On November 8th, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan wreaked havoc across much of the central Philippines. In total, more than 8,000 people were killed, and more than four million people were forced to leave their homes. In the short term, the typhoon left up to 14 million people in need of immediate, life-saving assistance. It also pushed millions of people further into poverty and debt. Rice crops, coconut trees and fishing boats were wiped out, leaving people struggling to grow food and earn an income.
Roberts was invited to collaborate with Oxfam to create a series of photographs, which aim to move beyond traditional post-disaster documentation tracing more subtle changes in the landscape over time and exploring how lives are beginning to be rebuilt, and the challenges that still remain. He made two visits to one of the regions worst hit by Yolanda, Tacloban, first in early January 2014 and then in late September 2014, prior to the first anniversary in November.
The photographs, which transition between these two time periods (see the video clips), are not just about conveying the immensity of the disaster and recording the traumatic aftermath. Roberts’ images show how the physical, tangible transformation of land is related to a human response to the typhoon. He looks at how communities re-appropriate space, even if that space bears little resemblance to the homes and businesses that formerly occupied it. There is a process of literal and metaphorical reclamation at work in every photograph, dense as they are with a wealth of details, symbols and nuances that allude to the complex experience of loss, hope and current economics and political issues playing out on the ground.