The American photographer’s new book offers an evocative, light-infused look at the Central American country and the various Word Land Trust conservation projects underway there
In 2018, the American photographer and regular AnOther contributor Colin Dodgson was invited on a trip to Belize by his friend Jonny Lu, an ambassador for international conservation charity the World Land Trust (WLT). The aim was to observe and document the organisations “working on the ground and on the front line of sustainability and conservation in the region” on the occasion of the WLT’s 30th anniversary. “I’d never been to Belize and I couldn’t say yes fast enough,” Dodgson tells AnOther, and by December the pair were aboard a plane, heading for Central America’s eastern coast.
Dodgson entered the project with a completely open mind. “I really went into it with no aim except to be 100 per cent invested in the journey,” he says, “whether that meant sleeping in a bunk bed in 30-degree heat without a fan, or wading knee-deep through marshlands. I just wanted to let the experience wash over me and to make work that reflected how I felt and what I experienced; to convey a personal message of hope and adventure.”
And that’s just what he achieved: the resulting photobook, Deeper Green (available now, with all proceeds going directly to the WLT) is an atmospheric glimpse into Dodgson’s escapades in Belize, captured with the analogue image-maker’s characteristic aptitude for beguiling lighting and sumptuous colour. The images span lush jungle- and forest-scapes, ancient ruins and snapshots of characterful flora and fauna – from a tranquil toucan to a close-up of an alligator’s leathery scales. They also include informal portraits of the rangers from the Programme for Belize and the Corozal Sustainable Future Initiative, who Dodgson spent his ten-day trip tailing. “We had the best time with them in the field,” he says. “They put in so much work and time into protecting these lands, and their experience and knowledge is just incredible.”
Dodgson embraced the necessarily itinerant process of documentation. “It was actually quite liberating traipsing off into the forest everyday with a few cameras and some film,” he says. “And there was always a bit of downtime – a long car journey or a river boat ride back to a rangers’ station. That’s when I had a moment to reflect on what I was doing, and that’s when I could apply some of my usual thought processes to the whole thing, to try to make sense of it while working on it.”
A number of personal observations included in the book evoke these moments of reflection – a horizontal selfie captured over a stretch of yellow-green water, a pale pink conch collected in newspaper, Dodgson’s own sneakered feet alongside feline tracks in the sand. But there was one very intimate encounter that he didn’t manage to commit to film. “On the first night we went looking for tarantulas and the lead ranger found one and put it on my back,” he recalls. “It crawled up my neck and onto the back of my head. I’ve never been a huge fan of spiders but it was a truly special moment in my life.”
Perhaps Dodgson’s newfound sense of calm was the result of his surroundings. “Belize is such a chilled out place,” he reflects. “When you go to a country for ten days, you can’t say for certain what the whole place is about but I got the sense that it’s a country with huge potential, and everyone who lives there is so hardworking and friendly, and eager to realise that potential.” On his part, Dodgson hopes that Deeper Green will pique readers’ interest in Belize – whether that means inspiring them to visit or simply helping them to visualise a remote part of the globe, thereby encouraging an interest in its conservation. “I think the more you show people of the world, the more invested in it they become,” he says. “I hope that this book, in whatever way possible, makes people consider that we are all responsible for the fate of the planet and that every day we can make choices that can affect its outcome.”
Deeper Green is out now. 100 percent of profits from the sale of Deeper Green will be donated to the World Land Trust to help protect and preserve endangered animal habitats around the world, acre by acre.