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Monsanto: A Photographic Investigation | Mathieu Asselin | Nominated for Deutsche Borse Photography Foundation Prize 2018

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Monsanto: A Photographic Investigation | Mathieu Asselin | Nominated for Deutsche Borse Photography Foundation Prize 2018

110.00

Published by Actes Sud, Verlag Kettler, June 2017

ISBN 978-3-86206-657-5 (English

300 x 270mm

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The Work

Monsanto®'s dozens of Superfund sites ( large contaminated sites of high priority for the us Environmental Protection Agency ) across the United States alone are affecting hundreds of communities and their environment with terrifying health and ecological consequences. Monsanto® maintains strong ties with the us government, and especially with the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration). It is a bedfellow with many other economical and political power houses around the world. The company engages in campaigns of misinformation, the persecution of institutions and individuals, including scientists, farmers and activists that dare to disclose its crimes. Monsanto® is spreading new technologies and products, while scientists, ecological institutions and human rights organizations are putting out alerts about issues like public health, food safety and ecological sustainability issues on which our future on this planet depends. This is all particularly troublesome since Monsanto® is entering a new chapter of disregard for our planet through the creation and commercialization of gmos. Looking at the company’s past and present, this project aims to picture what Monsanto® ’s near future will look like.

The Book

For Monsanto: A Photographic Investigation, the Franco- Venezuelan photographer Mathieu Asselin was awarded the Aperture Foundation First Book Award in 2017, the Dummy Book Award Kassel 2016, and a special mention for the Luma Rencontres Dummy Book Award 2016 at the Rencontres de la Photographie (Arles), his book is shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation 2018. Beyond the distinguished editorial object, this recognition enshrines an exceptional documentary process conducted for five years through Vietnam and the United States, which portrays an overwhelming portrait of the ancient and current practices of this giant chemical industry.

In order to construct his meticulous investigation, Mathieu Asselin exhumed and consulted hundreds of documents - press excerpts, judgments, archives, films, and testimonies - focusing on facts or dates that dramatically illustrate the ravages of all kinds which mark the company's long history of sprawling development. Thus, the drama of the small town of Aniston (Alabama, 1970), that became a ghost city as a result of releases into the air and water of the infamous and poisonous chlorinated PCB derivatives produced by the local factory. Thus, the terrifying Agent Orange - another Monsanto product - an acid-based herbicide and defoliant which the US military will detonate on the plains of Vietnam from 1968 to 1971, permanently contaminating up to ten percent of its territory and causing thousands of victims.

The book also methodically illuminates another facet of Monsanto's processes to establish its global grip: propaganda and communication. Whether they are advertisements describing an ideal world where chemistry and its derivatives contribute to universal well-being, or subjugating contracts signed by thousands of farmers condemning them to an unfair economic model and ecological nuisance, each document published by Monsanto can be analyzed as an exercise in disinformation. Monsanto: A Photographic Investigation is intended to pay tribute to the hundreds of associations, to the thousands of famous or anonymous individuals, "to the NGO's who oppose with tenacity and at their own risk the perils of the Monsanto lobby”.

Benoit Rivero, Actes Sud, www.mathieuasselin.com

Monsanto has had a rapid rise and a more than colourful history marked by cover-ups and scandals: dioxins in PCB coolants, genetically modified products such as the bovine growth hormone Posilac and the production of the defoliant Agent Orange. The company is still highly controversial, irritating scientists, environmental organisations and human rights associations and acting in a way that makes people doubt the harmlessness of its products. As a manufacturer of food and animal feed, seeds and chemical products, Monsanto is relentlessly developing and marketing new technologies. The monopoly it has arguably secured by dubious means bears no relation to its negligence with regard to potential risks. Particularly in light of the devastating consequences that are still causing suffering to people and the environment in many places, the company’s self-portrayal as a forward-looking, omnipotent force for good seems cynical.

The photographer Mathieu Asselin, who lives in France and Venezuela, has tried his hand at the daunting task of exploring the issues surrounding Monsanto. His investigative photographic study manages to capture the complexity of this topic, creating links between past, present and future and illuminating many different aspects from a variety of perspectives. His photos and texts, thoroughly researched and complemented by a remarkable wealth of facts and visual impressions, raise awareness of the problems involved. Throughout the book, Asselin seems to be concerned about who is actually responsible and who is affected by the consequences. Recognising that passing the buck is a useless game, his photos show that there are victims on all sides: physical deformities in Vietnam, families plagued by death and disease in the US, illegal waste dumps, depopulated regions, destroyed cornfields and farmers whose livelihood has been ruined. The photos are complemented by a wealth of archival material, extracts from press releases, court files, image campaigns as well as different slogans and stills from commercials that seem a bit like Disneyland and expose Monsanto’s absurd attempts to pass itself off as a company interested in satisfying today’s demands and preserving the earth for future generations. www.verlag-kettler.de

Aux Etats-Unis, des dizaines de sites Monsanto (classés sensibles selon l'agence fédérale pour l'environnement) maintiennent des activités aux graves conséquences sanitaires et environnementales. Au nom des droits de l'homme et de l'environnement, scientifiques et institutions ont déjà lancé l'alerte.
Cette enquête photographiée vise à faire état des pratiques actuelles de Monsanto pour comprendre l’impact de ses activités sur les hommes et leur environnement.
Choisi unanimement par le jury comme premier prix du Dummy Book Award FotobookFestival Kassel 2016, cet ouvrage offre une plongée photograpique dans le passé et le présent de l'entreprise chimique.  Il associe des documents d'archive de la société, de nombreux portraits et paysages directement affectés par les conséquences environnementales de cette production industrielle. La pertinence du sujet est porté par une maquette originale, récompensée également par une mention spéciale du jury du Luma Dummy Book Award lors des Rencontres photographiques d'Arles 2016. www.actes-sud.fr