On the cover: Water is the New Black by Shepard Fairey
It’s been five years since you created our first cover. Are you surprised to hear from us again?
If I’m surprised I’m also happy because it’s a great publication whose survival reflects that people still crave good journalism and art and design.
What was the thinking behind Water is the New Black?
I think people feel an undeniable connection to the beauty of water and the oceans, so it’s a pleasing subject matter. But to demonstrate that it is threatened is all the more visceral because of its inherent appeal. There are things at stake environmentally that we almost all agree are valuable.
Are we getting more complacent on environmental issues?
Absolutely. Surveys have shown that more Americans considered climate change a threat ten years ago than they do now. When families are struggling financially, they shift focus from the common good to their own needs.
In 2010 we spoke about the danger of the increased speed of news reporting; today it is faster still. Has there been an impact?
I have a hunger for information myself, so of course I’m glad new media gives me rapid access to a lot of content, but I think it’s important not to just purely skim the surface of all the content we have access to. Rapid-fire media has made a lot of people less thorough, if not lazier. I still have hope that the pendulum will swing back and “less that is better” will become more appealing than just “more that is mediocre”.
We are now heading towards the end of Obama’s presidency. Do you think he has lived up to the hope people put into him?
My biggest disappointment with Obama is that he seemed for the first six years to lose the fire and conviction that he demonstrated on the campaign trial in 2008. I understand that it’s hard to be a diplomat and a fighter simultaneously, but I always expected him to be a voice for justice and he was too often mute or willing to parse. That being said, almost all of the alternatives to Obama would have been far worse and the group of Republicans campaigning for 2016 make Mitt Romney and John McCain seem moderate. I’m not sure what it’s going to take to wake up the average American, but I’m kicking and screaming with my art.
With the benefit of hindsight, what do you think have been the most significant news events of the last five years?
Sure there are specific events but I’m more interested in patterns. Whether it’s the BP oil spill in 2010, or the Refugio oil spill in Santa Barbara this year, the pattern of irresponsible practices leading to environmental destruction is clearly a problem. Another pattern is mass shootings like Aurora, Colorado, or Newton, Connecticut, or Charleston, South Carolina – where the ease of acquiring guns with high capacity magazines led to horrible losses of life, yet the power of the NRA means that nothing has happened as a result. The pattern of police brutality against unarmed people of colour – Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Sam DuBose, Hector Morejon. These patterns only emphasise the need to address the core problems.
Shepard Fairey prints are available at obeygiant.com
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