What this project is about?
With my partner Frauke Huber, I have documented global agriculture’s environmental and social consequences since 2007. We have lived for extended periods in diverse communities, from fishers in Central Asia, Bangladesh, and Mexico to farmers in India, Burkina Faso, Brazil, the US, and Germany, to pastoralists and large-scale farming corporations in Ethiopia and Brazil. We even bought a house and established a research base in Bombay Beach, a small town on the shores of the Salton Sea in Southern California, because this region offers a glimpse into the future of a planet heating up.
But, our investigations, publications, or projects rarely brought about tangible change for the communities we documented. Change only came when I started getting involved in projects myself, building structures, tools, and communities:
We published individual chapters of our ongoing LandRush Project in magazines like GEO and Der Spiegel and as multimedia web documentaries, interactive iPad apps, and short films. In addition, we presented its findings at universities, journalism schools, and conferences worldwide, ranging from water rights and environmental justice to the Anthropocene. We also build spatial multichannel video installations at international art institutions and museums, where visitors co-author meaning when exploring fragmented narratives of diverse stakeholders and experts. And, when we feel that a story is not tangible using media, we expand our approach through live performances and building site-specific installations.
Aggrey’s Dream was a compelling story about the Kenyan photographer Aggrey Mboya Kharondo, who had built a school for a hundred children in a slum in Mombasa that I published in several magazines. I crafted the storytelling to produce a clear call to action that showed what was needed and the outcome. As a result, the development project I founded in 2010 to support Aggrey in realizing his dream gained far more support than initially envisioned. In addition to providing a meal a day for a hundred children, we hired four teachers, supported Aggrey’s children to get higher education, and built an income-generating bakery that finances the school.
The Riff Reporter cooperative started in 2016 from the frustration of working with media companies, how they abused independent journalists, and forced many to sign cutthroat total buyout contracts. The idea was to provide these journalists with alternative publishing and monetizing tools to open an additional income stream for their work, strengthen their bargaining power, and break the dependence on oligopolistic publishing houses.
The international art and research project World of Matter I co-founded in 2010 aimed to change and advance the discourse around the natural world, its materials, and their attribution as resources for human consumption. It connected a diverse group of cultural practitioners and theorists. Working through conferences, exhibitions, publications, and a web platform, WOM built critical knowledge and instigated essential and timely discussions in art and the humanities.
Now, developing and exploring the concept of Transition Journalism offers me the opportunity to lay down a more structured framework and theory based on what I have learned over the past two decades: My explorations using the camera as a research tool, complex transmedia storytelling, and my global perspective gained through years of living in diverse communities, with my urge to build sustainable structures to spur independence (Aggrey’s Dream, RiffReporter) and artistic knowledge production (WOM), to teaching Eco-Social Design and coaching students and professionals worldwide to develop visions beyond their current position and equipping them with tools to realize them.
As the consequences of our society’s continuing overshoot of most planetary boundaries become increasingly evident, journalists must take responsibility for their unique skills and societal position. Transition Journalism is one way of doing just this.
I look forward to exploring journalism’s new challenges, questions, and promises with you. Please support this journey through critical questions, feedback, ideas, and connections. If you want to join the discussion and learn with me, please subscribe to my newsletter or send me a note.
Uwe H. Martin
If you have questions, suggestions or want to invite me for talks, lectures, panels or workshops on Transition Journalism send me a Mail.
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I am an independent slow journalist, visual storyteller, artist, and educator. Besides my journalistic and artistic practice I teach eco-social design, photography, film, journalism, and storytelling for eco-social impact at universities, workshops, and journalism schools worldwide. I strive to empower people to become independent, expand their scope of action, and bring about lasting changes in society and the environment. If you want to know more about me check out my website: www.uwehmartin.de