TALIA WOODIN is one of the most powerful creatives within London’s environmental rebellion. Behind the lens, she captures the creative and peaceful activism of one of the most renowned environmental movements in the world, Extinction Rebellion. We spoke with her to discuss her position within the rebellion, grasping exactly what it means to be a photographer at the centre of a protest built on love, peace and protection.

What influenced you to capture activism through photography?

Environmental activism and photography are both things that I have engaged in from a very young age. Both my parents were standing Green Party politicians and photography was always something that I was passionate about so when I came across Extinction Rebellion it was a role I fell into very easily as it was what I could contribute to the movement most, being new to direct action.

Do you still feel like you’re actively protesting despite being behind the camera?

Completely! Even during my initial participation, in early November 2018, when I attended XR actions by myself as a photographer, it was very difficult not to be actively engaged. This was partly due to the fact that my initial decision to participate was partly due to my own passion for climate activism, but also because the general atmosphere of these actions is so exciting and welcoming, not engaging is difficult even for policemen at times! 

Describe to us the atmosphere at an Extinction Rebellion protest. What kind of feeling do you get?

Following on from my previous answer, I would say the atmosphere at these actions is almost infectious. The people participating are so passionate and full of energy that it’s truly difficult not to pick up on that and want to be a part of it. Of course, there are cultural elements such as the language sometimes used, and certain elements of dress that are often dubbed as being part of ‘white middle class hippy’ culture, and ultimately may cause discomfort and isolation for some. But I’d say, from experience of interacting with people from all different backgrounds at these events, that the general atmosphere and underlying motivations seems to always take precedence. 

Why did you decide to join the rebellion?

As I’ve already mentioned, I was already very familiar with activism even before I got involved. Climate change was also something that I was unfortunately very familiar with from a very young age and so I felt I’d been seeking some form of action to channel that angst into, for a long time. It just so happened that I came across XR at a time when I’d recently moved to London and was looking to be more actively involved in a movement that was tackling the crisis head on.

You recently attended the XR Fashion Action activism in London. Can you tell us about this experience?

XR Fashion Action’s first action, in early April, involved a few hundred of us occupying Oxford Circus for a few hours with a massive hot pink catwalk which around 100 models walked wearing sustainably designed fashion. The event was organised by two close friends of mine and I was mainly there for moral support as well as to take photos. It was a great success and the reaction from the public was so, so positive. I think it just goes to show that visual arts, within direct action, are so important and impactful. They make these actions so much more than just civil disobedience and allows everyone to participate and be engaged. 

What was your favourite look from the show?

Has got to be these ones!

From a creative standpoint, how important do you think creative roles are in conveying certain messages to the public during a peaceful protest?

I believe they’re so, so important! I’m aware that I am slightly biased, coming to the world of direct action mainly from a creative background. But I’ve witnessed first hand the impact that creative and artistic actions and communication can have. As they say a picture says a thousand words, and it's true. However, many negative media portrayals of the movement which are out there only say so much. But when it comes to people of all ages, genders and social/economic backgrounds coming together and sharing music and arts and so on, nothing can refute the positive impact of that.

What's your personal message to anyone thinking of joining Extinction Rebellion?

Being a national media & messaging coordinator for XR Youth, a large part of my role involves being in direct contact with young people, not only in the UK but internationally.

We are often confronted with feelings of hopelessness and desperation, understandably considering the issue we are grappling with. The one thing I constantly repeat to people is that I understand how overwhelming those emotions can be and wish that I could say there's an easy way to get over it but there isn’t. However, there’s a lot of positive in that. The pain that so many people are feeling due to this crisis comes from caring and compassion for life and as cliche as it sounds those can be such powerful tools. The movement is here and happening, nothing is going to bring about change unlike individuals taking a stand and saying enough is enough and that’s what we are doing. Every single one of us can be a part of that change, the only thing stopping us is our own individual will.

Interviewed & written by IMI READ
Photographs by TALIA WOODIN