Streets around the world have become much quieter. One of those that has the most drastic change is Oxford Street. This London shopping street was one of the busiest roads in Europe, with around half a million daily visitors. One of the most popular stores on this street is Selfridges, who have decided to bring nature into the city at a time where some people are unable to experience it. Their new digital windows represent nature returning into central London by showcasing the photographic works of Cameron Bensley and Marco Kesseler. These photographers’ works showcase the beauty of nature while urging people to protect it from the effects of climate change.
Selfridges has pledged to become more sustainable by creating a five-year plan called Project Earth, to change our ways of consuming. In summer 2020 they introduced clothing rental, second-hand pieces, beauty recycling and product repairs. Not only are they supplying these services, they are also working with brands such as Prada to create sustainable alternatives by using innovation in materials. The company has also pledged to reduce all of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2023 and eliminate waste, through streams such as packaging where they will ensure all waste is recyclable, reusable or compostable. But one thing they are focusing on is their commitment to ensure all of the materials and ingredients that they have within their store comes from sustainable sources and is traceable.
On such a poignant street, such as Oxford Street, store windows always are a topic of discussion. None more so than Selfridges. But since launching Project Earth they have done things a little differently. Instead of promoting products, they have used their platform to showcase artworks by a variety of artists and designers, all in relation to our environment. At a time when we can’t visit galleries, this also allows people to experience art. Their most recent window comes in the form of digital screens which show photographs by two photographers. Over the last year people have a growing appreciation for nature. A study conducted by Professor Miles Richardson, and the National Trust, revealed that awareness and appreciation for nature rose by 46% over the UK’s summer lockdown period. Nature is known for being important for our mental health, so at a time where we may be stuck inside and people are working from home, going outside seems like a luxury. Unfortunately, those in cities may find it more difficult to have this escape. Therefore these new digital windows bring nature into the city. Allowing those safely walking past to feel a part of nature, whilst also allowing for its appreciation as it becomes highlighted in an uncommon environment. But for those who cannot visit the window, Selfridges has created an interactive version of the photographs.
London photographer, and in-house fashion photographer for Selfridges, Cameron Bensley captures powerful images of the natural world, and the effects of climate change on it. Bensley sees the act of taking his images as extremely personal, so chooses to shoot alone. The connection with the landscape itself impacts the final image, and allows him to notice beauty, such as the moss on the tree trunks in the Coedydd Maentwrog forest, situated in Snowdonia. But one of his more impactful images shows a glacier at the starting point of the Rhone River, which feeds into Lake Geneva. The glacier is wrapped in protective sheeting in an effort to slow down its melting due to warming temperatures.
Marco Kesseler is an observational documentary and portrait photographer. The Selfridges window showcases his work on commercial agriculture spaces, from Devon to the Midlands. Clinical plastic polytunnels are shown in contrast to the plants that live inside or around them, even overcoming them, such as the ferns that grew into the plastic. Another feature was the algae that “attacks” the plastic that is ultimately protecting the cultivated raspberry plants, and self-seeded wildflowers that establish themselves in structural cracks. Representing nature’s fragility and resilience. He also became fascinated by the way that the leaves stuck to the plastic due to condensation, and the soft light the tunnels create. As these polytunnels contain the food we eat, the photographer believes that we are all connected to nature even if we realise it or not.
“A Return to Nature” will be on view at Selfridges until the 31st January 2021.
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