Altered images depict horrors of pollution

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Hungarian economist turned artist is using digitally manipulated photographs that create almost apocalyptic imagery from real life to promote environmental awareness.

Suzanne C. Nagy poses for a portrait at her apartment in New York October 5, 2010. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Suzanne Nagy’s series of photographs entitled “Polluters” features altered images that are embedded in an epoxy solution to create a three-dimensional effect.

All of the pieces are based around photographs she has taken, and all create similar effects through the lighting and elements she includes.

Through her work, Nagy, 63, wants to draw attention to the environmental damage caused by pollution.

“I’m always looking for a subject with a message involved. Pollution was something I really got interested in -- in 2004 when we learned for the first time that renewable energies are going to be the future, and so many new things are going on,” she explained in an interview.

“It’s very important for me that my work is documentary. I wanted to do something frightening and real so that people pay more attention and will feel that this is much more important than just an artist’s work,” she added.

In one piece Nagy manipulated a photograph of an oil refinery with blue, brown and white epoxy solution to create the impression of contaminated air swirling around the refinery. A small light bulb behind the piece creates a backlight which resembles flame and industrial lighting.

“Polluters” is now on display in Hungary at the 2B Gallery in Budapest and will be shown next spring at the Freies Museum in Berlin. A separate set of “Polluters” will be displayed in New York in April.

Nagy, who has been in the United States since 1978, worked as an economist for 10 years in Hungary before switching careers.

“It was boring, and although I was in international trade business, I just didn’t see it as for me, and (it) wasn’t the life I wanted to live. I was looking for creative work and was interested in taking some risks and doing things individually,” she said.

The issue of pollution took on added importance for her following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that began in April and flowed for three months to become the largest accidental marine oil spill in history.

Eleven workers were killed in the initial explosion. The spill caused widespread damage to maritime and coastal wildlife and severely damaged the local tourism and fishing industries.

“It’s important to keep these things alive. These disasters are not evaporating or disappearing. The footprint of all these problems is something we live with, as are the consequences. It’s still very real. This particular disaster really connected this event and pollution and all the negligence that has been going on,” she said.

“When something like this happens, we forget about it until the next disaster comes. But it is all connected.”