Can We Feed Ourselves? A Focus on Asia, Photographs by Hiroji Kubota

Lhasa, Xizang, China (Hiroji Kubota/Magnum Photos)

Exploding populations, water shortages, pollution, environmental destruction, illiteracy, food shortages, and famine are all realities that affect Asia to various degrees today. Yet, when the Japanese photo-journalist Hiroji Kubota was approached to produce a book of photographs documenting Asia from the perspective of food, he knew little about these problems. Upon learning that every day about 35,000 infants in Asia lose their lives due to malnutrition, he decided to accept the assignment without a moment's hesitation.

In 1998 the assignment took Kubota on extensive travels through China, the Indian subcontinent, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Cambodia. The images he captured in the powerful dossier that resulted range widely, from barren landscapes to lush paddy fields, from scenes illustrating the pressures of overpopulation, to food preparation and consumption. Individually arresting, taken together, they constitute a compelling and thought-provoking reminder of the consequences of our actions on the environment and the need, as well as the possibility, to find new solutions to how we feed ourselves.

Kubota expresses it this way: "In taking the photos and conducting the interviews for [this project], I came to see close up what it means for large numbers of people to labor long hours doing arduous work to earn even a small portion of the daily food needed for themselves and their families. It truly pained me to have to turn my camera toward those people, and toward people who don't even have that kind of work and must beg for a living. But we must not run away from this reality. The twenty-first century must not be a century in which people die from malnutrition. In order to produce safe food in sufficient volume it is important to take care of the world's farmland and the persons cultivating it. Without a solid agricultural base, mankind is not apt to have a tomorrow."

View more images from the exhibition.