James Balog: Breathing Life Into Ice

James Balog. © James Balog
James Balog. © James Balog

For more than 30 years, James Balog, an American photographer, has devoted himself to merging insights from art and science to create innovative and vivid interpretations of our changing world. His photographic interests are diverse, including endangered animals, North America’s old-growth forests, and polar ice.

In 2007, Balog initiated a long-term photography project, called the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), which offers visual evidence of the Earth’s changing ecosystems. On the one hand, EIS is a substantial portfolio that documents the beauty and architecture of ice. On the other hand, it is time-lapse proof of extreme ice loss. So far, 41 solar-powered cameras have been deployed at 23 glaciers in Antarctica, Greenland, Iceland, Canada, Austria, Alaska, and the Rocky Mountains of the U.S. The glaciers are recorded every 30 minutes, year round, during daylight. The time-lapse images are then edited into videos that unveil an incremental record of climate change.

National Geographic magazine showcased the Extreme Ice Survey project in June 2007 and June 2010. The project is also featured in the renowned documentary, Chasing Ice, which won an award for Excellence in Cinematography at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, as well as the 2014 News and Documentary Emmy award for Outstanding Nature Programming. The film has screened in more than 172 countries and on all 7 continents.

As a kind of companion piece to his documentary project, Balog published the book, ICE: Portraits of Vanishing Glaciers, in 2012. A review from Book News says, “Photographs…strike the eye with such power, and appeal with such subtlety, that viewers could scarcely imagine such epic materials and landscapes could disappear. General readers, artists, nature or geology fans, people who live or play in winter landscapes, and photographers, regardless of scientific or political bent, will all value this book.”

Balog is also the founder of the Earth Vision Institute (EVT), a non-profit organization dedicated to creating, publishing, and sharing “visual voices” to educate people about the impacts of climate change. (It was initially named the Earth Vision Trust, but Balog changed the name on January 1, 2015.) The Institute’s most recent project was “Getting The Picture: Our Changing Climate,” an innovative online multimedia tool for climate education, which synchronized art, science, and adventure. People of all ages can take advantage of this free interactive educational tool to gain a fresh perspective on the changing climate.

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