impact on the environment

While photographing for the United Nations, Todd Webb documented the colonial legacy and its impact upon diverse landscapes. His photographs record the ways that industry and commerce etched the environment, at times in paradoxically beautiful ways that deny their deep imprint on local ecologies. Such visual tension is evident in the deep-red molten liquid running down the slag heap at a copper mine in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), and in the zigzag of the hill carving out the enormous Kariba Dam on the Zambezi River, which displaced over 57,000 Tonga people and killed thousands of animals caught in the flooding waters.

Many of Webb’s photographs feature gleaming new technologies, such as the freshly built hydroelectric power station at Pangani Falls in Tanganyika (Tanzania), where a man pushes a lawnmower behind a chain-link fence. This image resists touristic or romantic visions of the continent to illuminate the profound effects of colonialism on the environmental landscape.