‘Landscapes Need a Voice’: GlacierHub Speaks With Photographer Fiona Bunn

Fiona Bunn is a professional alpine photographer whose work has been displayed in London, Milan, and Zermatt. An avid hiker and climber, Bunn spoke with GlacierHub writer Elza Bouhassira about the inspiration for her most recent exhibition in Guildford, England and her ideas about the role of a photographer in a world increasingly shaped by climate change.

GlacierHub: Can you talk a bit about your exhibition? How does it build on your past work?

Bunn: Going back in time, what motivated me originally was that I’ve always spent a lot of time in the Alps, even as a child I always visited them. Around seven years ago I had quite a shocking experience when I was in the Alps; I took some photographs and could see a profound difference in the glaciers. I’m not sure why I suddenly saw that. Perhaps it was because I had been visiting at different times of the year.

After my shock seven years ago, I felt quite motivated to start developing a conversation. Initially a lot of my work was in black and white. It was quite stark. But as I engaged more with people, I came to realize that photography is as much a journey for me as it is for the people who are looking at it. 

The first exhibitions I did were quite stark, they were in more artistic exhibition spaces. I was in the Milan Expo, and then I did a couple in London. An exhibition I did in the summer was in a very commercial environment. It was in Bond Street in London. The exhibition I’m doing now is in a more spiritual environment. It’s actually in a church. It’s part of a heritage weekend that they’re doing, and the weekend is also part of the liturgical season of creation, which is all about the web of life, about the interconnectedness of nature, and the impacts of climate change. For me it’s a big exhibition, to take over a city center church and to have this opportunity, really, it’s great.

GlacierHub: Can you talk about the upcoming exhibit?

Bunn: It’s a church in Guilford. It’s a 10th-century church. It’s a bit of an artist’s dream because it’s in a state of disrepair at the moment since they’re doing a lot of building work on it. The structure itself is undergoing a lot of change so the pictures of mountains are almost replacing the windows of the church—the windows are covered up due to the construction. People are seeing nature come into their environment where stained glass would usually be, which is really nice. There are 15 images, each about 1.5 meters by half a meter. It’s a beautiful space. And educationally it’s great too because they’ve got lots of children helping, the local Brownies Guides are doing a pop-up cafe. So there’s going to be a lot of young people there and it’s just a great opportunity to engage with a different audience.

Exhibition visitors peer at Fiona Bunn’s alpine images. (Source: Fiona Bunn)

GlacierHub: How do you decide where to shoot? 

Bunn: I like to go back to the same set of places because I’m trying to record change. I try to build relationships with people because I want to focus more on education going forward. Since I’m also a climber, I tend to choose places that are very high up.

And image of the Matterhorn, the most iconic summit in the Alps.
(Source: Fiona Bunn)

GlacierHub: Do you use any filters or post-processing as part of your creative process? 

Bunn: I don’t use any filters and, in post production, just a little bit of cropping. I’ve got quite a basic camera to be quite frank. I tend not to use polarizing filters. I’m a bit of a nightmare for other photographers because if I can climb it, and I can just sit here and I can photograph it, then I’m happy and I’ll do that. 

GlacierHub: Why do you shoot landscapes? 

Bunn: The landscape of the Alps is so beautiful. People ask why I go back to the same places; it’s because every time I go it’s different, the sky’s different, the sunsets, the experiences, the people I meet. I always think of people like John Muir who just basically hung out in Yellowstone National Park most of his life. There is something in that because it’s about getting to know people, and the community and building links that will be part of my artistic process of recording what I’m seeing and experiences I’m having. Personally, I try and capture exactly what I see with a little bit of cropping. What you see is what you get with me.

GlacierHub: Most of your images focus on landscapes and mountains. Is it a deliberate choice to omit animals and humans?

Bunn: I feel that landscapes need a voice at the moment. I do photograph quite a bit of wildlife, but I don’t always put those into my exhibitions. I think there’s probably quite a lot of work that can be done around tracking the effects of what’s happening on wildlife. 

GlacierHub: What do you think the role of a photographer is in a world confronted by climate change?

Bunn: I think photography opens a door to conversation. It’s a tool for communicating experience. I think artists have a profound responsibility. 

I think different artists have different signatures in their work. Some people call them motifs. One thing that I think all artists who have any interest in climate change can say is that the subject profoundly touches you to the extent that you make it the central pivot for your work. What I’ve seen has impacted me to the extent that it has become part of the signature in my work. It’s become very important to me. 

I feel the artistic community has a real role to play in that we have different voices, and together we can reach people. I sometimes worry the message isn’t clear, that there is still a lot of confusion about the message. I think we’re still fumbling our way through this, trying to figure out what are we trying to say. 

Dent d’Herens, over 4,000 meters in elevation, lies in the Pennine Alps between Switzerland and Italy and is host to retreating glaciers.
(Source: Fiona Bunn)

GlacierHub: Do you think beautiful pictures make people complacent rather than provoking them into action?

A: I think we need a combination of both, which is why I think that when different artists work together it’s quite powerful. I’ve always thought that a collective approach is really important. I would say that the more artists who have different approaches, but who are essentially working toward the same goal, the better.

Also, if you show a beautiful picture, you can put powerful words along with it. It’s shocking and it makes me extraordinarily angry to see what we’re doing to the environment. But I know I am not going to reach people with only very stark images. I need to show people the beauty of mountains and that they will not exist the way they do now in the future. Sometimes I wonder whether my work will end up being purely a historical document for people to reflect on in thirty years once the ice is no longer here. If that’s what I end up doing, then I’m prepared to do that. I want to start documenting the people who live there too, because I think that’s important too. John Muir and Ansel Adams, artists I love and respect, they grabbed people’s attention because they cared enough about a place to just sit there and take photo after photo of it. I think things have changed now and I might just be creating a historical document. We can tell people they’re destroying the environment, but they know it. 

Environmentalism needs lots of artists. It needs a lot of us because one thing I have understood is that at first I saw my work as just me loving mountains and wanting to share them with people and warn them that these environments are not going to be like this much longer. I think what I’ve understood is that people love to go and look at art, to listen to poetry, to read stories. And I think this is the time for people who are artists to play on that interest. I think artists have a really important role to play in the process of addressing climate change, whatever their style within it.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

You can find Fiona Bunn’s photography on her website and on Instagram.

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Photo Friday: Fi Bunn’s Alpine Images

This past year has been an exciting time for me as an alpine photographer. I managed to travel to southern Switzerland three times, combining trips with family and professional events in order to minimize my ecological footprint. I also brought along my new camera, a Nikon DS5600 with a 18-140mm Nikkor zoom lens. It continues to be a privilege to visit such an awesome place with mountains to climb, beautiful scenery to photograph, and great hospitality with the local mountain communities.

The Breithorn Traverse (4,164 meters) is part of the Monte Rosa massif, Pennine Alps, Valais, Switzerland. (Source: Fi Bunn)

Monte Rosa (4,634 meters) is located in the Pennine Alps, Valais, Switzerland and consists of two summits, Nordend (4,609 m) and Dufourspitze (4,634 m). (Source: Fi Bunn)

Even though I have visited many other places, it is these alpine communities that draw me back again and again. I love to see the mountains during different seasons, and that is partly why I’ve branched out from my favored black-and-white photography to shoot more color images. The results can be seen in my 2019 exhibitions.

The Ober Gabelhorn, Zinalrothorn, and Weisshorn are 3 of the 38 summits that rise over 4,000 meters in height in the Zermatt, Valais region of Switzerland. (Source: Fi Bunn)

I continue to investigate new scramble routes, meet amazing fellow “explorers,” and make new friends during my expeditions. I listen to stories from locals about the impact of climate change. This summer I heard more about the Zinal Glacier in the Pennine Alps, Valais. It is a 7-kilometer-long glacier, which, according to those who live close by, is shrinking at a rate of 30 meters per year.

Lyskamm Mountain (4,527 meters), also known as Silberbast, is situated between Switzerland and Italy. (Source: Fi Bunn)

Through my photography, I hope to encourage open and respectful debate about climate change. As the issue attracts more media attention, I was delighted and surprised to be invited to give three exhibitions in the first part of 2019. The exhibition spaces are big, enabling me to print large-format versions of my images. It has always been my hope and dream to give visitors a real immersive experience, and I can already see areas for developing more fully this sensory aspect. So this summer I will be traveling back to the Alps to research and develop ideas for the next stage in my photographic exploration of the Alps.

The Weisshorn (4,506 meters), also known as “the secret star” of the Swiss Alps, is situated between Anniviers and Zermatt in the canton of Valais. (Source: Fi Bunn)
The Breithorn Plateau forms the starting point for climbers ascending the 4,000 meter Valais Swiss alps of Breithorn, Castor, and Pollux. (Source: Fi Bunn)

Fi Bunn’s upcoming exhibitions take place May 11-18 at Victorinox, Bond Street, London and in mid-August through September at St. Margaret’s Heritage Centre, Quarry Street, Guildford, Surrey.

You can find find more of her photographs on her website, as well as following her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. She can be emailed at FiAlpinePhotos@gmail.com.

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Photo Friday: Glaciers in the Canton of Valais

The canton of Valais in Switzerland features ten of the 12 highest summits in the Alps. Alpine photographer Fiona Bunn’s 2019 calendar includes many of these 4,000-meter peaks found in Valais. Her images, all captured this past year, include the largest glacier in the Alps. The Aletsch is situated in the Bernese Alps and is 23 kilometers long.

The Aletsch Glacier, known in German as Grosser Aletschgletscher (Source: Fiona Bunn).

 

Fifty kilometers south, is the Grenz glacier, which flows between the Monte Rosa and Lyskamm mountains of the Pennine Alps.

Monte Rosa at 4,634 meters (Source: Fiona Bunn).

 

The 4,357 meter Dent Blanche at dawn (Source: Fiona Bunn).

 

Bunn recently reflected on changing mountain landscapes in a guest post to GlacierHub: “My hope is that new John Muirs and Ansel Adams will arise, who encourage aesthetic appreciation and conservation of these sacred places. We may not be able to reverse a climate catastrophe, but we can be aware of those documenting change and supportive of the indigenous communities with creative solutions and investment.”

Indigenous Valais black-nosed sheep (Source: Fiona Bunn).

 

Lyskamm at 4527 meters and Grenz Glacier (Source: Fiona Bunn).

 

There is a special discount of 10 percent for GlacierHub readers. The alpine calendar is printed on premium photo paper, size 30 x 20 cms (A4). Price £9.99 P&P UK £5, ROW £7. To receive the special discount order via fibunnphotos@gmail.com. Payment either by Paypal or invoicing via direct transfer or check. All images copyright Fi Photos.

Fiona Bunn is a British and Swiss alpine photographer. For more of Fiona Bunn’s work, visit her website at www.fiphotos.org.

Alpine Photographer Reflects on Changing Face of Mountain Landscapes

We live in an incredible world, with increasing access to mountain regions which have previously been remote apart from all but their indigenous inhabitants. During a time period of around 150 years, which has witnessed the birth of alpinism as both an extreme sport and adventurous scientific exploration, the mountain landscapes have had their own process of change, which appears to be accelerating, and from which there can be no return.

The glaciers I visited as a child 30 years ago are retreating and the permafrost which has held majestic summits in place is melting, leading to ugly scars and new unforeseen landscapes.

Lyskamm 4527m & ski tourer (Source: Fiona Bunn).

 

Mountain landscapes have long had a powerful ability to produce storytellers, adventurers and, I would contend, community. From John Muir to Ansel Adams, naturalist to photographer, mountains engender a passionate advocacy and magnetic attraction; and this was many years before the current noticeable deterioration that has provoked climate debates.

Glacial and summit prophets predicted the separation of the soul to materialism and destruction of sacred places which both remind us of our “smallness” and our own breath taking elevation as we lift our eyes. Which naturally leads me to ask how can the current community of mountaineers move forward as advocates?

Taschhorn 4491m (Source: Fiona Bunn).

 

Many who appreciate mountains would not even consider themselves as the latter. Some could be deemed purely as adventure consumers rather than conservationists. Even so, their shared experiences of climbs, tales of survival in risky situations and appreciation of natural beauty defines them at least as active participants.

Furthermore, this community is growing and also easy to participate in, through social media groups, alpine clubs, popular outdoor magazines and research organizations such as CRED and the National Geographic Society.

Dent Blanche – OberGabelhorn – Zinalrothorn – Weisshorn (Source: Fiona Bunn).

 

My hope is that new John Muirs and Ansel Adams will arise, who encourage aesthetic appreciation and conservation of these sacred places. We may not be able to reverse a climate catastrophe, but we can be aware of those documenting change and supportive of the indigenous communities with creative solutions and investment.

So, in closing, how do mountains make me feel as an alpinist and photographer? Safe. Small. Hopeful.

 

Fiona Bunn is a British and Swiss alpine photographer. The featured images were captured in the Pennine Alps, Valais, Switzerland. For more of Fiona Bunn’s work, visit her website at www.fiphotos.org.

Fiona will be exhibiting her work in January 2019 for one month in Hampshire, UK. Contact her via her sign up form at www.fiphotos.org for updates on her gallery events. She also now has a regular photographic column in the British edition of the Swiss Review magazine.

Photo Friday: The Alpine Photographer

Fiona Bunn, a British and Swiss Alpine landscape photographer, is committed to creating awareness of human impacts on glacier landscapes.

“My alpine photography highlights both the ageless grandeur of the Alps, yet also its innate vulnerability to humankind’s impact,” says Fiona on her work.

Her photographs are inspired by her childhood visits and explorations of Swiss mountains and interest in arts and graphic design.

The glaciers I visited as a child are now rapidly shrinking. I actually remember the physical shock of seeing the degradation in the size of the Grenz Glacier when I returned to the Valais region of Switzerland some years after my visits as a child. There is an active debate surrounding this; my main hope is that featuring the beautiful Alps and glaciers through my photography will also draw our attention to those who live there. These alpine communities livelihoods depends upon the glaciers which created these beautiful landscapes. Such extreme melt is an indicator of something drastically changing in our climate. It has gone beyond reversal in my opinion, but we can at least seek to preserve what remains as much as possible,” says Fiona Bunn.

Fiona’s photographs have been exhibited at the Menier Gallery and the Brick Lane Gallery, in London, as part of the Milan Expo, and also in the Alpine Museum in Zermatt.

For more of her work, visit her website www.fiphotos.org, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter [@alpineclick]
and Instagram [@fi_bee24].  

Fiona has also recently released her 2018 calendar, which is available to GlacierHub readers at a 20 percent discount using the code GlacierHub18

30 x 20 cms ~ £12.79 ~ A saving of £3.20 (usual price £15.99) 

http://www.fiphotos.org/product/glacier-hub-alpine-calendar-2018/

20 x 20 cms ~ £10.41 ~ A saving of £2.58 (usual price £12.99) 

http://www.fiphotos.org/product/glacier-hub-calendar-2018-compact/

Prices include postage and packing for the UK and worldwide.

View of the Grenz Glacier from Breithorn Summit (4164 m) (Source: Fiona Bunn).

 

View of Breithorn summit (4164 m) of the Pennine Alps (Source: Fiona Bunn)

 

Pollux mountain (4092 m) on the Pennine Alps (Source: Fiona Bunn)

 

Dawn on the 4000 m Alpine peaks (Source: Fiona Bunn).