Fabrice Monteiro’s mesmerizing series The Prophecy is on view at Fotografiska New York through September 16 as part of the exhibition Prix Pictet: Fire. Haunting and captivating, his images deliver a powerful message about environmental destruction.
One of 13 photographers shortlisted for the Prix Pictet prize in 2021, Monteiro was born in Belgium and grew up in Benin. He returned to Africa after graduating from college and now lives in Dakar, Senegal. He began this series in 2013, after he had returned to Africa (his images are set in Africa, as well as in other parts of the world). Monteiro’s mother is Belgian, and his ancestors on his father’s side were enslaved by the Portuguese and brought to Brazil. The diversity of his background is at the root of his creativity, but so is his understanding of animism, the belief in spirits who are empowered to help or hurt humans, and his early love of comic-book heroes. His background in fashion is evident, as well, in the elaborate costuming of the creatures in his photographs (he collaborated with the costume designer Doulsy for some of the works). The fierce giant figures he creates for his tableaus deliver an empowering, if ominous, message demanding that we take responsibility for what we have done to the earth.
One powerful image displays a colossal figure in an extraordinary costume made of trash towering over a huge heap of garbage as she tosses a child’s doll onto the smoldering land. In another, a giant, white-faced, horned creature stands on a heap of computer refuse wielding a flaming rod that is used by children to burn the plastic covering off of computer cables at electronic dump sites. The toxic smoke makes them sick. Monteiro’s photographs are warnings: take action or witness the devastation of the planet.