Melting Away: Beautiful polar photos tell a haunting story about global warming – ‘I stopped going because it felt so futile’Posted by Jim at Saturday, November 15, 2014
By Jakob Schiller
11 November 2014
(Wired) – When Camille Seaman started photographing icebergs and other arctic wonders, she wasn’t thinking about climate change. She simply found the frozen landscape and white vistas visually stunning.
Still, you can’t help but associate her images with the ongoing conversation about climate change. Seaman, 45, says she too sees her work as directly connected and aptly titled her new book of pictures from the two poles Melting Away.
“Honestly, I was out there because I thought, ‘What an amazing place,'” she says. “I wasn’t thinking this as record of posterity but was lucky in the end to create work that was on the right wave.”
The project started more than a decade ago when Seaman visited Alaska, Svalbard and Antarctica. She was drawn to the rugged, unforgiving country and couldn’t keep herself from photographing all she saw. The views and wildlife made for beautiful, serene photos, of course, but Seaman also felt a connection to her Native American heritage. Her father is of the Shinnecock tribe on Long Island, and she grew up with a deep understanding of, and appreciation for, nature. She saw those icebergs as part of her own world.
“I approached them as my relatives, literally, and not in some poetic way,” she says. “I saw them as part of my lineage, as part of my existence. And I think that kind of approach allowed for emotion to be present in the photos. I saw them as more than chunks of ice.”
The images Seaman made on those first trips gained recognition when he showed them at Review Santa Fe and the Eddie Adams Barnstorm Workshop. Associated Press photographer David Guttenfelder was so taken by them that he personally delivered them to David Griffin, who eventually published them in National Geographic.
That led to a stint as the ship photographer aboard the I/B Kapitan Klebnikov, a Russian icebreaker. She would spend five summers in the Arctic and five winters in Antarctica on various tourist and research vessels. Her photographs documented her own experience while also bringing this rapidly changing world closer to people who will never see it with their own eyes.
She stopped traveling to the polar regions in 2011 in part because she didn’t want to contribute to their demise by traveling aboard airplanes and ships burning fossil fuels. Seaman also worried that, although her photos helped spark conversations, they weren’t doing enough to foster true change.
“I stopped going because it felt so futile,” she says. “I felt like no picture I could take would make enough of a difference.” [more]