Visualizing an Overflowing Problem:

How can images inspire to create solutions to urban environmental challenges

Valentina Ortiz De Zárate

Photography is a form of documentation, and environmental photography can be a way to capture the changes in nature and record their impact on the surrounding communities. Photography has the power to showcase truth, which can create art that promotes change and action towards tragic environmental realities visually displayed by the image. Following the examples of famous environmental photographers like Ansel Adams, known for his role in the creation of national parks through beautiful photographs of the West, I set out to visually capture an impactful environmental problem that requires a solution. To address the ever-growing issues generated by industrialization and the progress of modernity, I focused on an urban challenge that impacts many cities in the United States. Susan Sontag, a famous American writer, argues that a photograph cannot make a connection with the viewer if it is too general. So to create a specific photographic display of an urban environmental problem, I decided to analyze and photograph an issue close to home that I have studied various times in my civil engineering courses: the problem of combined sewer overflow in the city of Pittsburgh. 

Nine Mile Run, Frick Park
Nine Mile Run, Frick Park

Anytime it storms, wastewater full of sewage and runoff discharges into the local waterways of Pittsburgh

Riverfront Park, Southside
Riverfront Park, Southside

Riverfront Park, Southside
Riverfront Park, Southside

Nine Mile Run, Frick Park
Nine Mile Run, Frick Park

Anytime it storms, wastewater full of sewage and runoff discharges into the local waterways of Pittsburgh

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