Editor’s note: This post is part of a series highlighting six photographers who were commissioned by the Dutch photography organization Noorderlicht to produce “The Sweet and Sour Story of Sugar.” The project examines globalization by looking at the sugar industry in the Netherlands and its former colonies.
Looking across Sao Paulo state’s farmlands in Brazil, “it is green as far as the eye can see,” photojournalist Ed Kashi said.
He spent three weeks in the sugar-producing capital of the world, examining the farming and consumption of sugar and ethanol in the South American country. He also spent a week traveling to factories in the Netherlands that use sugar as an ingredient.
Seeing how much energy and time go into making sugar and candy was impressive, he said, but it made him more concerned about how dependent people, especially Americans, have become on sugar.
“I saw a lot of effort going into feeding this human habit,” Kashi said, “but do we really need to create all this stuff?”
Access in Brazil was very controlled, he said, but the industry impressed him. The plant used bagasse, the fibrous remnants of sugarcane stalks, to power the energy plant in the mill. He left with a layer of sugar dust covering his camera.
In the Netherlands, he wore white clean-room suits, including the footies and cap. It was clean and organized, creating a challenge for making interesting images.
The project was different from most of Kashi’s work. Taking a break from focusing on social and political issues allowed him to take a new approach to his photography.
“Instead of looking for what’s wrong, I’m just trying to show what is,” he said.
- Elizabeth I. Johnson, CNN