The Dying River. Jonas Kakó documents the water crisis along the Colorado River.
Text: Finn Winkler Fotos: Jonas Kako
When Jonas Kakóleaves for Mexico, he has an entirely different story in mind: He is eager to work with a fellow student on a film project about Lake Patzcuaro. But both photographers realise they need a break at a certain point in the work. Jonas comes across an article in the New York Times about the Colorado River drying up. Due to climate change and excessive water consumption, the river carries less and less water. The issue is well known in the U.S. but not beyond its borders. Jonas spontaneously leaves for the USA.
Initially, he lets himself drift with the story, spends the night in his car and finds his protagonists by chance. When he shows the story to Stern magazine a week later, they are thrilled with the pictures. They commission Jonas to travel again to the Colorado River. This time, the student is already researching contacts in advance. For example, while exploring, he reads about the VanWinkle family, who can no longer afford to raise cows. Nevertheless, other images are created by pure chance: Jonas sees three men in the desert one day. They wear white full-body suits and helmets. To Jonas, they seem surreal, like astronauts in a Martian landscape. The men are beekeepers. Talking to them, Jonas finds out that the drought is also causing severe problems for them.
It’s difficult to tell this kind of detailed story: On the one hand, Jonas has to be careful that his pictures don’t just depict striking weather phenomena. On the other hand, it is often challenging to find protagonists in the vastness of the desert. Conversely, many people meet Jonas with great openness: one day, members of the Navajo tribe invite him to participate in a sweat lodge ceremony. The traditional ritual includes singing, praying and sweating together in a mud hut.
In April 2023, a photo of his series wins at World Press Photo Contest and his series gets nominated for the Festival della Fotografia Etica. The photo magazine “Leica Photography International” also publishes the story a second time. His other work has appeared in National Geographic, De Volkskrant, Vice and the Weser-Kurier.
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