In one well-executed work of art, the failings and triumphs of society can be expressed more succinctly than they ever could be in a long line of governmental reports or journalistic analyses. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words … and in recent years, a growing number of artists have responded to the environmental crisis engulfing our planet in the best way they know how: by tackling the issue in their work.

Banksy, Blu, Jason deCaires Taylor, Isaac Cordal, and Angela Palmer, amongst others, have all addressed the encroaching dangers of climate change and species extinction in their work. London street artists Louis Masai Michel and Jim Vision have created a series of stunning murals to raise awareness of the urgent need to protect the world’s bee populations.

Even the mountains of plastic waste we produce – threatening an estimated 700 marine species with extinction – has been put to more positive use as artistic material. An Oregon-based group of sculptors known as Washed Ashore have reused thousands of pounds of oceanic trash in their work. South African painter Mbongeni Buthelezi, Czech sculptor Veronika Richterová and U.S. sculptor Mara Haseltine are among the many artists to include repurposed plastic trash in their pieces.

And now, Senegalese photographer Fabrice Monteiro has turned his attention to the problem by producing a breathtaking series of images that seek to “conjure the spectre of environmental ruin.”

The idea for the project first arose when Monteiro returned to Senegal after living abroad for twenty years and was appalled by the pollution he found on the country’s shorelines: old fishing nets lying discarded on the beaches, blood from slaughterhouses gushing into the sea, and disposed plastic bags littering the once pristine landscape.

“It was a shock for me to find how polluted everything had become,” he said.

He teamed up with an environmental protection group called Ecofund to create a series of photographs starring a “djinni” – supernatural being – “warning of mankind’s folly in a way that local children might also understand.”

The djinni in each picture wears a costume made by Senegalese designer Doulsy, using layers of trash arranged in order of the time it takes for each piece of material to decompose.

Styrofoam takes up to 500 years to decompose while many other types of plastic do not break down for up to 1,000. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that only 12 percent of plastic waste in the U.S. is recycled.

Monteiro’s photographs were taken near a trash-burning site outside the city of Dakar, where 1,300 tons of waste are deposited very day.

He has named the project “The Prophecy,” as it so vividly calls to mind how our future might look.

Although “The Prophecy” deals with the growing pollution problems of Senegal, these chilling images of our probable future could be applied anywhere.

Plastic pollution is truly a global phenomenon.

Monteiro hopes that his images will inspire viewers to take action … before it’s too late.



To find out more about Monteiro and his work, visit his website. And to learn about how you can start cutting your plastic footprint today, check out some of the articles below:

All image source: Fabrice Monteiro