Gideon Mendel: Drowning World Opens May 1

A unique photographic exploration of the impact of flooding on communities around the world due to climate events opens Saturday, May 1 at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. 

Gideon Mendel: Drowning World is a stark portrayal of the human condition within the context of climate change. The exhibition features 37 color photographs, a found-object display, and a video that is the culmination of 10 years of work by award-winning photographer Gideon Mendel

The images depict some of the poorest and some of the wealthiest communities in the world, including in the U.S., all exposed to the floodwater that envelops them. Working in both stills and video, Mendel’s intimate style of image-making and long-term commitment to socially engaged projects has earned international recognition.

© GIDEON MENDEL, Vilian Sousa da Silva,Taquari District, Rio Branco, Brazil, March 2015 C-print. Courtesy of the artist.  


On Thursday, May 6, the Academy presents a free Academy Town Square with Mendel via Zoom where the photographer will shed light on the stories behind his images and his motivation that has taken him around the world. The public will be invited to ask questions. For more information and to register, visit 

Two more virtual programs are planned: June 24, as part of a Drexel University’s Climate Year Speaker Series on coastal waters, and a panel discussion in July about the effects of climate change on Philadelphia called “Drowning World, Local Resilience: Preparing for a Warmer, Wetter Philadelphia.” For more information, visit 

© GIDEON MENDEL, Jeff and Tracey Waters, Staines-upon-Thames, Surrey, UK, February 2014 C-print. Courtesy of the artist.

Shared Vulnerability 

Born in Johannesburg, Mendel began photographing major floods in 2007 when one in England and another in India occurred within two weeks of each other. Their proximity struck him as a shared vulnerability that seemed to unite people. Mendel continued to photograph and document flood zones around the world, visiting Haiti (2008), Pakistan (2010), Australia and Thailand (2011), Nigeria (2012), Germany and The Philippines (2013), England and India (2014), Brazil and Bangladesh (2015) and France (2016 and 2018). 

He photographed flooding in the U.S. in 2015 and again in 2017 in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Harvey’s destruction in Texas and Hurricane Irma’s wrath in Florida, two Category 4 hurricanes that made continental landfall in the same year for the first time since records began in 1851.

Drowning World represents both a literal and allegorical means of documenting the tension between the personal and the global effects of climate change, according to Mendel. His portraits tend toward the more compositionally traditional in that the subject or group of subjects face the camera and gaze directly at the viewer while surrounded by flood water. 

“Climate change is an urgent global crisis that we must address. Drowning World presents an artistic avenue to reach people through the shared humanity revealed through the camera lens,” said Academy President and CEO Scott Cooper. “The exhibit is particularly fitting this year as the Academy and Drexel University mark 2021 as Climate Year.” 

© GIDEON MENDEL, From the Home of John Jackson, Toll Bar Village, South Yorkshire, UK, June 2007. Photograph. Courtesy of the artist.

Mendel has exhibited in group and solo exhibitions around the world and is represented in significant international and private collections. He has been critically recognized through prestigious awards including six World Press Photo awards, the Eugene Smith Award for Humanistic Photography, the Amnesty International Media Award for Photojournalism, and the Greenpeace Photo Award.  

Gideon Mendel: Drowning World is on view through Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021. It was curated by Caitlín Doherty for the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, a cultural institute of the University of North Florida, in 2018. 

To purchase timed admission tickets, click here.

Lead image: © GIDEON MENDEL, Gideon Mendel at work on his Drowning World project in Chandajan Village in Assam State, India in September 2014. In those floods, 1,864 villages were affected,1.6 million people displaced.

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