Witness to Nature
An exhibition celebrating nature and humankind through the work of eight Magnum photographers travels to Prada pop-up stores around the world this fall.
Nestled on the corner of Oxford Street and Duke Street in central London this week is the first installment of Witness to Nature, a traveling exhibition featuring the work of eight Magnum photographers, organized in collaboration with Prada.
150 photographs cover the walls of the pop-up exhibition space located in the city’s Selfridges department store. We see familiar cityscapes from Trent Parke’s Minutes to Midnight alongside Paolo Pellegrin’s staggering landscape of Namibia’s Namib-Naukluft National Park in a juxtaposition of nature and metropolis. Further along, photographs from Nanna Heitmann’s series Hiding from Baby Yaga, set along the banks of River Yenisei in Russia, enter into dialogue with icons from Alec Soth’s Sleeping by the Mississippi in an exploration of community and seclusion.
The exhibition is part of ‘Prada Reporter,’ a new initiative from Prada, that aims to “forge vital connections between fashion and other languages” and support “numerous forms of creativity.” Seeking to reflect on the evolving bond between humankind and nature, the curation is divided into four dialogues led by Parke, Pellegrin, Heitmann, Soth, as well as Cristina de Middel, Cristina García Rodero, Hiroji Kubota, and Newsha Tavakolian.
"The exhibition portrays the enigma and grandness of Nature alongside the diversity of life and culture on Earth, as it is the sum of infinite fragments that make a whole."
Open from October 2 to November 11, the London-based pop-up is the first to arrive in cities worldwide, with others appearing in Singapore, Tokyo, Beijing, Seoul, and Hong Kong over the next three months. Events will also be taking place in London with Cristina de Middel and in Milan with Nanna Heitmann on October 12, as well as in New York with Alec Soth on October 20.
Below, we explore the four themes of Witness to Nature and reveal a selection of the 150 works from the exhibition.
Nature & Metropolis
with Paolo Pellegrin and Trent Parke
“Paolo Pellegrin’s documentary work on the natural environment in transformation and global metropolis is shown in dialogue with Trent Parke’s intimate and introspective gaze on Nature and Cosmos.”
The opening theme presents images of the natural world in contrast with life in a global metropolis, drawing on images from Pellegrin’s exploration of the effects of climate change on natural landscapes — an ongoing project that first began with a trip to the Antarctic with NASA in 2017 — as well as Parke’s dream-like documentation of both the natural world and city life in Australia, with images from Dream/Life, Minutes to Midnight and The Seventh Wave.
Costumes & Culture
with Cristina García Rodero and Cristina de Middel
“To highlight Man’s yearning for transcendence, as well as the representations societies make of themselves for themselves, the ethnological work by Cristina García Rodero about popular and traditional festivities and rituals is seen in dialogue with Cristina de Middel’s investigation into our stereotyped conceptions of the other.”
The selection draws upon work from García Rodero’s España Oculta, a 15-year series exploring and capturing Spanish traditions, festivities, and religious rites that had begun to fade across the country. In parallel, photographs fusing fiction and reality are shown from De Middel’s series This is What Hatred Did — a visual reimagining of the 1954 novel My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by Amos Tutuola — and Midnight at the Crossroads, in collaboration with Brazilian photographer Bruno Morais, which explores the story of deity Esù, one of the most enigmatic entities in the cosmogony of West African religions.
Community & Seclusion
with Nanna Heitmann and Alec Soth
“Who are the secluded communities that live in contact with Nature today, in extreme situations or cut off from the rest of the world? What do they look like on a planet that is so globalized? And, furthermore, how do these people shape their surroundings and vice versa? These are the compelling questions raised by the work of Nanna Heitmann and Alec Soth.”
This selection sees photographs from Soth’s first book Sleeping by the Mississippi, as well as Niagara and Broken Manual, which together explore the myths and curiosities attributed to communities, often disconnected, in the United States. In dialogue are images from Heitmann’s Hiding from Baby Yaga, which explores life along the banks of the River Yenisei in Siberia — one of the longest rivers in the world, and only a few hundred kilometers shorter than the Mississippi.
Eternal & Ephemeral
with Newsha Tavakolian and Hiroji Kubota
“Immeasurable, fleeting, enduring. Nature can show both faces of the same coin: observe and reverse, eternal and ephemeral. Japanese photographer Hiroji Kubota’s images of the mystical mountain landscapes in China are in dialogue with Newsha Tavakolian’s work on Iran and the effects of global warming.”
Kubota captured his dream-like landscapes of the Guilin Mountains during his 1,000-day tour of China between 1979 and 1981. He was to return several times to document the mountains, enveloped by the sea of clouds. In parallel, this theme draws upon work from Tavakolian’s documentation of the environmental changes affecting Lake Urmia in Azerbaijan, which has reduced in size by around 80% over the past 30 years.
Cristina de Middel
London Selfridges The Corner Shop & Selfridges Cinema
Thursday, October 12, 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Prada Uomo Montenapoleone Milano
Thursday, October 12, 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Prada Epicenter New York Broadway
Friday, October 20, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.