When photographer Mathieu Asselin heard about Monsanto's practices through his father 8 years ago, it did not let him go. When doing further research on the subject he discovered an enormous story full of ramifications and a mafia-like way of doing business that affected thousands of people and communities around the world.For Asselin it was no longer the question whether he should do something with Monsanto, but rather how he could best tell the story. He combined his photography with archival material, video and text to make an came to an astonishing narration, interesting and coherent with different layers.
For more than 75 years, Monsanto has been one of the biggest producers of food, animal food, seeds and chemical products. Monsanto’s history is characterized by countless scandals. It certainly is a controversial company, known, among other things, as producer of the defoliation agent Agent Orange, which was deployed by the American army in the Vietnam War. Today, Monsanto is the global market leader for genetically modified seeds and herbicides. Although the company has had the public opinion against it for years, its power seems unaffected.
A stark contrast
When Asselin heard about Monsanto’s practices he started investigating the company. He discovered the work of activists, researchers, farmers and especially the work of journalist and documentary filmmaker Marie-Monique Robin. Asselin decided tot investigate and decided to give space to archival material, video and text next to his photography. Making an interesting narration with different layers. Asselin photographed dumpsites in the United States, portrayed Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange and exposed lobbying practices. His photos are in stark contrast to the positive, almost utopian performance that Monsanto is spreading of his chemical products. By showing photographs, advertisements, news items, personal letters, court files and many other sources he created a nuanced and clear picture of the history of the company, hoping to get an idea of what we can expect in the future.
Monsanto®: A Photographic Investigation is an impressive indictment against the multinational biotechnology company and can be seen as a cautionary story that draws attention to the consequences of impunity for both people and the environment. Monsanto®: A Photographic Investigation was awarded the Aperture First PhotoBook Award last year at Paris Photo and has been nominated for the prestigious Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2018.
Asselin (1973) started his career in Caracas, Venezuela, where he started with film productions in Caracas. He has refined his documentary photograpy style in the United States. His work can be seen in Foam, Liberation, Paris Match, The New Yorker Photobooth, GEO Freitag and he exhibited in France, New York, Miami, Washington and Caracas.
“Monsanto is a very large story, it has and continues to affect thousands of peoples in many different ways around the world: health, economically and of course ecosystems (air, water and soil). Each of these stories has their own drama, no one is more important than anyone else, they are all equal at a personal level.” (American Suburb X)