Stunning Images of Bangladesh on the Brink of Impending Climate Disaster

By Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg

Ami Vitale's beautifully shot documentary visits the communities on the Bay of Bengal that are already suffering the consequences of global warming. Vitali, a photojournalist, made the switch to video to tell the story of one mother who, fearing that increasingly violent weather patterns will harm her family, seeks justice.

Vitale produced the short, Bangladesh: On the Frontlines of Climate Change, with Panos Pictures, in collaboration with Oxfam and Sprout Films. Vitale discusses the making of the film in a brief interview below, and provides more background on the issue: 

The village of South Tetulbaria in the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh, relies on fishing but climate change threatens this way of life. In November 2010 Mamtaz Begum, a young widow from Barguna, stood up and demanded justice for vulnerable communities near to the Bay of Bengal at a ‘Climate Tribunal’ in the capital, Dhaka.

The climate tribunals are developing the idea that those responsible for climate change, can and should be held accountable through the law. Specifically they explore the possibilities for using national laws to hold governments and other private actors accountable for the impacts of the changing climate on vulnerable communities.

The Atlantic: How did you get into photography and video?

Ami Vitale: In the beginning, photography was merely a passport to travel and understand new cultures but now it has evolved from a passion to a responsibility. I feel a duty to tell the quieter stories that reach beyond the headlines and often reveal that no matter how different a place may look on the surface, the truth is that nearly all people on this planet share the same values. There is no difference of feelings and emotions amongst people everywhere and we are all tied together in an intricate web, whether we believe it or not.

What attracted you to covering climate justice, and the situation in Bangladesh in particular?

It’s an issue that has largely been ignored by most of the developed world, namely, climate change-driven migration in the world’s most impoverished countries.

What were some of the challenges of telling the story on video?

Weather, access and finding the story that will ultimately make people see how connected we all are.

What's next for you?

Now based in Montana, I am a contract photographer with National Geographic magazine and frequently give workshops throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia. I am currently continuing my documentary photography on environmental subjects from coal to sustainable ranching in Western Montana. I am also writing a book about the stories behind the images.

Finally, I have been working with Ripple Effect Images, an organization of well-known scientists, writers, photographers and filmmakers with a mission of creating powerful and persuasive films and stories illustrating the very specific problems women in developing countries face and the programs that can help them.

For more work by Panos Pictures, visit http://www.panos.co.uk/.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/07/stunning-images-of-bangladesh-on-the-brink-of-impending-climate-disaster/259365/