Molokaʻi-based photographer confronts the climate crisis through art
For Richie Biluan, photography is more than a profession, it's the most intimate form of preservation.
“My goal is… to try to capture it as it is. The ruins as they are. A house as it is,” Biluan said. “I want to take that photo that your great-great-great-grandchildren will look at when they reference you.”
Most of her photography does exactly that. She uses film to record everything from landscape images of Aztec ruins in Mexico City to candid photos of children on a sandy beach.
Now, the Molokaʻi-based photographer is extending her philosophy of preservation to the planet. Biluan is one of the hundreds of contributors to “The Carbon Almanac,” an international effort to compile the latest information on climate change.
The book uses essays, graphs, and even cartoons to convey the gravity of the climate crisis. Biluan worked with people from over 40 countries to tell the story of our warming planet.
Biluan also led a team of creatives to produce a three-part photo book, created in tandem with “The Carbon Almanac.” The first part depicts the detrimental effect of climate change around the world. “We had people in Australia dealing with fires,” she remembers, “and in Colorado, dealing with fires.”
But Biluan takes the narrative a step further. The second part of the photo book includes the ways people are helping to mitigate climate change.
She wanted to emphasize the fact that “there’s a lot of doom culture surrounding climate change, and it’s simply not productive. We really wanted to highlight cool things that were happening around the world.”
The third and final part of the photo book is especially personal to Biluan. It features artists from around the world using their talents to draw attention to the climate crisis.
As a photographer, she feels the responsibility to translate disaster into something that resonates with others. “Sometimes it’ll take a photograph… to change your mind,” she explained.
Despite the grief Biluan feels for the planet, she hopes the "Almanac" will remind people that “it’s not too late, but it might be soon.”
She also emphasized the way individual actions are minuscule compared to the scale of the climate crisis. “We’re not going to get through this crisis by shaming people into composting,” she said. “It is going to take us coming together and seeing eye-to-eye to change things on a systemic level.”
"The Carbon Almanac" has also been a transformative experience for Biluan personally. “The imposter syndrome was quite strong,” she said. “And it’s really a lie.”
“If you have something to offer the world, just do it. Just show it. Just share it," she said.
“The Carbon Almanac” was released on July 12. Biluan will be signing books at da Shop in Kaimuki on Saturday, July 16, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can learn more about her work on her website.
This interview originally aired on The Conversation on July 14, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.