For all the lives impacted by Bob Dylan’s piercing poetry, photographer Mark Edwards’ indebtedness is manifested in a project that has at its core both the revolutionary singer-songwriter and concerns for a climate in peril.
Hard Rain is an exhibition of hard-hitting photographs — part of the Celebrate Bandra Festival, in partnership with Hindustan Times — that document poverty, habitat loss, the wasteful use of resources and human rights as linked to the pressing issue of climate change.
Launched in London in 2009, the exhibition is travelling across the globe and will be unveiled in Mumbai on November 17 by
the British Council at the Bandra festival.
An established photojournalist, Edwards stumbled upon the subject accidentally.
“I got lost in the Sahara Desert in 1969. A Tuareg nomad rescued me and took me to his camp. On a rudimentary cassette player I heard Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall,” said Edwards over the phone from London.
At that point the photographer set out to illustrate each of Dylan’s prophetic lyrics with an image, “a personal project that took me to 50 countries, but I never had any intention to publish it”.
Though alarms for an environment in grave danger were not sounding back then, Edwards admits that specialists in the field had started gathering evidence of the eventuality.
“At the height of the cold war, budgets that were allocated for preserving the environment were employed towards the war instead. I think governments are now realising that the threat to our security worldwide is climate change and are spending in favour of the future,” Edwards said.
The former war photographer never had to look too hard for this subject. “I’ve witnessed half of the world’s forests being put to other uses. If the forests are the lungs of the world, then it’s like having one lung removed. The images show the impact of man’s headlong collision with nature, which we have supplemented with statistics to show the scale.”
Deeply influenced during his time in India, compelling images from the country also figure in the exhibition. “Hard Rain documents the inappropriate use of nature to give a few of us a very high standard of living. We’re saying there’s one problem with many solutions,” Edwards said.
When Dylan got word of Edwards’ project he recommended compiling the often disturbing and powerful images into a book, Hard Rain: Our Headlong Collision with Nature, which features Dylan’s lyrics.
(The exhibition will be unveiled on November 17, at 11.30 am at the Bandra Fort lawns. Copies of the book Hard Rain by Mark Edwards and Bob Dylan will also be available at the venue)