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Elemental Wasteland

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A visual documentation of the four elements and pollution. Created for my Senior Thesis Exhibition of 2013.

Text of Elemental Wasteland




    The Four Elements


    Make a Difference

    Artistic Inspiration







    Elemental Wasteland is a visual narrative about the effects pollution has on man kind and the planet Earth.

    Inspired by the four elements: Air, Water, Earth, and Fire, Elemental Wasteland is meant to be a conceptual display of the juxtaposition between the beauty of life, and destruction man kind is capable of causing.

    Please dont misunderstand, this project is not about glamorizing pollution, but rather it is meant to be a commentary on how were destroying the beautiful aspects of the world we live in through our actions.

    Inspired through photography, cinema, and the use of light, the imagery presented is meant to be compelling, yet give the viewer a feeling of unsettlement.

    Overall this journey has been a personal one to discover the effects of human actions on the world, a journey in the photography application, as well to learn the importance of the elements and how they are essential to man kinds survival.



    The Four Elements, in classical Greek science are the basic components of all matter on Earth. Originally it was believed that everything in the universe was composed of the Four Elements, and the elements could exist with different attributes, as well as in different states.1 The Four Elements were as

    follows: Air, Water, Earth, and Fire. It was the Greek philosopher Empedocles who established the idea of the Four Elements.2 The symbols used in this project for these elements originate with the ancient Greeks, and were later to be used as alchemical symbols throughout history.3

    The Four Elements


    The first element is Air - as defined : a mixture of nitrogen, oxygen, and minute amounts of other gases that surrounds the earth and forms its atmosphere.4 These gases are essential for all living and breathing organisms to survive. Without our atmosphere and clean oxygen, all life on Earth

    would face extinction and would in turn cease to exist. Finding a clean alternative to energy use to keep our air safe and uncontaminated is of the essence for the future.

    The symbol that is represented for Air is an upward triangle with a line drawn through the middle.



    The second element is Water - as defined: a transparent, odorless, tasteless liquid, a compound of hydrogen and oxygen that in a more or less impure state constitutes rain, oceans, lakes, and rivers.5

    Vital for all forms of life, water covers approximately 71% of the Earths surface in some state.6 Being able to

    have a steady supply of safe drinking water is essential, however even today with the improvements that have been made, still almost 1.1 billion people lack access to clean water.7

    The symbol that is represented for Water is an upside down triangle.



    The third element is Earth, also known as the land, trees, rocks, and soil. Earth has many different definitions, however in this case, the one that best applies is the dry surface of this planet as distinguished from sea or sky; land; ground.8 Earth is the principle foundation for all living humans and provides humans with materials in which to survive and live. For this project

    however, the focus will remain solely on the forestry of the world. Forests are an essential part to the world, but many do not know the impact that cutting down forestry has on the environment.

    The symbol that is used to represent Earth is an upside down triangle with a line drawn through the middle.



    The last and final element is Fire. Fire is defined as: a state, process, or instance of combustion in which fuel or other material is ignited and combined with oxygen, giving off light, heat, and flame.9 The control of fire was a turning point in evolution for it allowed many to cook and provided protection from predators.10 Today, fire is used for cooking, hunting, steaming,

    the burning of fuels, for warmth, transportation, and many other uses. Although naturally, fire is a beautiful and helpful element, it is also an element that man can use for destruction, and leads to the next topic: pollution.

    The symbol that is used for fire is a solid triangle that points upward.




    So what is pollution, really? Pollution is the introduction of harmful substances or products into the environment.11 Human pollution can come in many forms, from harmful gas emissions, chemical waste, to even urban light contamination. The focus for my thesis will be specific forms of pollution including smog, litter and oil pollution, deforestation, and fossil fuel consumption. All of these forms of contamination that have been chosen are directly correlated to one of the elements as inspiration discussed previously. From my overall research I have discovered that pollution is responsible for millions of deaths a year, due to lack of clean air, water and soil for proper living.



  • 11


    Smog and urban air pollution is caused by several factors and is a serious detriment to humans and the natural world. Smog is smoke or other atmospheric pollutants combined with fog in an unhealthy or irritating mixture.12 The term is a mixture of smoke and fog and is often used to describe the thick atmosphere often caused due to harmful emissions that occur in the ozone.

    More specifically, this type of smog is called photochemical, and occurs in urban areas and is often highly toxic due to the oxidizing chemicals.

    Human pollutants that cause smog can often include

    automobiles, factories, chemical solvents, and power plants. While each form of pollution is detrimental on its own, all of these forms are connected and one directly affects another.

    Through air pollution, we are also harming the water

    and soil, and so on. Harmful gases fill the air, these chemicals come through the rain, and then the soil is affected for farming and animals. This is an important factor to consider that no action goes without consequence.


    According to the World Health

    Organization, an approximate total

    of 1.3 million deaths are caused due

    outdoor urban air pollution each year.

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    Improper dumping (litter) and oil pollution play a major contribution to the contamination of the worlds water. Litter can often include chemical pollutants, marine debris, and trash. Plastics, paper, food waste, and other forms of trash that contaminate water can distribute harmful chemicals to animals and humans if ingested.

    Bottled water is a major factor in trash due to inadequate recycling, as well

    as it takes 17 million barrels of oil in the production of bottled water. North Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour.13 The crude oil that it takes to produce this trash

    is one of the most important yet detrimental substances to the environment that man utilizes on a day to day basis. Also referred to as petroleum, crude oil is petroleum as it comes from the ground before it is refined.14 Petroleum is used in a natural or refined state as fuel, and can be distilled to use as gasoline, kerosene, and other forms of energy.

    Petroleum refining has become one of the worlds most regulated industries,

    and there are approximately

    80 million barrels processed

    every day in the world.15

    Overall these substances are not only hurting our environment but in the long run the Earth will become nothing more than a wasteland filled with trash if a proper take on recycling is not addressed in the future.

    Litter and Oil

    In the world right now, 1.1 billion people

    lack access to a clean supply of water,

    and as a result almost 1.6 million

    people die every year.

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  • 14


  • 15


    Deforestation is the clearing or thinning of trees and forestry, and is often caused by human activity and is now one of the largest issues regarding land use.16

    Deforestation can include clear-cutting of trees for agriculture, logging for the timber and wood, as well as wildfires.

    The need for deforestation is often for paper products, daily human needs that come from the wood, and agriculture.

    Trees and forestry can absorb greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels that increase global warming.

    By cutting down massive amounts of the forested

    areas however, the temperatures around the world are constantly increasing due to the gas emissions. According to the World Wildlife Federation, approximately 50 million square miles of forest are lost each year, equivalent to 36 football fields every minute.

    Through their research they have discovered the worlds rain forests could completely vanish in a hundred years at the current rate of deforestation.17


    According to the World Wildlife Federation,

    the worlds rain forests could completely

    vanish in a hundred years at the

    current rate of deforestation.

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    The last form of pollution for my thesis is the consumption of fossil fuels. Fire is an element which can be used as a destructive force and humans consume fossil fuels more than any other source of energy in the world.