, WV © Michael Sherwin


Lutfi Janania

The Honduran-born botanical artist creates objects and sculptures coined from the natural world

The Central American country of Honduras is rich in flora. So immense that it runs miles, canopied amongst mangroves, cloud forests and long lines of coast stretching across the Caribbean Sea, to the north, south and Pacific Ocean. It’s marked by high and rainy mountainous slopes of the country’s highlands, dense in oak-pine forests and delicious woodlands that spreads for valleys upon valleys. Yet despite its vast occupancy of luscious lands and lively fauna that inhabit it, Honduras has also undergone some dramatic environmentalist issues. This includes the loss of soil fertility and soil erosion, plus the depletion of forests where trees have been harvested for lumber, firewood and land. Its fragility is only increasing, but it’s also these very pines, leafs and flowers that serve as a delectable backdrop and inspiration for one particular artist working today, Lutfi Janania.

Lutfi is a Honduran botanical artist who was raised amongst the rainforest and mountains of San Pedro Sula. After emigrating to New York City, the artist was in search of a new utopia – one comparatively different to the green facades of his upbringing. And, in doing so, he started working in the fashion industry whereby he learned about construction, colour and texture; the key elements to his work now. A few design roles later, and he finally ventured out on his own as a stylist, working on editorials and employing the use of flowers within the backdrops and more subtle accents of the shoots. This is the moment when he realised he’d found his utopia, or better yet his “passion for creating fantasy through experiences that could be harnessed through botanical design,” he tells me. Naturally, this led to the launch of his own design studio, Rosalila, during which he works with botanicals to build objects, sculptures and installations.

Corallia. Shot by: Maksim Axelrod

“I live for the idea of creating a fantasy, transforming a dream into reality,” he continues, noting how this was fully harnessed once he’d moved to the USA. “I imagine it as materialising an enchanting and otherworldly environment and the creatures that live in it.” Through freshly cut tropical plants used in installations through to various assortments of trimmings and flowers, Rosalia is indeed a “fun, flirty, exotic yet very elegant” outlet for his goals and view of the world. “Think of that sensation when taking in the lively rays of sun in the tropical beaches of Honduras while holding a delicious spicy margarita in your hand.”

Lutfi’s reasons for venturing into the field of botanicals stems wholly from his past. His familial home, for instance, is located on a nature preserve, built by his grandfather amongst the wild forest. Describing the environment as being “literally Jurassic in size”, Lutfi had the entire ecosystem at his fingertips. “The trees tower over my house and provide habitat for a variety of tropical birds and giant variegated monsteras, and other plants which climb and drape all over their entirety. Coming of age in such company really shaped my understanding of colour texture and light.”

The typical compositions of a forest tend to be centralised, as the plants reach for the light in their journey to photosynthesise. Lutfi’s work, however, completely defies the laws of gravity, and of the rainforest for that matter. He relies steadily on light, weight, balance and, of course, gravity, to stretch and spread his pieces to achieve questionable angles. Reaching branches are paired with dried florals, “which seem to simultaneously bloom and weep”, while curved woods and obscure silhouettes are formed through the skill of finding stability within his striking sculpture pieces. It’s an art form in itself.

Looking inwards, and beyond the outer layer of wildness and beauty, you’ll notice how Lutfi’s structures are more than just a display of expansive nature. He picks his materials depending on the stories that they speak, especially those that tell tales of their homelands. “And because of my upbringing in the bioreserve of Honduras, my relationship and experiences with the natural world have led my inspiration to be often rooted in nature,” he explains, weaponising both permanent and sustainable objects in order to reach the studio’s environmentally conscious goals. “At Rosalila, we have a conscious practice; we don’t believe in a wasteful way of designing. We repurpose our materials, pushing their limits and boundaries.” 

Leafy Sea Dragon. Shot by: Leon Hernandez

The Leafy Sea Dragon sculpture embodies this entirely, as its’ construed of hand-preserved botanicals, manzanita wood branches and crystals. “The piece explores negative space, grandeur and fantasy with an emotional connection,” adds Lutfi, who collaborated with a family-owned fabricator in Queens to create the Italian rainforest marble base, and a Brooklyn-based metalworker in Brooklyn to weld the brand stand, before adding in the botanical work crafted by the studio. It’s an immeasurable piece with strands and spikes alluding to the ever-growing quality of nature; punches of pinks are tossed amongst the desolate, earthy tones of the environment, causing a fiery juxtaposition of fertility and sterility that plausibly takes a stand against the dwindling lands of the rainforest.

All of Lutfi’s pieces encompass a myriad of materials, be it marble, quartz, brass, manzanilla wood, curly vines and hand-preserved botanicals. And through the marriage of the man-made and natural, his pieces are greatly provocative. “My desire is to convey emotions, feelings and sensations and the dualities in them,” he shares on a final note about the work’s impact. “When compiled together, these vignettes with crooked leaves generate sorrow, curiosity, anticipation and longing. In stirring such emotions, the environment begins to take shape and the life within the work becomes evident. The dried, dehydrated material is not just preserved, it’s persevering and actively creating. What appears to be dead is very much alive.”

Portrait in front of sculpture. Shot by: Ricardo Rivera
The Mirror. Housed by: Shot by: @equatorproductions
Corallia. Shot by: Maksim Axelrod

Sebastião Salgado. Amazônia

Sebastião Salgado shares an edited excerpt from his new book on the Brazilian Amazon, published by Taschen with editing, concept and design by Lélia Wanick Salgado

The Maiá River in Pico da Neblina National Park, in the São Gabriel da Cachoeira area. Yanomami Indigenous Territory. State of Amazonas, 2018.

This book is dedicated to the indigenous peoples of Brazil’s Amazon region. It is a celebration of the survival of their cultures, customs, and languages. 

It is also a tribute to their role as the guardians of the beauty, natural resources, and biodiversity of the planet’s largest rainforest in the face of unrelenting assault by the outside world. 

We are eternally grateful to them for allowing us to share their lives. 

Sebastião Salgado and Lélia Wanick Salgado 

Marauiá mountain range. Yanomami Indigenous Territory. Municipality of São Gabriel da Cachoeira, state of Amazonas, 2018.

When I first visited an Amazon tribe in the mid-1980s, I remember feeling anxious about meeting people whose lives were so radically distinct from my own. There, men and women, families whose ancestors had inhabited these forests for millennia, were still treated as “primitives.” 

How would they receive me? How would I react to them? How would I behave before such different human beings? 

That early experience of living alongside the Yanomami, one of Brazil’s largest ethnic groups, was so powerful that it shaped my relationship with the natives of the Amazon region ever since. Finding myself cut off from the world in a remote village in the northern state of Roraima, I soon understood that the Yanomami were not in fact that different from me. After just a few hours in their company, I began to relax, to feel accepted. The emotions we shared—to love, to laugh, to cry, to feel happy or angry—served as our common language. I felt at home in my own tribe, that of all humans, where myriad systems of logic and reason are interwoven with my own, with those of Homo sapiens. 

Since then, and particularly over the past decade, I have spent long periods in the Amazon, navigating its rivers, flying over dense jungle and peripheral mountain ranges and, above all, living among its people in tiny communities scattered across the world’s largest tropical rainforest. And I can say without hesitation, even after a career full of extraordinary experiences, nothing has given me greater joy than working with the dozen of indigenous tribes portrayed in this book. Through them, thanks to them, I reconnected with my own pre- history. I rediscovered the lives we led thousands of years ago. 

Left to right: Pinu Vakwë Korubo with a bird, a red-throated piping- guan (Aburria cujubi, Korubo name: kuxu) hanging from his shoulder— contact in 2014; Xuxu Korubo with a quiver for arrows (Korubo term: vitinte) on his shoulder—contact in 2015. In front of them, two brown woolly monkeys (Lagothrix lagothricha, Korubo term: kolokit) brought down by poisoned arrows from Xuxu’s quiver, shot from blowguns. Hunting encampment. Valley of Javari Indigenous Territory, state of Amazonas, 2017.

The natives of the Americas are descendants of the migrants who crossed the Bering Strait from Asia during the last Ice Age some 20,000 years ago. With the arrival of European conquistadors and colonisers in the 16th century, their numbers were decimated by diseases brought by these foreigners and by wars waged against them. Then, through a gradual process of miscegenation, the identity of a majority of them became mestizo. 

Indigenous women were at the heart of the formation of the Brazilian people. After the first Portuguese landed in Brazil in 1500, they were soon followed by hundreds of thousands of men. It was not until 55 years later that the first five Portuguese women landed. The Jesuit missionaries who accompanied them were quick to notice hundreds of thousands of mestizo children, prompting accusations that the Portuguese men had been living in promiscuity. 

The Raposa–Serra do Sol Indigenous Territory occupies two ecologically distinct areas: fields in the south and densely forested mountains in the north. Its main landmark is Mount Roraima, seen in the background, whose name is associated with the mythological hero Makunaima. This hero inspired Brazilian author Mario de Andrade’s classic novel Macunaíma. There are an estimated 140 Macuxi villages. Cotingo River Falls. State of Roraima, 2018.

Although the number of natives living in the Amazon rainforest fell drastically, their experience was different. Thanks to the impenetrability of the jungle, for centuries they were able to preserve their traditional tribal way of life. 

Now they too are threatened: one aim of this photographic project is to record what survives before any more of it disappears. 

The Amazon region embraces nine South American countries, with 60 percent of the rainforest lying in Brazil. The population of this area is thought to have numbered around five million in 1500. Today, in a territory more than eight times the size of France, there are just 370,000 indigenous people belonging to 188 tribes and speaking 150 different languages. A further 114 tribes have been identified, but they have not been contacted. 

Towns and cities sprang up along the Amazon and its major tributaries as far back as the 17th century. But in the middle of the 20th century a dangerous new chapter in the indigenous peoples’ struggle to survive began with the opening up of Brazil’s vast undeveloped and sparsely populated interior. Migration from southern Brazil led to the deforestation of the Amazon to make room for cattle farming and soybean cultivation. New roads and navigable rivers facilitated migration and made it easier for logging firms to harvest valuable hardwood and for freelance prospectors to seek gold. With these outsiders, who included religious groups bent on evangelising remote tribes, came influenza, measles, malaria … and death for thousands of natives. 

An igapó, a type of forest frequently flooded by river water, with palms and other emerging trees. In the center of the photo, a tree whose trunk is covered with water: an aldina (Aldina latifolia). At right, a jauari palm tree (Astrocaryum jauari). Anavilhanas archipelago, Anavilhanas National Park, Lower Rio Negro. State of Amazonas, 2019.

Intentionally set forest fires in the Amazon are not new, but they have multiplied so drastically that they now grab attention far beyond Brazil because of their undisputed impact on climate change. Often described as the world’s lung, the rainforest has been steadily losing its ability to absorb vast quantities of carbon dioxide. Instead, it has been adding to global CO2 concentrations, creating an enormous “carbon bomb.” 

The Amazon rainforest is the only place on Earth where humidity in the air does not depend on evaporation of seawater. Thanks to its size and an intense concentration of humidity, this forest generates its own process of evaporation in which each tree acts like a geyser or aerator, releasing hundreds of litres of water into the atmosphere daily. As a result, thanks to its hundreds of billions of trees, this blanket of vegetation creates an extraordinary airborne river, or river of vapour, which carries more water than the Amazon River pours into the Atlantic Ocean each day. The impact of this on global climate conditions is immense. 

With 20 percent of the Amazon’s biomass already lost, any further disruption of its ecological equilibrium will have drastic repercussions far beyond Latin America’s frontiers. Yet too many Brazilians still fail to recognise that protecting the Amazon is also in their interest. Surely they, no less than Argentinians, can understand that their immense agricultural wealth depends directly on the rain that falls over the Amazon. 

What drew me back to the Amazon? Certainly not its dark side—not the fires or deforestation or the poisoning of rivers by gold miners or the drug trafficking and arms smuggling that flourish in the region. Rather, it was to savour afresh the unparalleled beauty of this vast region. For me, it is the last frontier, a mysterious universe of its own, where the immense power of nature can be felt as nowhere else on earth. Here is a forest stretching to infinity that contains one-tenth of all living plant and animal species, the world’s largest single natural laboratory…

– Sebastião Salgado Paris, 2021

Photography by Sebastião Salgado

Sebastião Salgado. Amazônia, Sebastião Salgado, Lélia Wanick Salgado, TASCHEN, £100

Men of Zo’é ethnicity, residents of the village of Towari Ypy, wearing traditional headdresses. Standing, left to right: Biri Zo’é, Xú Zo’é, Sinera’ýt Zo’é, Kurú Zo’é, and Boaté Zo’é. Seated: Kitá Zo’é, Dirik Zo’é, Tuwáj Zo’é, and Toduá Zo’é. In their language, “Zo’é” means “I am me.” They probably used the expression during the period of initial contact, as if to say “We are people.” Zo’é Indigenous Territory. State of Pará, 2009.

All The Good Earth

Virginia Hanusik captures the perilous nature of New Orleans, one of the rainiest cities in America

There’s something spellbindingly confrontational about Virginia Hanusik’s All The Good Earth. In one image, there’s an electricity pylon standing solo between the rose-tinted sky and water. Its placement is off and illusory. Another sees a house on stilts, built metres above the ground in preparation for its next downpour. Although not your typical display of climate change, each violet picture and soft composition has a vital story to tell; it represents the perilous nature of New Orleans, one of the rainiest cities in America.

New Orleans is located just 14-feet above sea level and sits adjacent to the Mississippi river. Because of its precarious placement, the city has been prone to flooding and frequent downpours since its founding in the early 18th century. Some falls could last weeks, with deluges so deep that its inhabitants would have to wade through the streets in rowing boats. Coupled with unsanitary conditions, poor sewage collections and disposal systems, the area would often experience more than just flooding; it was also victim of fires and diseases. Then as the years went by, New Orleans developed the necessary maintenance and heavy infrastructure to keep its disasters at bay – a solution for now, that is.

Virginia grew up in upstate New York and moved to New Orleans in 2014, working at a non-profit company involved in Louisiana’s coastal restoration efforts. With a background in academia, architectural history and urban planning, the subject of Louisiana and its relationship with the environment has consistently propped up as her muse. “Prior to moving to Louisiana,” she says, “climate change was largely an abstract issue to me, but one I was committed to understanding the root causes of, such as why certain communities were more vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis over others. I began photographing as a way to understand the changes in the landscape that I was working in daily.”

Louisiana is currently in the process of erosion. With the steady depletion of marshes, swamps and barrier islands along the coast, the lands are resultantly more vulnerable to hurricanes and storms, particularly within New Orleans and localities in the region. Photography is an apt tool for raising awareness of these issues, yet more often than not, the media will portray the narratives in stereotypically negative fashion. “Especially along the Gulf Cost,” adds Virginia. “I saw a lot of climate change photography focused on destruction. I became interested in exploring other ways to communicate these layered and complex transformations that were happening.”

This is why Virginia’s All The Good Earth – and many of her works preceding – has a luminous warmth about it. The imagery disdains from the typical offering of harsh and destructed lands, and instead offers up an alternative depiction of a city in constant transition. “Living in New Orleans for the greater part of the last 10 years has made me acutely aware of the role water plays in shaping the city’s geography and culture,” she says, signalling to the colossal human engineering that’s been maintained in the city. “It begs the question of how sustainable our current system of operating really is. Hard infrastructure – canals, levees and drainage pumps – are all around us making life possible here, and we’ve normalised these massive alterations to natural systems.”

Virginia dissects these themes with credulity, where the specific light of Louisiana – which she calls “extremely special” – brightens the issues at hand with a certain radiance, a tone that gives Joshua Tree’s infamous dusky beams a run for its money. “I’ve tried to make photographs feel like you’re situated in the glow that is felt here during the golden hour and sunsets, where the light wraps all around you, especially if you’re near the lakefront.” In doing so, Virginia completely twists the common associations with climate change photography and ends up painting her own language. “It’s more interesting for me to figure out different ways of photographing these structures, those that have historically been captured in a very straightforward, banal way.”

It’s not a new technique, to take a deep and harsh topic and turn it into a whimsical display of light and colour. But to do so with the topic of New Orleans and its troubles with water, gives Virginia’s work an indispensable and crucial stance in the field; it draws you in, entices you and hopefully inspires you to do something about it. “I hope that the work encourages people to learn more about the history of South Louisiana, and that they recognise its place in the canon of American landscape art,” she says. “The visual narrative around climate change is diversifying, which is greatly needed. So I hope projects like mine can lead to a larger discourse around how we design and inhabit space.”

Photography by Virginia Hanusik

Open Sky: Phillip K. Smith III x COS

Port speaks to Californian artist Phillip K. Smith about OPEN SKY, a new installation for the Salone del Mobile in Milan produced in collaboration with COS

In making interactive installations with shiny surfaces that mirror their surroundings, Phillip K. Smith III has returned again and again to the sprawling landscapes of his native California. Raised in Coachella Valley, the desert has been an enduring site of inspiration in which a barren environment becomes two abstract strips of hot orange and blue. By inserting his large-scale reflective forms he distorts the sandy expanse into a series of shimmering impressions that change with every passing hour, and respond to the viewer’s movements. Smith now has a studio in Palm Beach, California and stretches of empty shore are another point of focus, whose installations unfurl and elongate to echo the coastline. 

Uprooted entirely from the climate he has studied for so long and transported to another continent, Smith’s latest project OPEN SKY is a semi-circular structure built into the constricting square courtyard of Milan’s Palazzo Isimbardi. The artwork, the result of a collaboration with London-based fashion brand COS to create their 7th annual installation for the Salone del Mobile design fair this month, contends with the 16th century architecture and marks an exciting new innovation in Smith’s work.

Karin Gustafsson, the creative director at COS, says of selecting Smith to represent the brand: “Phillip’s work is centered around looking to the natural world for subtle shifts in light and colour that inspire new ways of seeing – his works are inspiringly simple and minimal, yet they are majestic and constantly evolving with the world around them. The concepts that his work embodies are also reflective of key tenants of COS’s aesthetic and inspire us to think of our designs in new and interesting ways.”

Smith spoke to Port about the collaboration with COS, the ways visitors interact with his art and how he found working in the urban setting of a courtyard in Milan. 

How did you come to be involved with COS and the project at the Salone del Mobile?

COS reached out directly to me. My work had been on their inspiration boards for a few years and when they were thinking about commissioning an installation in their first ever outdoor space, my work made sense. COS has worked with a terrific group of artists and designers over the past few years, and I am honoured to be part of that lineage, but also to be given the chance to participate in a process that is artist-focused from conception to realisation.

In what ways does OPEN SKY respond to Palazzo Isimbardi in Milan?

I wanted to pull the sky down to the ground, to make the sky physically present. The installation is created in direct response to its location at the Palazzo Isimbardi, using both the framed sky above and the enveloping 16th century Renaissance architecture. I wanted to create an ever-changing sense of discovery of the built and natural environment. I wanted to slow the pace of experience from the moment people enter the palazzo off of the streets of Milan, so that people would be open to the subtle shifts in light and the passage of time expressed through the shifting sky.

How do you see people interacting with OPEN SKY?

As viewers navigate the installation and palazzo, their angle of reflection changes in relation to the architecture creating a dynamically shifting collage of sky and architecture, diagonally laid out across the 14 metre diameter reflective surface. This re-collaging of the surroundings opens one’s eyes to the beauty that is in front of them. The entire experience is a slowing down, from the streets of Milan to walking through the entry archway of the palazzo to walking around the abstract, tactile light and shadow exterior surface of Open Sky. The sense of pace slows and the sounds are quieted. 

Finally, people will pass through the palazzo and out into the garden where there are five freestanding Reflector sculptures that have been sited. These works interact with the sky, garden, and architecture of the interior of the block. I hope that people will use the benches and sit for a while so they can fully appreciate the surrounding beauty and atmosphere.

Many of your recent installations stretch out across beaches and deserts in your native California. How did you find this project compares to your past work?

Milan, certainly, is a new environment for me with its urban reality. When you are out in the middle of the desert, your view can be easily distilled into just to elements: land and sky. However, while all of Milan exists past the perimeters of the building, within the courtyard of the palazzo the experience can still be distilled into just two elements: sky and architecture. 

Standing since the 16th century, Palazzo Isimbardi is at the centre of Milan’s history. In what ways might OPEN SKY allow visitors to view or experience the building in a new light?

 The installation works as a tool for viewing. It is an interactive experience that requires the architecture and sky as materials and the viewer as the activator. While nearly 400 years separates the inception of the palazzo and this installation, there is a seamless, timeless merging of art, architecture, environment, light, perception and viewer.