Conceptual Photography Portrait

Planet earth in 2.5 seconds

A photography project by Anya Anti

Anya Anti photo of a girl with a melting globe of earth in her hands, symbolizing global warming
“The world is getting warmer. Global warming is the gradual heating of the Earth’s surface, oceans and atmosphere. It is caused by human activity such as burning fossil fuels. Since the Industrial Revolution, the global average surface temperature has increased by more than 0.9 degrees Celsius. The rapid rise in greenhouse gases is a problem because it’s changing the climate faster than most living things can adapt to. A more unpredictable climate poses new challenges to all life,” explains Anya.

Conceptual photographer Anya Anti spent three years working on her 2.5 seconds project, from the concept stage and sourcing props, identifying locations across Iceland for the shoots, and post-production work. We asked her to share some of the images from the project as well as explaining some of her goals for the project and how she came up with the ideas and crafted the final images.

Anya’s team for this project consisted of a model, an assistant and Anya’s husband who acted as both assistant and BTS filmmaker. She and her team spent 10 days driving across Iceland, shooting in carefully researched locations, chosen specifically for each concept.

Anya Anti photo of a girl holding a globe in a plastic bag symbolizing greenhouse gases
“Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere and cause the greenhouse effect on planets. The danger lies in the rapid increase of these gases that intensify the greenhouse effect. These gases absorb solar energy and keep heat close to Earth’s surface, rather than letting it escape into space. By disrupting the atmospheric balance that keeps the climate stable, we are now seeing extreme effects around the globe including extreme weather events, shifting wildlife populations and habitats, rising seas, food supply disruptions, increased wildfires and a range of other impacts,” Anya explains.

Q: What does the project’s title 2.5 seconds mean?

A: “Planet Earth is 4.5 billion years old. Mankind is about 140 thousand years old. If we compress the Earth’s existence into a normal full day of 24 hours, then we’ve been on this planet for… 2.5 seconds. I used “2.5 seconds” as a title because I wanted to invoke the power of numbers and perspective to create a strong, straightforward and shocking effect.

Q: What was your ultimate goal for the project?

A: “I hope to bring awareness about climate change, to spark conversations about the issue and to educate more people about the facts, the urgency of the crisis and the seriousness of its consequences. The project is a series of photographs that highlight the environmental crisis through metaphors and symbolism. Each one of them illustrates and represents a specific environmental issue using allegorical figures and subjects, props, costumes and natural landscapes. I hope my art will be louder and clearer than words.

The subjects either represent a part of nature that is being impacted by these issues or a collective human who is witnessing and experiencing the effects. I used body sympathetic language and sad/anxious facial expressions to convey the horror, despair, and seriousness of the issue.

Anya Anti photo symbolizing pollution as part of her 2.5 seconds project
“Air pollution poses a major threat to health and climate. Increasing temperatures are directly linked to poor air quality which, in turn, can affect the heart and exacerbate cardiovascular disease,” explains Anya.


Q: How long did it take you to complete the project?

A: “Three years total. A year of preproduction, doing research, developing the concepts for the images and fundraising. Another year was spent building and sourcing props, getting a team together and traveling to Iceland for a 10-day trip to complete the initial photography. Once the images were captured, a third year was spent selecting images and editing to create the final images for the project.

Anya Anti photo symbolizing plastic pollution showing a girl on a beach with a jellyfish made of plastics
“We’re surrounded by plastic. While it has many valuable uses, humans have become addicted to single-use or disposable plastic — leading to severe environmental consequences.

An estimated 8 million tons of this plastic waste enters the Ocean every year. Not one square mile of surface ocean anywhere on earth is free of plastic pollution.

Plastic can take up to 450 years to decompose and it doesn’t biodegrade but breaks down into tiny particles known as microplastics leading to chemical contamination of the water and fish we eat. Microplastics are eaten by small marine animals and so enter the food chain ending up in human bodies!

Plastic pollution has a direct and deadly effect on wildlife, particularly marine animals. Thousands of seabirds and sea turtles, seals and other marine mammals are killed each year after ingesting plastic waste, poisoning through exposure to chemicals within plastics or getting entangled in it,” explains Anya.

“Iceland offers a broad variety of different landscapes that were able to accommodate all of my ideas and become a vital part of the storytelling,” Anya explained. “For the “Deforestation” image I used the lava moss location to blend my subject with nature and create a sense of unity. The “Greenhouse gases” image I photographed specifically at Hverir, which is a geothermal spot in Iceland full of hot sulfuric gas—this helped symbolizes greenhouse gases.”

In the image “Greenhouse gases” she holds the planet inside a plastic bag, which is a metaphor for the greenhouse gases which create the greenhouse effect and the warming of the planet just like a plastic bag would do.

For the “Deforestation” image, she took a second-hand ball gown and crafted it to look as if it was made of moss to represent flora and forests. “I created a brown burnt dead patch on the dress along with some hot charcoals to represent wildfires and the destruction of the forest,” she adds.

For the “Plastic Pollution image” she used a clear transparent umbrella and donated recycled single-use plastic items along with making a jellyfish prop. “The jellyfish is made of single-use plastic items to symbolize the marine life that is gravely affected by ocean plastic pollution,” Anya adds.

For the “Global Warming” and “Pollution” concepts Anya commissioned an artist to make the props for the shoot. The “Global Warming” images uses a prop designed to look like a melting planet. The mask tank prop for “Pollution” was built out of the plastic fish tank and a real oxygen mask, with straps attached to be able to wear it as a backpack. She adds, “the little plant inside the gas tank symbolizing the only fresh air source.”

Anya Anti photo of a girl in a dress made of moss, among mossy rocks symbolizing deforestation
“Forests cover more than 30% of the Earth’s land surface and help purify water and air. They’re home to 80% of terrestrial biodiversity. Forests also play a critical role in mitigating climate change because they absorb carbon dioxide produced by human activity that would otherwise contribute to ongoing changes of climate. But forests around the world are under threat from deforestation and forest degradation due to agriculture and grazing of livestock, mining and drilling, illegal logging and wildfires. Deforestation is the second-leading cause of climate change,” explains Anya.

Q: Is the 2.5 seconds project complete at this point or do you think you might add to it in the future?

A: “The project features 8 illustrated environmental issues and consists of 13 images in total. It feels quite complete and can stand on its own. I’ve touched on all the major climate change issues that I wanted to. However, I feel like I’m not ready to end this chapter in my creative journey yet. I want to keep creating more eco-themed and environmental art, continue the conversation with my audience and explore new ideas. I’m not sure yet if they will be a part of the project or separate pieces. But I already have more photographs in progress. So stay tuned!