The Human Element
American photographer James Balog has been tracking human-caused changes to our planet for over 35 years. Disturbed and motivated by what he has seen, The Human Element documents how the earth’s four elements – water, air, fire, and earth – have all been impacted by a fifth element, homo sapiens. With breathtakingly rich and innovative photography, he illustrates issues ranging from rising sea levels to pollution’s impact on asthma cases to focus us on a call for change.
“I became a photographer to be an eye witness to the beauty of nature but I quickly realized there was a more complex story going on in the world about the collision between people and nature, and I felt a great sense of urgency to bear witness to that…Imbalance in one element leads to an imbalance in another. People are the only element that can choose to restore balance.” – James Balog
Director Matthew Testa has been working in documentary film and television for two decades, often focusing on the environment, social justice issues and the interplay between people and nature. Prior to The Human Element, Testa wrote and directed Vlogumentary, which tracks the unlikely rise to stardom of Youtube personalities who document their daily lives. The film premiered at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival and was acquired by Youtube Red.
Testa’s previous films and nonfiction series include Freedom! The Movie for CMT Docs, Snake Salvation (National Geographic), Whale Wars (Animal Planet), Storm Chasers (Discovery) and The First 48 (A&E). His first film was the ITVS-funded environmental documentary, The Buffalo War, which aired nationally on PBS, toured festivals and won 9 awards.
Testa holds an MFA in Directing from the American Film Institute Conservatory and lives in Los Angeles with his wife, daughter and a cattle dog named Thunder.
Director Matthew Testa
Producer Olivia Ahnemann, James Balog
Editor Lyman Smith
Cinematographer Jim Hurst, Josh Salzman
Music Morgan Kibby, Jeff Russo