They Want a Better Shot at Saving the Planet

Eric Baden is making photographers and climate scientists collaborate.
Portrait by Rachel Pressley

Eric Baden, a local photographer and professor of photography at Warren Wilson College, is the founding director of the interdisciplinary endeavor photoplus. His work has been included in the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University, the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography in Rochester, New York, and the Westlicht Museum for Photography in Vienna. Baden and his team (with Media Arts Project/Revolve gallery) are hosting the event photo+sphere to bring together the communities of climate science and art.

Who came up with the original idea?

Me, along with a handful of other artists and writers, have come together twice now to bring events like this to life. Two years ago, we created photo+craft in an effort to bring together two powerful, vibrant communities in Asheville — the creative community of photographers and the craft folks in town. Rather than having them as separate [entities], we strived to form areas of interchange. This was the original model of photo+sphere. Our small group consisted of five individuals then, but we have now added on a sixth — a local scientist. This time around we have decided to move forward and partner with a different community, specifically people interested in climate and earth science.

What audience are you hoping to reach?

We are looking for young students, people off the streets, people extremely educated in photography, collectors of art, and highly educated people such as scientists. We want to see the mix of what you get around here and to focus in on a location for them all to connect to something. We’re even interested in the beer tourists.

How do you promote such a high-concept event?

Personally, for me, it’s about high-quality programming. But it’s equally as important to provide something for people to really connect with. To help bring in a larger crowd, we are committed to being accessible. Almost everything in relation to the event is free.

Why is this important right now culturally?

I feel that there is an absolute urgency to our attention to the environment and how we care for where we are and who we are. … This event is to renew our attention — our careful attention — of how we live on this one small planet together. … I’m from the art side, but I know from the scientists who investigate and work in this field, it’s truly critical.

“Anthropocene” is used as a theme in several photo+sphere events, including a film series. Explain the term.

The Anthropocene is now … a time in which the effects on the balance of the earth are primarily affected by manmade conditions. … I am not promoting a particular point of view, but our efforts are to be rather inclusive and to foster dialogue during these challenging and troubling times.

So how can photography in particular help the cause?

It provides us with historical record and enables us to see things that we can’t with the naked eye. For example, seeing images of the whole earth from space showed us how fragile and coherent we are. It’s images like this that help us learn who we are and what our purpose here is. A favorite quote of mine from [astrophysicist, writer, and science communicator] Neil deGrasse Tyson is this: “… But you can’t be a scientist if you’re uncomfortable with ignorance, because scientists live at the boundary between what is known and unknown in the cosmos.” I think that this speaks to not only scientists, but people in the world of art as well. 



Exploring the Environment through
Photography and Photo-Media  
November 7-11

Presentations, discussions, film screenings, and exhibits will occur in various Asheville venures. 

Schedule Highlights:

Seeing Nature Through a Camera Trap, November 7, 6:30pm

A talk with Dr. Liz Kailes, director of science for the North Carolina chapter of The Nature Conservancy, will be held at REI in Biltmore Park Town Square with a focus on the Conservancy’s camera traps, used to track and monitor wildlife within the state.


Living in the Anthropocene Age, November 7-11, various venues
This film series, curated by Ann Batchelder, includes Sundance offerings and addresses the theme of human/environmental interactions.

Kickoff Party and Fundraiser, November 8, 5-7pm

Located at the Asheville Masonic Temple, 80 Broadway. $25/30.


Keynote Speaker Mel Chin, November 8, 7pm
Chin is presenting “The Arctic is Asheville” at the Asheville Masonic Temple. $10.

Keynote Speaker Sharon Harper, November 9, 6pm

Harper is presenting “Some Observations on Movements of the Earth”
at the STEAM Studio at RAMP SOUTH, 821 Riverside Drive. $10.

Keynote Speaker Justin Brice Guariglia, November 10, 6:30pm

Guariglia is presenting at Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, 120 College St. $10.

Sonic Retreat Live (Rafael Anton Irisarri, Kimathi Moore, Jess Speer),
November 10, 9pm

Picturing Purity Exhibit, November 2-30
Reception: November 9, 4-6pm
at REVOLVE at RAMP SOUTH.  “A nuanced conservation about environmentalism with images that call attention to purity myths in our culture and demonstrate new ways of visualizing our relationship to the planet.”

A Dialog in Photographs Exhibit, November 2-30; Reception: November 9

Susan Patrice’s “Enveloping Landscape” and Benjamin Dimmitt’s
“An Unflinching Look,” DOT Editions at RAMP SOUTH.

Immersive Visualization: The Cosmos, Earth, and Anthropocene Exhibit,
November 10, 10am-1pm
“Becoming architects of the future in the Anthropocene Era” is the theme of these “immersive visualization experiences” shown at the Geodome Theater at YMI Cultural Center (20-44 Eagle St.). Curated by Ned Gardiner, PhD, Engagement Manager for the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit.

The Cloud Library, Volume 1 Exhibit, Through November 20
Reception: November 10, 1pm (BMCM+AC) 
“The physics and poetics of clouds in art, science, technology, and the imagination.” Elizabeth Holden Gallery at Warren Wilson College. Organized by Eric Baden, co-curated by Kaylee Dunn.

Altering Nature: Pictures of a Changing Environment Exhibit, November 7-

December 22; Reception: November 10, 4:30-6:30pm

Photos and collaborative works at the Tracey Morgan Gallery, 188 Coxe Ave.

For more information, visit

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