"As our land disappears, we have no choice but to become the world's first digital nation."
In late 2022, the Polynesian island nation of Tuvalu announced plans to create an all-digital copy of the country in the Metaverse. Because of climate change and the resulting rise in sea levels, the country - averaging 2 meters above sea level - is one of the first to sink.
Actually, that would be a "story" - An entire state disappears (while climate goals are not nearly met). Climate change is already there and visible: Tuvalu is currently suffering from a prolonged drought, and storm surges have increased fivefold compared to the 1970s and 1980s.
So I asked myself whether it is still justified at all as a photographer today to travel to such a place to report: The round-trip flight to the right end of our world map is projected to cost me just under 3 tons of Co2. That is more than the fixed annual(!) budget per person of less than one ton, which would be needed to reach the climate goals.
Hardly any or no editorial office would finance such a report today. Nevertheless, it is a conceivable scenario to finance the trip with grants or to pay for a representative portfolio or final project by oneself (with the hope that the pictures will be bought by editors afterwards).
But does it have to be? The place will soon only exist digitally anyway - then I can also report digitally. So I go without a flying mile to where the island will soon exist exclusively: Online.
Thinking about it, I have a list of images that I would look for on site: portraits, everyday scenes, the visible climate change... I enter these descriptions into Dall-E - an artificial intelligence that generates the images based on my text description - so-called "prompts". It was trained with millions of existing images from the web.
I am impressed by some aesthetics and fulfilled stereotypes. The typical island in Polynesia seems to be very mountainous. By the way, the word "atoll" works better when it comes to landscape shots. I try variations and styles, am not always so satisfied - but then I wouldn't always be with my own photos anyway. Concepts and arrangement of above and below, such as "sky here, sea there" work perfectly.
With human faces and bodies, I often get creepy shapes and proportions. There is sometimes a huge shoe next to the thigh or a face looks like a hollow mask of melting wax.
Finally, I generate an image: "Nina Weymann with a camerabag at the airport of a Polynesian island" - in other words, a digital self-portrait, as I would post it on Instagram. It's surprisingly similar to me in style and blonde hair. Maybe this is a starting point for my digital self.
And who knows, maybe from now on I'll not only have images generated, but also texts like this one. Or did I write this text here at all? ;)
Have fun with the pictures by the KI photojournalist!
"Only after the last island is online, the last mine is empty, the smallest fish is caught, only then will you find pixels cannot be eaten."
Resources (mainly in German)
Original Video by Minister Kofe https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXpeO5BgAOM&t=3s
Stern article Tuvalu (German) https://www.stern.de/digital/online/klimakrise--tuvalu-versinkt-im-meer-und-will-sich-in-die-cloud-retten-32928398.html
https://www.deutschlandfunk.de/tuvalu-steht-das-wasser-bis-zum-hals-100.html (Artikel aus 2010!)
CO2 - Emission https://www.google.com/travel/flights Roundtrip Münster - Funafuti