"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 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He is currently photographing significant coastal marshlands and barrier islands under threat from sea level rise.
Phil has exhibited his work in Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver, 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 with his photography documents the beauty he sees in natural landscapes and the communities dependent on them vanishing due to climate change. He is especially drawn visually to the chaos in nature, for instance, the aerial thickets of mangrove roots or the tangled branches of a sassafras stand. Often such chaos underpins a stable and durable natural order. Mangrove roots, for instance, are shock absorbers that protect coastal communities from violent storms and tsunami. Mangrove soil stores carbon in huge volumes. Chaos is essential and can be breathtaking in its beauty.