New photography project conjures up what a zero-carbon Leeds might look like in 2050

Photographer Jonathan Turner with volunteers as part of the project “Art of a Sustainable Future”

By Zoe Peck

A Leeds-based project is aiming to create an image of what a zero-carbon version of the city could look like in 2050.

The photoshoot is part of a project entitled “The Art of a Sustainable Future” which is part of a wider Royal Academy of Engineering project, Ingenious, aiming to engage the public with engineering.

The manager of the project is James Mckay, Bioenergy PhD coordinator at Leeds University.

He told Yorkshire Voice: “The aim of the project is to raise awareness of the importance of engineering and problem-solving in terms of tackling climate change and ensuring the transition to a sustainable future.

“We’re trying to use the project to produce artwork that will inspire people and make people realise that climate change doesn’t need to be doom and gloom.

“We will be able to tackle it by using engineering and by changing people’s lifestyles.”

Photographer Jonathan Turner usually creates composite images of historical scenes, using separate photographs combined together to create a larger image.

For this project, he is creating a futuristic image, set against a backdrop of a recognisable Leeds landmark, and volunteers were invited to take part in a photoshoot on December 5.

Explaining the process of creating the image, Turner said: “What we’re doing here today is shooting all the people that we need to populate the scene with, and we’re shooting them against a green screen.

“We’re trying to imagine it might be a warmer climate, so people are wearing shorts and T-shirts.”

Turner believes people should look at the future in a more optimistic way if change is to happen.

“My wife and I are sick of the negative dialogue about the future – we’re all going to be underwater and what have you. And that may well be true but what we want to try and get across is the message that there are people actively doing stuff now that can have a positive impact on our future.”

Engineering students and members of the public made up the volunteers used as subjects in the photos which involved them carrying out “eco-friendly” activities such as cycling and growing their own fruit and veg.

Volunteer and engineering PhD student Jeni Spragg said: “I think particularly for the big problems like climate change, technical solutions aren’t enough.

“We need societal change, so we need to find whatever way we can to get people engaged and interested in these big problems.”

The creation of the composite artwork is expected to take a few weeks and is planned to be available in the form of postcards and posters.

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