Photographer James Whitlow Delano has created a series of powerful images of Bolivia’s ongoing water crisis. His photos focus on the Altiplano, the high plateau where the Andes Mountains are at their widest and which crosses the borders of Bolivia, Peru, Chile, and Argentina. La Paz, Bolivia’s capital, is the largest city on the plateau. Families from rural areas are moving into La Paz and its largest satellite city, El Alto, because the agricultural way of life they rely on is no longer viable due to a lack of water. These families move into slums in the cities, like the one captured below, hoping to find better paying jobs.
Rural areas are struggling because the glaciers they rely upon are melting, which means less water for farming or snow for skiing. The lodge shown below was formerly a part of the highest ski resort in the world, but now sits empty because the Chacaltaya Glacier, which filled the adjacent valley, melted entirely in 2009 due to warmer and more frequent El Nino events.
Mountains in the Andes, like Condoriri, currently show what the region would look like without the effects of climate change. Glaciologist Edison Ramirez conducted a study that predicted, however, that the glaciers on the mountain may completely melt over the course of the next thirty years.
The melting of the glaciers has already had negative effects; along the shores of the dried up Lake Poopo sit quinoa plants in desiccated soil. Migration from rural areas to Bolivia’s cities is driven by drought. The difficulties created by drought are contributing to residents’ moves into bigger cities.
Other lakes and ponds in the Altiplano are at risk of suffering the same fate; below is a pond in the process of drying up. The melting of the glaciers and the lakes they feed is significant because the Altiplano does not get enough rain to support those who live there—It relies on glacial melt to support the human population.
Since the series on Bolivia was posted in late June, @everydayclimatechange has highlighted water shortages in Chennai, India; wildfires in Yosemite; and youth climate strikes inspired by Greta Thunberg, a Swedish youth climate activist.
Project Pressure, a charity founded in 2008, seeks to provoke action to confront climate change by organizing exhibitions that combine photography and science, specifically focused on the world’s glaciers.
The group’s latest installation of artwork is titled “Meltdown. A Visualization of Climate Change by Project Pressure” and is on display until September 1st at the Natural History Museum, Vienna. The exhibit features projects by renowned artists, such as architecture and landscape photographer Simon Norfolk, who have traveled around the world to photograph some of the planet’s most vulnerable environments and landscapes. The artists worked with scientists from a wide array of backgrounds to ensure accuracy.
Glaciers retreat and glacier mass loss is a readily apparent symptom of the impacts of climate change. Mass loss from glaciers, unlike other weather and climate events, can be directly attributed to warming. All around the world, glaciers are visibly shrinking, prompting local residents, elected officials, academics, prominent cultural figures, and climate activists to raise the alarm about the rapidly deteriorating state of the world’s glaciers.
The exhibition is divided into three sections, the first of which is titled “The Importance of Glaciers,” which includes work from artist Peter Funch, a Danish photographer who captures landscapes, people, and portraits . Funch uses postcards of images of glaciers in America to portray recession over the years, giving the effect of old photographs by using RGB tricolor separation, a technique invented in the 19th century.
Various urgent subjects are explored in the second section of the exhibition, “Current Issues.”This includes the impacts of climate change and glacier loss on populations, such as the over one billion people dependent on the Himalayas for water.
The final section of the exhibit, “Meltdown Consequences,” surprises audience with peculiar examples of the impacts of climate change. This section includes work by artists Norfolk + Thymann, picturing part of the Rhone glacier in Switzerland covered by geo-thermal cloth to prevent further melting. This striking image reflects the desperate attempt by local people in trying to conserve the critical water resources that glaciers provide and that they heavily depend on.
Project Pressure artist Toby Smith is an environmental photographer whose project “Heavens and Earth on Aragat” is currently being exhibited as part of Meltdown. Smith told GlacierHub about the project and shared his experience during his time on Mount Aragats, the highest point in Armenia. The glacier feeds into a network of tributaries, providing water to surrounding provinces.
Smith said that initial research conducted for the project showed Mount Aragat was under major threat from climate change, experiencing dwindling ice cover and rapid decrease in glacial surface area over time. “The glacial cover has been disappearing on account of the insufficient snowfall, changes in rainfall patterns, and critically an increase in annual mean air temperatures,” he said.
One of Smith’s main goals was to understand the different human relations with glacier flow. He was able to connect with people from remote villages across provinces and learn how changes on the mountain affected their lives. Unfortunately this change in hydrology has negatively impacted the livelihoods and economies of these local communities. Although the primary focus is to document landscapes, Smith said he deliberately focused on also exhibiting a strong human and cultural presence on the mountain.
Fiona Bunn, a British and Swiss alpine photographer, commented on the power of photography and visual artwork to raise awareness on important issues regarding climate change.
“For the past 5 years I have felt the increasing significance of communicating through visual arts the changes I have seen, and the positive impact it can have on awareness of climate change” she said. Bunn added that the role of an artist in this field involves documenting changes, celebrating the beauty of the natural environment, and creating community by sharing with the world nature through art.
“The success of “Meltdown” is in finding a public platform for sharing this important issue”.
The Meltdown exhibition is on display at the Natural History Museum, Vienna until September 1, 2019. Like the glaciers, see it before it’s too late.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In an exhibition titled “Belonging, Transformation, and Ethnographic Predicaments in Nepal’s Himalaya,” a team of artists shared stories of their Himalayan experience through a collection of photographs. The exhibition was held at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver from February 1 to April 30. A closing reception, followed by a discussion of changing ethnographic practices, was hosted by the university April 23.
The exhibition highlighted many changes, which the artists—Yungdrung Tsewang, Tsering Gurung, Yeshi Gurung, Kory Thibeault, and Emily Amburgey—noticed while in Lower Mustang.
“The signs of transformation are hard to miss,” the artists wrote in their collective statement. The bulldozers and road construction teams, the newly constructed hotels and guesthouses, advertisements of hot showers and free Internet, the fallow agricultural lands, and the empty houses—these are the easily visible signs of transformations.
Less obvious, the artists pointed out, are “the class divisions that allow certain people to migrate while others stay behind, the decreasing numbers of practicing Buddhist monks, and the lack of spoken Tibetan among the younger generations.”
Embedded in the photographic depiction of transformations in this exhibition were questions of belonging and ethnographic predicaments. It is here that Emily Amburgey, whose photographs were not included in the exhibition, quietly shines. Amburgey said that she did not want the exhibit to just focus on the finished research products, “but to problematize the often complex and ongoing relationships between ethnographers and those they work with that make projects like these possible.”
Amburgey is a doctoral student of anthropology at UBC and her research focuses on labor migration and environmental change in Nepal’s Himalaya. The exhibition was a culmination of her different collaborative projects with friends from Nepal and the United States. Over the course of four months, Amburgey and Yungdrung Tsewang had come to the realization that the impacts of labor migration and climate change were radically transforming the human and nonhuman landscape in Mustang.
Tsewang was Amburgey’s research associate while she conducted fieldwork for her master’s program. During that time, together they organized a PhotoVoice project with the intention to work closely with the fellow artists Yeshi Gurung and Tshering Gurung, two women who are actively engaged in their community. PhotoVoice is a digital storytelling platform that seeks to inspire positive social change, enhancing the visibility of social issues through partnerships with community organizations using photographs as the medium.
Kory Thibeault, the fourth artist, is a friend from California, who came to help Amburgey shoot a documentary about her research. His photographs were taken during his stay in the region. The shared space of this exhibition highlighted the situated and overlapping perspectives of the different artists, expanding the notion of “belonging.”
When one belongs, the drastic consequences of ongoing processes become visible. Unpredictable weather patterns, extreme events, new diseases, and relocation of settlements, which might seem natural in harsh mountain environments for a passing visitor, become more than that to those who care to see. These are the new climate realities in the mountains.
“I believe that when Ladakhi elders talk about the fate of the glaciers of Ladakh, they are also reflecting on their own fate as their presence and influence decrease amid the dazzle of a new era,” Karine Gagne wrote in Caring for Glaciers.
The same could be said about Humla or Mustang or Khumbu, where the glaciers recede deep inside the valleys. The receding glaciers are entangled with the economic, socio-political, cultural, and generational changes. It is the dazzle of a new era that have now left those who remain in the villages looking toward the road.
The exhibition was curated by Rosaleen McAfee. It was co-sponsored by the Himalaya Program (funded by the Institute of Asian Research) and the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia.
Following the closing reception on April 23, Emily Amburgey invited Mark Turin, an associate professor of anthropology at UBC, and I to join her for a conversation on the changing practices of ethnography and the position of an ethnographer in the Himalayan context. The conversation continues.
A photo essay version of this exhibition was published online at Himalaya: The Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies. It can be viewed here.
GlacierHub founder and managing editor Ben Orlove recently sat down with Icelandic photographer Ragnar Axelsson, whose “Glacier” (“Jokull” in Icelandic) depicts the disappearing glaciers of his homeland. His monochromatic images were recently displayed during a solo show at Reykjavik’s Asmundarsalur Museum.
Scale. With the exception of some images in the section “Caves,” most of the photographs seem to be of a large scale, showing areas hundreds or thousands of meters across. This relative uniformity gives a unity to the book. Did you plan this scale, or did it emerge as you took the photographs?
I worked with Einar Geir Ingvarsson, the designer of the book and the exhibition, to ping-pong ideas how the book should look like. We decided to give the readers their own ideas and view the surface of the glacier with an open mind and imagine the scale of the glacier. On the first pages in the book, one can see small people, who give a hunch of how big everything is from the air.
The ice caves are different as the caves are not very big and in the photographs, the faces in the ice walls are from the two-meter-wall up to 20 meters long. It was planned when photographing inside the ice caves to look into the walls of ice and see all the figures or figurative forms in the 1,000-year-old ice, not just showing an ice cave as a cave. The ice that is melting in those caves fell on the glacier as snow at the time when the first settlers came to Iceland. The book is thought of as an ode to the Icelandic glaciers—like a poem in photographs.
Orientation: The majority of the photographs are entirely filled with the glacier, though some (especially in “Peaks”) include a bit of sky. And most of them are at a medium oblique angle, rather than being taken directly from above, or shot at a low angle. What are the strengths of this angle and framing?
It was a decision in the beginning not to have a horizon in most of the photographs. The first photograph in the book showing Snæfellsjökull, which will disappear in a few decades, is the only one with a horizon. That photograph is thought of as showing a glacier as it is today and make people think when flipping through the book what will be the fate of the Icelandic glaciers. They are all going to melt to the ocean. The photographs were taken from all kind of different angles to show the different states and the diversity of the glaciers.
Human presence 1: People are absent from your photographs, though one section titled “Runes” signals the long presence of Icelanders in the country. What do you see as the effects of this focus on uninhabited spaces, without even any humans as temporary visitors?
There are small figures in two photographs in the book. It is on the first pages and it is to show as a scale how overwhelming and huge the glaciers are. We wanted to take the readers on a journey over the glaciers. The readers have to dream and solve the riddle or just imagine how huge the glaciers are. In “Runes,” one can find all kinds of figures and faces on the surface of the glacier. Those runes come from volcano ash from past eruptions in Iceland. There are very few places on earth where it can be seen. I wanted to show those figures forming a story where the glacier is talking to us. If you look for some time on a certain photograph you can find all kind of figures, like on the front page of the book you can make out a bird. All those figures are melting to the ocean.
Human presence 2: Perhaps it is my imagination, but I see a human figure, leaning forward and tilted a bit to the right, in the first image in “Caves” (p. 130), and a huge face, with high cheekbones and a narrow mouth, in the second (p. 131). With these in mind, faces can been in two others (p. 134-135), and rows of figures as well (p. 133, 137). Does this mention of resemblances to human faces and figures strike any echoes with you?
You are right, there are faces in the 1,000-year ice walls in the caves. When I was photographing the ice caves it was on purpose to find those figures in the ice. You just have to move a few inches left or right then everything is changing in the ice walls. All kind of figures pops up. I want people to think about the glaciers as something alive, and the figures and faces in the glaciers are talking to us. What are they saying? They are all fading away to the ocean where circulation of water continues around the planet.
Climate change: The titles of the four final sections of the book (“Terminus,” “Lagoons,” “Rivers,” and “The Sea”) could be read as a narrative of glacier retreat, showing how glaciers are melting and contributing to sea level rise. But the photographs themselves offer striking, beautiful images of surfaces, much like the ones in earlier sections of the book. They seem to avoid a simple, scientific, didactic presentation of glacier melting. What choices did you make to compose these four sections and to select images for them? Do you wish the book to engage with issues of climate change?
All those chapters are showing the glaciers from the peak to the ocean. It is an abstract view of what is happening. Not many are really thinking about it, that this is really happening. We will not be around to see it, but the next generations will have to face something that is or might be a hard task to follow. All the glaciers in Iceland will melt in 150-200 years. Yes, we want the book to take a place as a little puzzle in a bigger picture showing what we will be facing in the future to come. We want people to think, the glaciers will all be gone at the speed of sound in the context to the age of Earth. We don’t want to preach, it is just a fact, as scientists tell us.
Relation to your other work. You are known for your work as a photographer for the leading Icelandic newspaper Morgunbladid and for your books “Faces of the North” (2005) and “Last Days of the Arctic” (2010), which present changing human cultures in a changing environment. How does this book Glacier connect with your earlier work?
It does not connect to my earlier work, it is totally different from the other books, more of an abstract landscape book, with a message.
Hopes for the future. What hopes do you have for this book? Has its reception to date met these hopes?
We have high hopes for this book. The exhibition where the book was launched went well. Around 1,2000 people came to see the photographs in Ásmundarsalur museum in Reykjavik. The book is in limited editions and will be, in the future, a collector’s item.
Additional comments: Are there any other thoughts that you would like to add?
Science is important and opens people’s eyes to what is happening. We think it is also very important to document the changes in the Arctic in photographs and make books about life and the changes that are happening extremely fast. Films and photography books support science and can open eyes to what is happening. Making a book about life in the Arctic is like a little puzzle in a bigger picture and it can open eyes to what is happening and for new ideas.
Click here to purchase a copy of Ragnar Axelsson’s “Glaciers.”
The GlacierHub News Report is a bi-monthly video news report that features some of our website’s top stories. This week, GlacierHub news is featuring the “Doomsday” glacier, a new study on GLOFS and climate change, subglacial lakes in Canada, and some beautiful aerial shots of the Rockies!
This week’s news report features:
Project Aims to Better Understand “Doomsday” Glacier
By: Andrew Angle
Summary: The largest joint United States-United Kingdom Antarctic project since the 1940s was announced at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge. The International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration or ITGC will focus on the Thwaites glacier of West Antarctica, one of the world’s largest and fastest melting glaciers. A five-year collaboration between the U.S. National Science Foundation and U.K. Natural Environment Research Council worth $25 million will include six scientific field studies with over 100 scientists to analyze changes to the Thwaites and surrounding ocean.
Will Climate Change Be Responsible for More Glacial Lake Outburst Floods?
By: Natalie Belew
Summary: How certain is it that climate change increases the frequency and severity of glacier lake outburst floods or GLOFs? It turns out the answer is a bit complicated and the subject of a new study published in The Cryosphere. This recent study provides the first global assessment of the problems involved in developing a robust attribution argument for climate change and GLOF events.
Unprecedented Subglacial Lakes Discovered in the Canadian Arctic
By: Jade Payne
Summary: A joint study published last month in Science Advances predicted the presence of two hypersaline subglacial lakes. The lakes are located on either side of the east-west ice divide of the Devon Ice Cap, an ice cap located in Nunavut, Canada. The lakes could represent significant microbial habitats that could be used as analogs to study the conditions for potential life on other planets.
Summary: In lighter news, Garrett Fisher, a writer, photographer and adventurer, recently set out to capture the beauty of the Rockies. To do so, he flew an antique plane across the sky for aerial views of the last remaining glaciers in Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. He was inspired by the need to document the glory of the Rockies before the glaciers disappear completely. His photos from the trip can be found in his recently published book, “Glaciers of the Rockies,” which features his collection of 177 carefully curated photos.
The environmental artist, Diane Burko, has been on the forefront of documenting the changing landscapes of climate change for several years, as GlacierHub has documented. Her latest exhibition, “Diane Burko: Vast and Vanishing,” will feature large-scale paintings and photographs that offer a striking look into the contrasting world of beauty and despair. It Is currently on display at the Rowan University Art Gallery in Glassboro, New Jersey, until April 21, 2018.
Diane Burko is well versed in combining art and science to communicate a message of urgency to those who view her work. She has long collaborated with scientists and researchers to accurately depict their work as well as our world in its state of impending change. She recently spoke with GlacierHub about her current exhibition, as well as her upcoming project on coral reef degradation which promises to take her work, and viewers, into new territory.
GlacierHub: Has the message of your latest exhibition, ”Vast and Vanishing,” evolved since your last series, or is it meant to be a continuation?
Diane Burko: The message is very much the same: we “live in perilous times.” What has changed is the dramatic intensity and speed with which we are all experiencing the effects of global warming on our planet. I guess you could say my personal sense of urgency has grown.
GH: What served as your main source of inspiration for ”Vast and Vanishing”?
DB: The work in this show summarizes my exploration of how data about melting glaciers can be used to explain climate change visually. Repeat photography, recessional lines, and Landsat imagery are sources I draw from to this end. By borrowing from scientific research, I am translating and transforming such devices into my visual lexicon.
GH: How do you choose which glaciers or landscapes to focus on?
DB: I work with some of the most dramatic examples of how climate change is affecting our landscapes – such as Columbia Glacier, Grinnell, and Jakobshavn in Greenland. These locations and their diminishing volume makes the need for urgency clear.
GH: Your recent work has involved heavily contrasting colors, especially white and black. I’m curious to know, what provoked this change?
DB: You may be referring to a specific group of works I made in 2016, the “Elegy Series.” I chose to use stark and somber contrasting forms of white and black or dark blue to invoke what an elegy is: a poem or lament for the dead. Each painting in this series is a fabrication that I created–and while they are not literal images of glaciers, their abstract, crackling forms reference aerial views of glacial landscapes. Each print is named after a glacier or area in the world whose existence is being threatened dramatically.
GH: I see in one of your Instagram posts that you have changed your cold-weather gear for diving equipment and flippers! How will your art change? Also, how does your new exhibition fit in with your new direction?
DB: My exhibition at Rowan covers paintings I’ve made over the past few years about climate change in glacial regions— and although I may return to the subject in the future, it is a really nice and well-timed bookend for that project. My glacial work is focused on looking at the past–the landscape in years prior— which contrasts with the present state in climate change.
I am now working on a new project called “Kai ‘Apapa,” investigating coral reef degradation alongside musicians Evan Ziporyn and Christine Southworth and scientist Samiah Moustafa— we’re producing a multimedia performance and installation with original music, which we hope to present over time at various venues.
I’m also working with the phenomenon of reef ecosystems in my personal painting practice where the challenge and attraction for me is to use this underwater imagery in a way that garners awareness and empathy for a threatened component of our planet.
This work is still evolving— leading me to l experiment with new materials and media such as lenticular images, light box presentations and video.
GH: I noticed you will be presenting your work and participating in an upcoming panel on April 5 at Rowan University. What are you most looking forward to?
DB: My work is deeply indebted to the support of members of the scientific community— as such, I’m so excited to learn from the other individuals on the panel, and from the discussion with the audience. Exchanging knowledge and learning from scientists really exists at the core of my artistic practice. I believe that engaging in conversations with people from a multitude of disciplines can lead to new depths of meaning aesthetically as well as intellectually.
Many people may never see a glacier or an iceberg up close, given issues of cost, inaccessibility and environmental changes. Yet artist Mariele Neudecker is making the experience a bit more accessible, as she transports a vision of the Arctic to galleries and museum floors.
Born in Düsseldorf, Germany, the 51-year-old lifelong artist now resides in Bristol, where she creates sculptures, photographs, films and paintings. Over the past 20 years, Neudecker has produced a wide range of landscape and still life artwork, much of which seeks to capture the essence of glaciers and icebergs.
In an interview with GlacierHub, Neudecker walks us through the journey behind her glacier artwork. A condensed and edited version of the conversation follows.
GH: I understand the Zeppelin Museum installation is not the first project you have done focusing on glaciers.
MN: I have done a lot of work with [19th century landscape painter] Caspar David Friedrich paintings and converting them into 3D tank pieces. The first one I did in 1997 was clearly using ice in a reference to his painting “Sea of Ice.”
GH: What attracted you to ice and glacier themed art back in 1997, when you first incorporated Arctic ice elements into your artwork?
MN: It [my work] was more of an exploration of landscapes. I looked at mountains, forests and the ocean. However, I always thought the remoteness and difficulty to imagine the Arctic created an interesting perception… It is about the subject of glaciers and the Arctic, but fundamentally it’s about perceptions and how we have longings to be somewhere else. You can transport people to other places through paintings, films and all sorts of artwork.
The Arctic has always been a metaphor for climate change and human shortcomings, so there are a lot of cliché images of glaciers representing the environment. That has provoked me to add other layers to that representation. The challenge is to avoid the clichés.
GH: What was the most difficult feeling to capture that you wanted to convey to viewers?
MN: I wanted to hint at the unknown and to highlight that all we see are little fragments of something much bigger. It’s hard to capture the feeling of standing in massive open spaces where you are trapped in your eye sockets and you must turn your head to take it all in.
It’s similar to deep sea projects I have done, where the camera is in the black depths of the ocean and only with artificial light can you see a fraction of the spaces. You know how massive the space is, but you only see a tiny piece of it.
GH: What was the most surprising to you when you were out in the field capturing glaciers?
MN: The sound! That really threw me. I had no idea how loud they were. Camping on the side of a glacier the silence and then the sounds that interrupted that silence were so powerful. I’ve seen a million images of glaciers, but no one told me about the sounds.
I tried to record them but I wasn’t able to capture it well. That would be a future project I would love to do.
GH: Before you went to Greenland, all of your Arctic work was derived from images and paintings. What sparked your first trip to Greenland in May of 2012?
MN: I was lucky to spend a week with the American writer Gretel Ehrlich, who has written beautiful books about Greenland and ice. Before my experience with her I felt I could do my work with my imagination and images, but after [that week] I wanted to have the experience of being out there in the open space that her books described so amazingly well.
I was in Greenland for a month, but I spent a week with Gretel and two subsistence hunters and two teams of sled dogs. A major component [of my project] was to experience the history of photography in reverse as I made my way through the trip. I started with HD digital… all the way back to a pinhole camera at the end. I had 12 cameras in total. I spent the following few weeks on my own [not counting the guides], traveling to fjords and far northern reaches of Greenland. There were these very remote places with villages of only 12 inhabitants. It was extraordinary seeing how those people lived.
GH: What was your favorite camera to shoot with?
MN: I like the Polaroid. It was slightly unpredictable and it produced tiny pictures. I liked the absurdity of capturing immense spaces in tiny pictures.
GH: Could you give me an overview of the Zeppelin Museum exhibit and walk me through some of the main pieces?
MN: I will start with most recent piece of the exhibition, which is the afterlife piece of the boat in the ice. The whole thing started with the ship… it struck me as looking like one of those early Arctic explorer ships. I didn’t want to be too literal in following Casper David’s ship stuck in the ice, so I kept it abstract and cropped the ice around where the ship is set in. I also decided to add [videos] in the whole exhibition to give an element of space and constant moving and change. I then added layers with the 3D effects with the blue and red separation, which I had never done before… it took me a while to dare myself to do it but I sprayed one side of the boat red and the other blue to link it to the 3D images that were on the wall.
GH: How did you use the 3D images and the videos to create the moving effect?
MN: When you walk into the space the white ice surface stretches all the way to the sidewalls and the back walls and monitors with the film and moving images are synchronized, so that the images are either pushing towards you or moving away. There is a constant feeling of washing in and out.
GH: What was the process behind the 3D and stereoscopic images of the glaciers?
MN: It is disappointingly easy – you just point and shoot. I have a camera with two lenses, and it creates these double files, so in 3D stills it generates two images. Then you have the choice of either using the two images for stereoscopic viewings or putting it into Photoshop, which generates these red and blue color images.
GH: It seems that you are trying to immerse the viewer in the Arctic world with the swaying room and various 3D pieces. MN: That is true, but at the same time I aim to make that experience last only so long. Inevitably, you realize that you are standing on the floor of a museum and the illusion collapses. The art is interesting when your imagination takes over, but there is no way to simulate actually being on the glacier.
For the last fifteen years, British photographer Dan Holdsworth has been blending nature, science, and technology into large-scale photographs and digital art. Much of his work focuses on glacial landscapes.
Holdsworth’s major solo exhibition, “Dan Holdsworth: A Future Archaeology,” is currently premiering at the Scheublein + Bak Gallery in Zurich as part of his Continuous Topography series through September 2. Using high-end 3D imaging software ordinarily only used in scientific or military capacities, Holdsworth renders glacial landscapes in the Alps with extraordinary, unprecedented 3D precision.
Holdsworth spoke with GlacierHub about his early childhood influences, “the sublime,” and his efforts to capture Icelandic glaciers.
GlacierHub: What fieldwork did you conduct to create the images featured in this exhibit?
Dan Holdsworth: For the last three years, I’ve been working with a PhD researcher named Mark Allen from Northumbria University in Newcastle [in the United Kingdom]. The first fieldwork we undertook together, three years ago now, was in the Mont Blanc massif, working on glaciers around Mont Blanc, on both the French and Italian sides. I spent initially two months there, surveying both terrestrially, with drones and by a helicopter using GPS recordings on the ground and data sampling, [and using] a huge sampling of photography surveying–usually several hundred photographs for each location.
GH: What drew you to glaciers as a subject?
DH: My interest in landscape and interest in technology and human impacts on our environment. I’ve always been drawn to areas that have a tension, an edge. In my very early work, it was focused on city edges, where you see this view of humanity and nature kind of hitting each other. For me, obviously glacial landscapes have a similar aspect in terms of this edge of the human traction on glaciers. The images of glaciers are transmitted all around the globe as a symbol of climate change.
In 2000, I went to Iceland for the first time, and I visited glacial landscapes in Iceland. In 2001, I started photographing a glacier called Solheimajökull, which was predominately, at that time, black, with volcanic debris melting out from the glacier. It appeared to have a very interesting tension with the industrial. This object is a byproduct of the Industrial Revolution.
I went back every year for almost ten years and photographed the same location, not to document it exactly that precisely, but to more explore my relationship with it and my responses as it was changing and melting. I then subsequently made prints, which I made digital inversions of. When I made the photographs, I would always make them on a completely white-out day, and you’d see this black object in this white space. In the final work, I made this circular realization by inverting the photograph and restoring the glacier to white. The sky becomes the black of space, so you have this immediate planetary transformation in the image.
GH: Your art blends technology with nature and science very seamlessly. What inspired this connection in your work?
DH: My father was a physicist who studied in Bristol and then at the Max Planck Institute. He was a polymer physicist, and developed processes to metalize plastics. One of the companies he worked with was based in the States and he was developing coatings for space shuttles. So there were always these interesting sides of technology that I was being brought up with. Often you’d see these kinds of developments of technology, like a ghost of my dad’s work [like] some kind of metalized plastic in some food packaging, and back in the 1980s, you’d think, ‘There’s no way this is going to catch on.’ But everything is made with this stuff now, in terms of packaging, like CDs, laser storage, lots of things.
My mother is a ceramicist and a fanatical gardener. My father was also really into mountain walking and climbing, as well. So we always liked going to the middle of nowhere in nature, in Scotland mostly, sometimes Switzerland.
The area where I was born is a very industrial area – it’s a kind of industrial heartland in Britain. I was brought up on the edge of a natural park. So if you look one way, you’re looking across the park, across nature. If you look the other way, it’s just pure industry. I was always brought up with all these tensions and kinds of relationships throughout both my family and the landscapes around me. It was always something that was always very, very present. I was always drawn to exploring these ideas through a kind of landscape.
GH: How would you describe the relationship of your work to climate change?
DH: My interest in [my] work is centrally dealing with perception, and obviously photography is key to this cybernetic extension of our visual perceptions. We’re communicating so much more to each other almost using pure imagery, and I think in my work I’ve felt that we really need to deal with how we mediate the world through these cybernetic extensions through our photographic eyes. We need to deal with that while dealing with our relationship to nature. Our relationship to nature is always mediated by our relationship to technology. So we need to really understand our relationship to technology to understand our relationship to nature. My work is about trying to deal with that.
I’ve always had this feeling that the “sublime” – which is this feeling of this archaic or this “other” aspect of our human emotion, which is a kind of irrational response to a certain encounter in the world, and perhaps an encounter with nature…with technology, is fundamentally driven by our experiences of science. Science is broadening and deepening our understanding of the world, and it continually challenges our perception of the world. That cements itself and finds itself expressed through this emotion, this feeling of the sublime. [It] is either an archaic response, and …something that we have no use for, but is somehow still there, so we have this kind of irrational response, or we have this human response that is actually developing as science develops.
GH: How do you hope that your work is going to impact the human perception of climate change?
DH: I really concur with the artist Robert Irwin when he says that “Perception is political.” What he means by that is, I think, that at a base level we really need to fundamentally understand what defines our perceptual senses in order to organize our relationship to the world. With our new digitally mediated perceptual senses, this perhaps becomes more complex. We need to understand and feel comfortable with our newly developing perceptual capabilities in order to make the correct decisions about the way that we move forward with, just to give one example, issues around developments of future energy production..
GH: Could you briefly explain the concept behind “A Future Archaeology?”
DH: The idea of “A Future Archaeology” is this sense of both looking at the nature of the landscape and the nature of technology. It’s looking at the substructures of technologies, which are basically underpinning much of the virtual infrastructure that we’re interfacing with in our daily lives now, like, for example, Google Maps.
In a sense, “A Future Archeology” is exploring those materials in their raw form, in their data, in the models I’m working with. There’s also a sense of “A Future Archaeology” in the nature of this recording of geological formations over a period of time. It’s a digital archive of this particular moment. Of course, the materials of the digital are underpinned by the geological, so there’s a kind of interwoven history and trajectory [between the materials of the digital and the materials of the geological]. It’s very elemental, both in in its material and geological nature, in terms of the resources that underpin physically the technology we’re using and the machines we’re using.
There’s also an aspect of a digital archive. There are two depths throughout space: there’s a depth to the digital space and there’s a depth to the geological space, and they kind of mirror each other.
We’re obviously now documenting ourselves and are aware of the human nature of our own physical archive and material archive in terms of our sense of the emergence of this new era of the Anthropocene, where we see human activity defining it. It’s certainly a new geological epoch. It’s about all of those things.
At GlacierHub, we don’t just love science— we’re passionate about art and photography, too. We’ve featured work by Zaria Forman and Diane Burko, and each Friday we share photographs of glaciers and other mountain scenes. Now we’re excited to try something new: We’d like to invite our readers to share photographs that you’ve taken of glaciers. Specifically, we want your glacier selfies.
President Barack Obama has already demonstrated this, in a video selfie with a glacier he shot in September last year in Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska, during a trip to the Arctic focused on climate change.
“Behind me is one of the most visited glaciers in Alaska,” Obama said. “It is spectacular, as you can see. And we’ve been able to spend the day out here, just learning more about how the glaciers are receding. It’s a signpost of what’s happening with a changing climate.”
In that spirit— in recognition of the beauty of glaciers, their threatened status, and glaciers as places that humans interact with— we’d like to invite you to submit your own glacier selfies. We want selfies of you standing in front of, on, or near a glacier. This invitation is open to anyone who might visit a glacier: a researcher or scientist, tourist or traveler, or someone who lives near one.
We will likely publish some of these images on GlacierHub. The photos (no videos, please) should be relatively recent, and should be true selfies. Please email submissions to email@example.com with a note giving us permission to publish them, along with some basic information: your name, the glacier’s name, the date it was taken, and what you were doing there. (And don’t take any risks while taking the selfie!)
Please email us your photos by May 1– although if you have a trip to a glacier planned after that, let us know.
Earth scientists and glaciologists often have the opportunity to explore and witness Earth’s glaciers and geological landscapes through fieldwork. This Tajikistani glaciologist, Dr. Farshed Karimov, a professor at the National University of Tajikistan, recently published a presentation on glacial dynamic modelling. In it, he included stunning photos from his travels, mainly of the Pamir Mountains, a mountain range in Central Asia at the junction of the Himalayas.
We’ve excerpted a few of Karimov’s photos below.
To access Dr. Karimov’s presentation on glacial dynamic modelling or to contact him for more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Lewis Glacier on Mount Kenya is one of the most surveyed tropical glaciers on Earth, and has been monitored and mapped regularly since 1934. In 2010, scientists found that the Lewis had shrunk by 23 percent in just the previous six years.
The New York Times reports, “Our glaciers, we’re told, are disappearing freakishly fast, but fast for a glacier can still be too slow for the human imagination to seize on.” How do we document this change, and raise awareness of glacial retreat? Award-winning photographer Simon Norfolk answered this question through photography. His series, When I am Laid in Earth was developed in collaboration with Project Pressure, a nonprofit organization that aims “to photograph and publish the world’s vanishing and receding glaciers, and to document first hand the environmental impact of climate change.” Norfolk’s photo series relied on historical maps and GPS data to mark the contours of the glacier’s retreat and, in the middle of the night, light those lines on fire.
When I am Laid in Earth was recently featured at the French photography festival, Les Recontres d’Arles. To read more about the works featured in this series, please download the associated newsletter, which details both the series and the Project Pressure initiative.