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Extinction Rebellion, All In This Together

© Charles Emerson

A photographic investigation of the Extinction Rebellion 2019.

In this project, I set out to explore the nonviolent direct action protests by the Extinction Rebellion or XR movement.
The Summer Uprising, organised by XR, was a peaceful protest staged in 5 major UK cities, London, Glasgow, Cardiff, Bristol and Leeds in July 2019. Bristol is my home, so I took the opportunity to observe the tactics, workshops and operation of the XR movement first hand.
Starting the week as someone who would not identify as a member of the XR movement, I feel I learnt a lot from exploring it both personally and photographically. As my interest in the movement grew I naturally wanted to continue the project at the now already infamous Autumn Uprising 2019 in London.

Questions I had initially were quite basic, who are XR, what do they want and will I be ousted as not a legit environmentalist? What I feel I learnt was that XR is diverse in demographics, inclusive of all and hope to promote a non-blaming or shaming culture. The Internet culture has helped create a world in which we all judge each other, and ourselves, opinions often clash and result in the condemnation of one another online. It is not individuals that require any blame for acting in ‘non-environmental’ ways, it is a system that needs to adapt quickly to the climatic changes of our delicate biosphere.
I learnt that the aims of XR are that the governments should tell the truth about the climate change crisis and act now to help minimise its impact upon our world and us.

When faced with these core aims it is hard to intellectually dispute a desire for truth and a desire for conservation.

Photographically my work has often involved layers and techniques, which assist the breakdown of a ‘straight’ or ‘truthful’ image, hopefully challenging the viewer to see the subject from another angle.
Multiple exposures, the physical layering of exposures in-camera, has been a technique I’ve explored since art college and one that has been especially prevalent in recent work. This aesthetic approach has been developing within my work, in this project it felt like a couple of strands, technical and conceptual, came together and became realised in the making of All In This Together.
Whether protester, police or onlooker, I did not want to predominantly focus on any one individual and more on the collective of people together.

I am not a documentary or political artist but I am an artist alive at a time of interesting change, a time of extremes, both politically and ecologically. Politically, there have been noticeable growths on both ends of the spectrum, the far-right and the extreme left, which way the Overton window shifts, only time will tell. But one thing is for sure, the climate and the changes ahead, will not wait patiently for us.

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