Future Studies is an award-winning photo collection that captures what we need to survive in the years to come
With the pandemic being what it is, the digital age has gone further ahead than what we originally imagined. At a time when everything is done online, it’s never been easier to live life detached from everything outside. Still, with all these advancements comes a question: where are we headed from here?
This is what Italian photographer Luca Locatelli delves into in his photo series, Future Studies. The collection was a long-term project in which Locatelli researched new means for humanity to survive on planet Earth. With it, he seeks to question the existing norms of permanent economic growth, as well as the relationship between humanity, nature, and technology.
“One of the characteristic symptoms of the times we are living in is the growing feeling that we are losing the vision of a better future, of a promising, yet unknown, hypothetical tomorrow,” Locatelli says.
“During these tough times of COVID-19, when the world seems to have stood still, we have been given a chance like never before. We can consider what our behavior should look like in the future, where efforts should be made to re-establish a healthy relationship with nature and the planet.”
The images from Locatelli’s collection might have just sparked the debate he was hoping for as Future Studies has since won the Leica Oskar Barnack Award. It’s a distinction granted to photographers who “capture and express the relationship between man and the environment in the most graphic form.”
The award is named after Oskar Barnack from Leitz—the company that would later become Leica. It was Barnack who developed the first 35 mm camera in the world. At the time, it was a relatively small format, though it would later see widespread adoptation.
It is in a similar visionary spirit that the award is given. And if Locatelli’s photos are any indication, we have a lot of work to do in the days ahead, even after we finally lay the pandemic to rest.
Check out the full gallery below:
The Control Room
Greifswald nuclear power station, also known as Lubmin nuclear power station, was the largest nuclear power station in East Germany before closure shortly after the German reunification. The plants were of the VVER-440/V-230 type, which was the second generation of Soviet-designed plants. The plant is in Greifswald, in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. In late 1989, nuclear regulatory bodies of countries operating VVER plants found the need to fit many new safety systems, which were stated to have been necessary in almost all areas. All East German reactors were closed soon after reunification, with restarting conditional on compliance with the stricter West Germany safety standards. Convinced that upgrading to the new safety standards was not economically feasible, the new unified German government decided in early 1991 to decommission the four active units, close unit 5, which was under test at the time, and halt construction of the rest of the units
Vattenfall’s Welzow-Süd mine
Renewables are booming, but Germany’s use of lignite, the dirtiest coal, hasn’t declined. At Vattenfall’s Welzow-Süd mine, some of the world’s largest machines claw 22 million tons a year from a 45-foot-thick seam. How long will that go on? “Very long, I hope,” said Jan Domann, a young engineer. “We have enough lignite.”
Amager Bakke waste-to-energy plant
Two automated grab cranes inside the Amager Bakke waste-to-energy plant's collection chamber in Copenhagen, Denmark. Here, trash is dumped directly into the massive silo, which has a total height of 36 meters and can hold approximately 22’000 tonnes of waste. Although it burns through trash at a rate of 70 tonnes per hour, Copenhagen has to import rubbish from Britain and Germany to make up for the Dane’s efficient recycling scheme which leaves a little to landfill waste. Their hope is to one day run out of waste, as the plant has been designed as a circular solution and to be powered by biomass instead of trash.
309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group
An aerial view of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group in Tucson-Arizona, USA. This is the largest aircraft storage and preservation facility in the world that handles nearly 3,300 aircraft. The arid climate of the region makes it possible to store aircraft and to prevent corrosion and weather damage, allowing them to preserve for years. The process to optimize the life cycle of such resource-intensive machines is a leading example of circular economy in the heavy industry sector. The so-called Boneyard remanufacturing and repurposing technology makes the most out of the planes that sit at the airfield. Precious parts are dismantled and reused in the Air Force and entire aircraft can be reassembled and put back into service. At the end of the life cycle, they can be scrapped for steel and aluminum recycling.
The port of Hamburg
This coal and mineral ore storage facility in the port of Hamburg is surrounded by wind turbines extending in the distance. These minerals were shipped for thousands of miles across oceans to arrive here, feeding coal plants and heavy industries throughout Germany. In the wake of environmental crisis, Germany is aiming to phasing out of coal energy production: by 2022 an estimated 12 coal plants will be shut down, making renewables the main source of power for the country. But at this moment Germany is still producing more than 30% of its energy needs by coal. Wind energy is accounting for about 20% of Germany production and it’s making visible the transition all around the nation.
Hellisheidi Power Station
Clouds rising from geothermal wells in Hellisheidi Power Station in Iceland. Being one of the world's most nature-oriented countries, Iceland gets approximately 87% of its hot water for households and city streets heating from geothermal energy. At 303 megawatts of energy and more than 100 wells, Hellisheidi is Iceland’s largest geothermal power station and the third in the world. It has been designed with a strong attention to the environment — green painted pipes minimise the visual impact on the landscape. A circular water system has been put into work to extract and pump back water underground. Energy production is the main responsible for the climate crisis, therefore finding a way to produce cleaner energy around the globe is one of the main challenges for the future. Geothermal is one of the most circular ways to produce energy while respecting the environment. It could be applicable in many countries that can rely on volcanic activity instead of burning coal or oil.
The tomato jungle of Delphy
Inside this jungle of tomato plants illuminated by LED lighting Mr. Henk a leading world authority for growers inspects the plants. This picture is taken at Delphy, a research and development centre in the Netherlands where academia and the private sector join together for experimental research. How the future of sustainable farming could look like ? How the world is going to front the hunger crisis in the next decades ? Those questions brought me for @natgeo in the Netherlands to document this small country that has become an agricultural giant and it propose the most advanced high tech agro farming solutions to grow more with less.
Over the skies of Westland
Flying over the Westland in the Netherlands, the most advanced area in the world for agro farming technology. Furrows of artificial light lend an otherworldly aura to the greenhouse. Climate-controlled farms such as these grow crops around the clock and in every kind of weather.
Entocycle’s net chamber
A portrait of Stephanie in an experimental net chamber room for insect farming at Entocycle, a startup company in London, UK. .To incite insects to lay eggs, rotten material is scattered around the floor, making it difficult to breathe without a gas mask. Here different spectra of lights are tested to measure their effect on flies and their reproduction. Entocycle is a young British company developing technology to farm insects on a large scale for industrial protein production. Representing a more sustainable and less polluting alternative to meat, these flies are fed in their larval state using organic waste coming from coffee and beer production. "The farmers of tomorrow are the engineers of today” is Entocycle's motto and expresses the belief in the scaleability of their technology and its potential to disrupt the protein market and reduce the amount of food waste in landfills.
The algae bioreactor
Professor Ruth is checking the harvesting quality of the Algae bioreactor at the Algae park at Wageningen University, the Netherlands. The university is working on a fifteen year-roadmap project (2010-2025) that aims to develop a commercial and sustainable production chain for food, feed, chemicals, materials and fuels from microalgae.
The Reykjanes Peninsula greenhouse
Nestled in the lava fields of Reykjanes Peninsula, this 2,000 m2 greenhouse is using Icelandic water enriched with nutrients and energy from a neighbouring Geothermal Power plant. The company called ORF Genetics is growing barley in inert volcanic pumice. These barley plants are genetically engineered to produce Growth Factor proteins to create high-end luxury cosmetics to be sold all over the world. A single gram of pure EGF has a market value of 10k$. This company shows that circular economy doesn’t impose limitations, but can be harnessed as a powerful marketing tool for the eco-friendly consumers of the future.