Trafficking the Earth: Documents on Nitrate, Copper and Capitalism

Ignacio Acosta, Louise Purbrick, Xavier Ribas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Trafficking the Earth documents the extraction of copper and nitrate from the Atacama Desert, Chile, and the accumulation of their values in metropolitan sites, the City of London and the houses of the British merchants in particular. Presented here as a photo-essay, it juxtaposes words and images to create constellations of meaning intended to disrupt a linear narrative of a past running smoothly into the present. The essay draws upon and tries to demonstrate a documentary practice that captures the collisions of time and the connected spaces of copper and nitrate mining as exemplary of an extractivist economy. The subject of the photography is the surplus of mining, its ruins, rubble and waste, which is offered not as a straightforward set of pictures but rather as perspectives through which the effects of global capitalism can be understood.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
Issue number33
Publication statusPublished - 18 Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

This article first appeared in issue 33 and 2020 of the Transformations Journal:


  • extractivism
  • photography
  • copper
  • nitrate
  • Mining
  • Chile
  • Atacama Desert


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