Photographer Anya Anti created 2.5 seconds, a climate change awareness project that she hopes will start a conversation about the issue and educate more people about the facts, the urgency of the crisis and the seriousness of its consequences.
“I’ve always cared about the environment and loved nature,” says Anti PetaPixel. “But I guess it’s not enough to take action and change my lifestyle.
“The turning point was when I first visited Iceland in 2016. I have traveled to many places before, but none of them could compare to what I felt and saw in Iceland. This marked me a lot and made me realize that our planet is fragile and that its beauty can disappear.
“The thought of nature being affected and destroyed by climate change has become personal, shocking and overwhelming,” says the photographer. “I wanted to capture and preserve the incredible beauty of Iceland through my art while I still could.
“I also realized that it was time to give more meaning to my photographic work, to use it as my unique voice to express what I feel and share my fear for the future, and to create a strong message .”
Half of the images in the project are self-portraits, which Anti often takes with a tripod and remote control. But sometimes it helps to be behind the camera and have more control over the process. That’s when her model was beneficial, and she believes the four-member team effort was beneficial to the project.
The shot was done in Iceland, but post-processing was back in New York, so Anti had to view the final results while looking through the viewfinder or even without it for the self-portraits. She drew sketches, created mood boards, did a lot of research on the location, etc. The result may vary, but the final work is usually very close to what she imagined when she was doing all these things.
What is the title 2.5 seconds Mean?
“Planet Earth is 4.5 billion years old. Humanity is around 140,000 years old. If we compress Earth’s existence into a normal full day of 24 hours, we’ve been on this planet for 2.5 seconds,” says Anti, the Ukraine-born artist. “I used 2.5 seconds as a title because I wanted to invoke the power of numbers and perspective to create a strong and shocking effect.
“In 2.5 seconds, we became the dominant species with a rapidly growing population, causing catastrophic environmental impact. We created the industrial revolution and burned fossil fuels creating more carbon in the atmosphere than ever before.
“We have caused global warming at a record rate, endangering our very existence. We have cut down trees, destroyed more forests than ever before and polluted the air, water and soil. We have created an island of waste, the size of the state of Texas, in the middle of the ocean.
“Three quarters of the Earth’s land surface is under pressure from human activity. In just 2.5 seconds, we’ve transformed the planet into our own personal factory.
“It took us nearly 4.5 billion years of evolution to exist, and we’ve changed so much in such a short time. The problem is us. And it’s up to us whether we want to arrive at 3 seconds.
How the project started
The visit to Iceland in 2016 opened her eyes and changed her perception of climate change. Anti started thinking about the project in 2017, and it took three years to bring it to fruition. Most of 2018 was spent developing concepts, trying to crowdfund the project, and finding sponsors. In 2019, she was finally able to go to Iceland for ten days with her team and shoot the entire project. In 2020, she sorted the material, edited it and finalized it.
Anti tried crowdfunding but failed and had to refund all donations. In the end, she was able to find sponsors and invest some of her own savings in the project.
Two of the most difficult photos
“The hardest picture to take was The sea level rises,said Anti. “I had no idea how it would be until I got back to New York and started riding.
This time the photography artist couldn’t really rely on the props and the setup was out of his control. Nevertheless, she always prepared herself. Initially, his model sat on a piece of white brick wall with an open swimming pool in the background.
“I couldn’t really build an installation and flood the area,” explains the photographer. “So my only hope was to use my editing skills and turn the blank wall into a house, [with] a piece of spray-painted cardboard as a roof and use the pool as a base for the flooded area.
Another very difficult shoot was Melting of the glaciers.
Anti wanted to create a costume that would look like melting ice with ice crystals and water drops and at the same time make it look like it’s not clothing but rather part of an ice creature that represents glaciers.
“I made the costume myself and spent an awful lot of time on it,” Anti recalls. “I used tulle which I roughly sewed to the sides, nude sheer pantyhose, acrylic crystals and teardrop beads of various sizes which I hot glued and sewed directly to the fabric.
“I wanted to create the illusion that my subject is naked and that the crystals are part of her body attached directly to the skin. That’s why I used sheer tulle in a nude color.
The photo shoot itself was also very difficult. I wanted to shoot the concept next to the real glacier. It was very cold and we had to film in freezing rain and wind. My model was half-naked, wearing a bodysuit and an ice cream costume. I had to be very fast and very efficient.
The photographer’s favorite photo
“I love them all!” says the concept artist. “But if I had to choose [a favorite]I would probably choose Global warming. It’s a self-portrait where I’m holding a planet in fusion. It is very personal and symbolizes the whole project.
“I instructed someone to do it [hand painted desktop globe] for me here in the United States. Then I took it with me to Iceland in my luggage.
One of his assistants applied paint to his fingers on the spot to create the effect of a molten planet with dripping paint. When editing, she figured it needed a more mountainous background with fog than the one it was shot on and swapped it out for a different locale in Photoshop.
The gear and post-processing
Anti shot the project in Iceland with a Nikon D600 DSLR, a NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4 and a NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8 in autofocus.
All photos were taken in natural light and sometimes with a silver reflector.
“I do RAW processing and most of the color correction and color grading in Lightroom,” says Anti. “Then I do compositing and editing in Photoshop. [The photos] aren’t necessarily compositing heavy, but I always incorporate some level of it into my work. I am also a perfectionist and pay a lot of attention to detail.
“That’s why I spend time cleaning things up with the Clone Stamp and Healing Brush, perfecting shapes with Liquify, and making local color and contract adjustments with Masks. In the end, I can apply effects like extra color work, contrast or textures like rain and snow.
“On average, I spend 3 to 5 hours per photo.”
Anti’s beginnings as a photographer
“I’ve always been a creative person,” says the environmental photographer. “As a child I was good at painting and crafts. In 2010 I discovered photography and fell in love with it. With only $400 in savings, I bought my first DSLR camera [while in the university in Ukraine studying metallurgy, the field for which she received her diploma.]
“Unfortunately, I had no artistic training, access to professional training in my country, teaching to experts or tutorials, mentors or photographer friends. So, I had to learn everything on my own. I got all my knowledge and inspiration from social media and online photography communities. Through trial and error and analyzing the work of other photographers, I learned and improved.
“When I got into photography, I struggled to find myself for a while. Like many of us, I was experimenting with different genres. But I was sure of one thing: I wanted to shoot something that would be different from everyone else.
“When I started photographing people, I wanted to do something beyond just portraits. I wanted to show something that couldn’t be seen, add a story, convey an atmosphere and create a compelling image.
“So I started experimenting, playing with different lenses and shooting techniques, using props, editing in Photoshop, and adding special effects to my photos using compositing. later I started creating surreal female fine art portraits, which became my favorite genre and a hallmark of my work.
His first project, Butterflies in my stomach, was very personal and reflected her struggle with a dark time in her life. But with 2.5 seconds, she hopes to raise awareness about climate change, start a conversation about the issue, and educate more people about the facts, the urgency of the crisis, and the seriousness of its consequences.
“This 3-year experience taught me a lot,” admits Anti. “I learned what I am capable of. I learned about people and relationships; I made new relationships, did a lot of research and made many lifestyle changes to live more sustainably .
“I am a different person now. And I’m very proud of the final artwork and how this project came out. My only hope is that it has at least some impact or influence on how we treat the Earth.
You can see more of Anya Anti’s work on her website, 500px, and Instagram.
About the Author: Phil Mistry is a photographer and teacher based in Atlanta, GA. He started one of the first digital camera courses in New York at the International Center of Photography in the 90s. He was director and teacher of Sony/Popular Photography magazine’s Digital Days workshops. You can reach him here.
Picture credits: All photography by Anya Anti