December 22, 2023
Chatting the Pictures

Chatting the Pictures: Personal Meets Political in Undersea Climate Change Portraits

Welcome to Chatting the Pictures. Every two weeks, we present a short, lively video discussion between Michael Shaw, publisher of Reading the Pictures, and writer, professor, and historian, Cara Finnegan, examining a significant picture in the news. Chatting the Pictures is produced by Liliana Michelena.

By Staff
About the Video

This portrait is part of a series called “SINK / RISE by photographer Nick Brandt published by CNN on November 4, 2023. The images, which Brandt describes as “pre-apocalyptic,” feature South Pacific islanders underwater, symbolizing the future loss of their homes, lands, and livelihoods due to climate change. The process of capturing these images mirrors that adversity, involving dive training, breath-holding, and the construction of scenes. Despite contributing only a small percentage of global greenhouse gas emissions, Pacific islands like Fiji face the risk of complete submersion.

The video discusses the project’s powerful blending of portraiture and landscape and the brilliant tension between domesticity and disaster. We focus on the solitary figures as “everyman” and “every woman,” as well as symbols of global isolation. Finally, we examine how the composure of the subjects reflects dignity and determination in the face of overwhelming threat.

You can find all the Chatting the Pictures replays here.

Post By

See other posts by Staff here.

The Big Picture

Follow us on Instagram (@readingthepictures) and Twitter (@readingthepix), and


A curated collection of pieces related to our most-popular subject matter.


Michael Shaw

An analyst of news photos and visual journalism, and a frequent lecturer and writer on visual politics, photojournalism and media literacy, Michael is the founder and publisher of Reading the Pictures.

Cara Finnegan

Cara Finnegan is a writer, photo historian, and professor of Communication at the University of Illinois. She has been affiliated with Reading The Pictures for nearly 15 years, most recently as co-host of Chatting The Pictures. Her most recent book is Photographic Presidents: Making History from Daguerreotype to Digital.


Comments Powered by Disqus