The photographer’s images give a glimpse of the places dear to the imprisoned activists

“Jeffrey Luers, ‘Happy’, Fall Creek, OR,” Kelly Sena, 2007, archival pigment print, 43×53⅛ inches. (Courtesy of Kelly Sena)

Kelly Sena began writing to incarcerated environmental and animal rights activists in 2006.

The photographer would ask them about the places they traveled inside their minds – the places that keep them sane.

Sena then offered to be their eyes.

“I’ll go over there to take a picture for you,” she told them.

After many years of photographing various locations across the country, Sena has curated the solo exhibit, “For the Wild,” which opens Friday, November 4 at Foto Forum Santa Fe. The exhibit will run through November 25. January.

Sage Paisner, executive director of Foto Forum Santa Fe, saw some of Sena’s work in Los Angeles and knew he wanted to bring his work to Santa Fe.

“The beauty of the images, the scale and the composition help you put yourself in the picture,” he says. “She works with an 8 by 10 camera and usually men work with them because they’re so big. She brings her magic to each photograph.

“Peter Young, Badlands, SD”, Kelly Sena, 2008, archival pigment print, 43 × 53¾ inches. (Courtesy of Kelly Sena)

The impetus behind the project began in 2002, when Sena read Edward Abbey’s “The Monkey Wrench Gang”. Shortly after reading the book, she discovered that the Federal Bureau of Investigations was targeting the Earth Liberation Front and the Liberal Animal Front as the top domestic terrorist threat in the United States.

“Since then, the assault on the biosphere has increased, unabated,” Sena says. “Collectively, 1.118 billion tons of carbon have been released into the atmosphere since 1996, when the Earth Liberation Front’s first action against climate change took place.

Sena says that 26 years later, Pakistan suffered the worst spring heat waves followed by an extreme monsoon summer.

“Today a third of Pakistan (the size of the UK) was inundated by floods and displaced 33 million people,” Sena said. “Pakistan is only responsible for 0.1% of global emissions. The United States is responsible for 21.5%, China for 16.5% and the European Union for 15%. Global surface temperatures have reached the sixth hottest summer months on record in 2022. Extreme climate anomalies are on the rise and disproportionately affect countries and communities that emit the minimum emissions. Fossil capitalism is killing our planet.

Paisner says Foto Forum Santa Fe is a space where he gives artists a chance to express themselves.

“I just try to show a diversity of content as well as artists,” says Paisner. “She’s Chicana and has a point of view.”

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