Ann Lesley BarTur Award
Award-winning documentary photographer Yadira Hernández-Picó raises awareness about climate change and environmental justice through her work. The artist is engaged in visual storytelling projects comprising photographs and text to further humanize a subject, creating an accurate, compelling representation of her stories.
Hernández-Picó’s work highlights how underrepresented communities, in particular, are disproportionately affected due to the increased exposure and vulnerability to changes in extreme weather and climate events.
As a Puerto Rican, her personal projects are an opportunity to show a comprehensive view within the context of colonialism of how full recovery remains out of reach for many in the aftermath of catastrophic weather events, such as Hurricane Maria in 2017.
Her photographic work engages with the emotional aspects of climate change, revealing the human consequences of such transformations. Through storytelling, she seeks to create links between the viewer and urgent social-ecological issues, effectively contributing to fairer societies.
Photography, for her, strengthens connections with those who do not directly experience the environmental crisis (beyond scientific data) and may only understand its impact through an image depicting the impending man-made occurring destruction or increasing changes in climate-attributed disasters.
The artist also gets involved in environmental issues as she works with natural, sustainable, and recycled materials, exploring low-toxicity and ecologically friendly photographic processes, including anthotypes, chlorophyll printing, and plant-based developers.
“Volver a casa” [Returning Home]
Maricao, Puerto Rico
2017 to date
“Volver a casa” [Returning Home] is an intimate chronicle of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, highlighting how underrepresented communities, in particular, are disproportionately affected due to the increased exposure and vulnerability to changes in extreme weather and climate events.
Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico in September 2017 leaving a massive humanitarian emergency in its wake. The storm leveled towns, deprived thousands of their homes and jobs, and left the island’s 3.3 million residents for months –even years– without power, clean water, and access to medical care, exacerbating the economic crisis of the US unincorporated territory.
The local government stated that 64 people died as a result of the hurricane, but a Harvard University study revealed that the actual death toll was closer to 5,000, making the storm one of the deadliest natural disasters in US history, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
In “Volver a casa”, I also return to my childhood home, my mother's home. As we were doing our best to recover as many possessions as was feasible under layers of debris, my mother said to me in Spanish: “I lost my place in the world.” This project certainly changed me.