Jonny Bell Photography | Ubiquitous


September 23, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Ubiquitous xviiiUbiquitous xviii


Our role in our world is an emerging theme within my work. Humankind has become so successful in so many ways, and as we grow so our world becomes smaller, and our impacts greater. Globalisation has led to explosions of social change, yet in turn this has multiplied our impacts. 

Our collective appetites and desires for comfortable lifestyle is human, but we are removed from the sources of our consumption, and therefore affects. I wish my images to enable consideration of prevalent issues facing us all in a modern age.

These themes inevitably lead my imagery to challenge, however I do not wish to reject. Much of my early work was concerned with my wonder at nature, my emotion in her presence, and so I seek to create imagery with an aesthetic to foster engagement in the subject matter, not to repulse the viewer.

We are all transient, and our space in time short, yet the scale and pace of modern change accelerates our disconnection from the source and results of our success. Our ability to progress through destruction is one of our great contradictions. My images seek to question these dilemmas.

The series Ubiquitous is very much the beginning of my exploration into this conscience. To start the comment, and initially my focus is on that which is nearest me, one of the world’s largest international container shipping ports at Felixstowe.

It occurs to me that Global shipping is somehow unseen, yet its scale both in size and reach is great. Its extension into to our lives is deep, it is in almost everything we buy, consume, and sell. It has become so ubiquitous in the trail of our consumption that somehow it has become granted.

I have found the subject compelling. Perhaps it is the ability of humankind to create scale, not only of the impact of global activity but also in the instruments we use to achieve our aims, which so engross. Dwarfed by these leviathans, often using a local passenger ferry to navigate between them, I have been seeking to visualise and represent their enormity, to consider somehow their unseen paths over oceans, the constant movement of the giant gantries that empty and fill them, and show witness to some part of the scale of our consumption.

The bigger picture: some points.

Marine shipping—both domestic and international—plays a vital part in the globalised world, moving goods both within and between countries. Demand for global shipping has steadily risen to transport goods between markets as international trade has increased. From 2000 to 2007, the volume (in tons) of world merchandise exports increased an average of 5.5 percent per year (nearly twice as fast as world GDP), with over 80 percent of that trade volume moved via ship. The World Trade Organization (WTO) estimates that manufactured goods account for more than 70 percent of the total value of world merchandise trade.

  • The Port of Felixstowe is Britain’s biggest and busiest container port, and one of the largest in Europe.

  • The port handles more than 4million TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units) and approximately 3,000 ships each year, including the largest container vessels afloat today over 400m in length.

The amount of air pollution produced by ocean-going vessels is staggering:

  • Maritime transport emits around 1000 million tonnes of CO2 annually and is responsible for about 2.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions (3rd IMO GHG study).

  • A single cargo ship can produce as much air pollution as 350,000 cars in an hour.

  • Operating on diesel engines the size of a single-family home, and most burn “bunker” fuel, which is cheap, but much more polluting than fuels used to power vehicles. Bunker fuel contains high concentrations of toxic compounds banned from use in most other industrial and consumer applications.

  • Shipping emissions are predicted to increase by as much as 250% by 2050 – depending on future economic and energy developments.

This is not compatible with the internationally agreed goal of keeping global temperature increase to below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels, which requires worldwide emissions to be at least halved from 1990 levels by 2050.

Untapped potential

Ships' energy consumption and CO2 emissions could be reduced by up to 75% by applying operational measures and implementing existing technologies (2nd IMO GHG study).

Many of these measures are cost-effective and offer net benefits, as reduced fuel bills ensure the pay-back of any operational or investment costs.

  • Shipping’s greenhouse gas emissions could be curtailed through changes in operational practices, improving the fuel efficiency of ships, and burning lower-carbon fuels.
  • Combined together, these changes could reduce shipping emissions by 62 percent below “business-as-usual” projections in 2050, which would mean emissions would stay at roughly current levels despite very large increases in shipping volume by mid-century.
  • Further reductions could be achieved by implementing new innovative technologies e.g. Hydrogen fuel.


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