"It has come to this, that the lover of art is one, and the lover of nature is another, though true art is but the expression of our love of nature.”
—Henry David thoreau, journal (1857)
Philip Jessup’s body of work reflects decades of professional activity pursuing solutions to the climate crisis. This includes his home base of Toronto where he served as executive director of the City’s climate agency for nine years. Realizing that photography can deepen public awareness of climate threats to the planet, since 2007 he has sought out the beauty of significant landscapes we can save with the right steps. He is currently photographing significant coastal marshlands and barrier islands under threat from sea level rise.
Phil has exhibited his work in Toronto, Montréal, London, U.K., Washington DC, Louisville, and New Orleans. The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London recently selected his large cibachrome print, Flooded Tree (2005), for its retrospective, Into the Woods: Trees in Photography. The V&A and several international corporations collect his work. He won a Bronze Medal for an image, Snake Grass, at the Royal Photographic Society’s 148th International Competition in 2005.
Jessup is visually drawn to nature’s chaos as a mirror reflecting our own lives and society. Climate change makes the connection more real than ever because many natural landscapes are vanishing before our eyes, endangering the communities that depend on them. Trying to make sense of chaos, he sees it underpinning something more stable and durable in the natural order. Mangroves, for instance, are thickets of wild, disorderly aerial roots anchored in deep mud. At a higher level mangroves are shock absorbers that protect coastal communities from violent storms and tsunami. What is more they absorb carbon from the air in breathtaking amounts. Chaos is essential and can be beautiful.