The Air of the Anthropocene is an going documentary photography project using a custom built LED light painter that translates particulate pollution levels into the density of light dots in a long exposure photograph. As the light painter’s sensor detects more pollution it draws in correspondingly greater numbers of light particles into the photograph. The effect is as if the microscopic pollution has been enlarged and lit up, shedding light on the invisible. The project is an investigation into the effects of the anthropocene on air quality and has taken in photography at sites around the world including India, the UK, Ireland, Mexico and Africa.

The work was initiated through a springboard residency at Birmingham Open Media, has been featured in the Belfast Photo Festival, Source Magazine, The Guardian, New Scientist, The UK Green Guide, acquired by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and is commercially represented by Ungalleried. Working with the both the FCOD & UN the project has been used to raise awareness of growing pollution levels in developing cities in East Africa, the images most recently being turned into protest postcards sent to local legislators in Addis Ababa.

It is currently being reworked into an open source tool kit that can be distributed to interested school children to help effect positive change through image based campaigning.

The project has been in collaboration with environmental scientists world-wide, principally Prof. Francis Pope, University of Birmingham. A genuine three way art/science/technology conversation; as well as its artistic and awareness raising outcomes the code written in its development contributed to a scientific paper evaluating low cost air quality sensors with over 100 academic citations.

Air of the Anthropocene (solo show) 8 June - 20 July 2018, University of Atypical / Belfast Photo Festival, Belfast
Air of the Anthropocene (pop up space residency & workshop) December 2018, Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast 
Transmission (group show) 27 October - 17 November, 2018, Curated by MART, Santa Monica Art Studios, Los Angeles
Photo of artist with pollution painter at CX Studios credit: Deirdre Morrissey, 2017

U.O.A. show documentation credit: University of Atypical, Paul Moore, 2019

The locations and images in this work were selected and taken in collaboration with environmental scientists, journalists and local drivers, guides and fixers. The artist would like to thank:

Prof. Francis Pope, Dr Ajit Singh, Dr Salim Alam, Dr William Avis (University of Birmingham)
Rae Howells (former editor Port Talbot Magnet)
Armando Retama, Casandra Sepúlveda, Dr Beatriz Cardenas (SEDEMA)
Prof. Michael Gatari, (University of Nairobi), Stephen Koana (driver)
Thapa Singh (guide),
Dr Camilla Alexander-White (Royal Society of Chemists)
Dr Chris Malley (University of York)
Stefanie Holzworth, Judith Owigar (United Nations Habitat Agency), Benjamin Jamuhuri (fixer)
Zerihun Getaneh, Asst. Prof. Bikila Warkineh (Addis Ababa University), Abel Kidane (Ethiopia Public Health Institute), Dawit Debebe (fixer)
Karen Newman, Louise Latter, Ben Neal, Chloe Lawson (Birmingham Open Media)
Paula Larkin (University of Atypical)
Peter Richards (Golden Thread Gallery)
Matthew Nevin and Deirdre Morrisey (MART Gallery)
John Duncan (Source Photographic Review)
SEDEMA Supersite Monitoring Station, Mexico City PM 2.5 0-10ug per cubic metre
MkII Pollution Painter feat Alphasense OPC-N2, raspberry pi 0, 3m LED tape and Artist Dr. Robin Price
Prof. Francis Pope lecturing on Kuznet's Curve from which photo locations were selected
Heol-Yr-Orsedd by Tata Steel Works, Port Talbot, Wales – PM 2.5 20 - 30 micrograms per cubic metre
CSIR-IHBT Playground, Palampur, India - PM 2.5 30-40 micrograms per cubic metre
IIT campus, Delhi, India - PM 2.5 500-600 micrograms per cubic metre
Poster from United Nations Habitat Agency Placemaking Campaign in Kampala, Uganda.

Kampala is rapidly industrialising and if current trends continue pollution levels will rise with increased car ownership and industrial activity. The Habitat Agency & KCCA held a three day 'Placemaking' awareness raising event which experimented with pedestrianising public spaces and encouraging cycling to create civic dialogue around the issue.

As part of the initiative four pollution light paintings and texts were commissioned to be displayed in the space they were taken and turned into postcards for delegates to the wider KCAA conference.

The World Health Organisation air quality guideline stipulates that PM2.5 not exceed 10 μg/m³ annual mean, or 25 μg/m³ 24-hour mean. Kampala and many of the sites featured in this project routinely exceed this.

Primary anthropogenic causes of PM 2.5 particulates are traffic, industry and biomass burning. PM 2.5 is causally linked with lost life years and decreased cognition.

Project Co-Investigators Dr Robin Price and Prof. Francis Pope
UN Habitat Kampala Placemaking Campaign including awareness raising Pollution Painting Posters. Shot, printed and displayed in three days on site in Luwum Street
Indoor Biomass Burning Kitchen, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - PM 2.5 150-200 micrograms per cubic metre
Remote presentation on Pollution Painting in Addis Ababa recorded for B.O.M. Art & Tech Summit / Making Art at the End of The World
Protest Postcards sent to local legislators (above and right) and Public Transport Poster Campaign (below) delivered in collaboration with Birmingham Open Media and A Systems Approach to Air Pollution (ASAP) at the University of Birmingham with support from the UK Department for International Development