The Last Iceberg

A haunting image from photographer Camille Seaman. It’s from one of her powerful galleries depicting ice, the oceans, and polar life.

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As regular readers know, I believe Seeing Is Important. So I find this kind of photojournalism invaluable in terms of documenting change as well as eliciting emotion–which is a prelude to action.

Here, Seaman talks about her work:

Seeing Is Important: The Abbatoir Effect

Italian photographer Francesco Scipioni spent a day photographing the workings of a slaughterhouse. The experience compelled him to make a change in his life: he became a vegetarian.

It’s not hard to see why (full photoset is here):

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Seeing Is Important: The Alberta Tar Sands

We hear a lot of debate about the Keystone Pipeline and the future of oil extraction from tar sands as part of the global energy future. Fron the comfort and isolation of our modern lives it all sounds pretty abstract–with lots of numbers and projections getting thrown around.

But no matter whether you are for or against the big move into tar sands as a next phase of the energy economy (though you should read NASA scientist James Hanson’s take if you think oil from tar sands sounds like a good idea), it’s useful to actually see what tar sand oil extraction is all about, and what it means for a natural landscpe. Thankfully, photographer Ashley Cooper has been documenting exactly that.

Does this–transforming, so far, 725 140,000 of a potential 4,800 square kilometers of Alberta from forest to something otherworldly–look like humanity living in harmony with the earth (full slide show is here)? Isn’t there something intrinsic to this vision that screams out: “STOP! THINK!”

That changes the oil sands debate a lot, no?

You can see more of Cooper’s work documenting climate change here.

Seeing Is Important: The Meaning Of (Melting) Ice

Back to one of my favorite themes, because last night I saw the documentary “Chasing Ice.”

It’s about the quest of photographer James Balog to capture–through time-lapse photographs taken by remotely positioned cameras–what is happening to the earth’s great glaciers.

You may know that they are melting and shrinking. But knowing something and seeing something are two different things. And seeing Balog’s time-lapse sequences–which convey both the majesty of what we are losing and the relentless, rapid rate at which the loss is occurring–drives home the reality in a way that provokes truly powerful emotions.

Balog is one of a number of photographers who are focused on the Arctic. It is there, perhaps more than anywhere else on earth, that you can see the dramatic impact of climate change, both on the natural world and on animal life. And the fact that it is a true wilderness, mostly unspoiled by a direct human presence, makes its degradation all the more poignant. That, plus the fact that human culture is having such an outsized impact on the atmosphere that it is destroying an entire ecosystem REMOTELY.

Another photographer whose work is documenting this phenomenon in a compelling way is Florian Schulz. Outside Online recently published a series of Schulz’s photos, called Into The Arctic. Here are a few (full set is here):

Schulz has also taken to film to try to convey the experience and meaning of the Arctic.

Welcome To The Arctic from Florian Schulz on Vimeo.

It’s impossible not to see all this and not feel anger and despair at the lack of wisdom and caring involved. But it also makes me want to channel those feelings into a desire to change everything. More on that soon…

Extraordinary Images

The annual National Geographic Photography contest always delivers. An ocean-themed sampling (click images for full size):

Elephant Seal On South Georgia

Penguins On Antarctic Ice

Atlantic Spotted Dolphins

Of course, the last one is my favorite since it’s a scene I recently witnessed myself.

Forty-seven other photos submitted to National Geographic can be found here.

Evocative Titanic Photographs

Even if you are jaded, lifeless, and already sick of all the Titanic obsessing that is going on for the 100th anniversary of the sinking (though it is inexplicable to me that anyone would be), I defy you not to be entranced by the series of photographs taken by Father Francis (Frank) Browne, who was aboard from Southampton to Cobh and documented his experience, producing one of the most important photographic collections of Titanic’s first voyage.

Here’s how Browne came to be on Titanic:

Frank Browne’s mother died whilst he was young and his father when in his teens. His uncle Robert Browne who was Bishop of Cloyne acted as guardian to Frank and his siblings, four of whom were to enter religious life. By the time Frank was completing his secondary education he had decided to become a Jesuit.

Immediately before entering the Order, Uncle Robert sent him on a Grand Tour of Europe and most significantly bought him a camera to record his trip. This visionary act was to reveal a natural aesthetic ability and fostered an interest in photography that was to reach fruition when Frank became the most outstanding Irish photographer of the first half of the Twentieth Century.

The Bishop had another surprise up his sleeve, when in early 1912 he presented Frank with a first class ticket for the Maiden Voyage of the Titanic to bring him as far as Cobh. So it was that on the morning of the 12th April 1912 he arrived at Waterloo Station in London to catch the Titanic Special. He immediately started taking photographs, first recording the train journey and then life aboard the Titanic on the initial section of the voyage.

Having made friends with a wealthy American family he was offered a ticket for the remaining part of the journey and no doubt excitedly telegraphed a request for permission to go on to New York, to which he received the terse response “Get Off That Ship——Provincial!”  That telegram not only saved Frank’s life but also meant that this unique record of the voyage was saved for posterity and guaranteed overnight fame for Frank Browne SJ.

Browne’s collection of photos can be seen here. And here is a sampling:

In addition to the deck plan Frank Browne was given this postcard as a souvenir.
This must be one of the best known pictures taken on the “Titanic”. The six year old Robert Douglas Spedden whipping his spinning top, watched by his father Frederic, has attracted the attention of other passengers.
Inside the Gymnasium Mr.TW McCawley the physical educator poses at a rowing machine and Mr.William Parr, electrician who was travelling first class, is seated on some form of excercising machine, hold still for the duration of a time exposure . Both men were lost.
This interior view of the Titanic's First Class reading and writing room conveys some idea of the opulence of the liner's grand interiors.
Obviously Frank Browne could not photograph the arrival of the “Titanic” at Queenstown so subsequently he acquired photographs of the event from photographer friends. In his album he describes this picture as “Dropping Anchor at Queenstown. 12-15 pm. Apr. 11th.”. In fact the ship is still moving and preparing to drop anchor. The picture is attributed to Mr. McLean and was taken from the tender “America”.

The Allure Of The Antarctic

The Antarctic is remote, relatively unspoiled, and infinitely intriguing. In case you doubt it, here is a spectacular collection of photographs from the Antarctic, compiled by the always stunning In Focus feature, over at The Atlantic. Make sure you take a few minutes to browse the full gallery of 47 shots, but here are a few of my favorites:


The aurora australis provides a dramatic backdrop to a Scott Tent at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station on July 14, 2009. (National Science Foundation/Patrick Cullis)
A leopard seal captures a Gentoo penguin near Palmer Station, Antarctica on April 4th, 2009. (National Science Foundation/Sean Bonnette)
A 20-minute exposure reveals the southern celestial axis above the new elevated station at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station on July 21, 2009. At the poles, scientists can study a fixed point in the sky for months and years, whereas in the middle latitutes the stars 'move' across the night sky. The white cloudy streak is the Milky Way. (National Science Foundation/Patrick Cullis)
Gentoo penguins squabble in their colony in Antarctica on November 24th, 2010. Photographed as part of a fundraiser/trip titled the Penguin Project. (pinguino k / CC BY)
Heavy equipment operators work to clear snow and smooth the annual sea ice near McMurdo Station, creating a landing strip in this photo taken September 24, 2009. The first C-17 jet of the austral summer landed on this runway with passengers and cargo on September 29, kicking off another season of scientific research for the US Antarctic Program. (National Science Foundation/Lori Gravelle)
Raised footprints in the Antarctic snow. After a storm, the loose snow surrounding the compacted snow under a footprint is scoured away by the wind, leaving an elevated strange-looking footprints. Original here. (Alan R. Light / CC BY)
In this photo taken on Feb. 9, 2011 and released by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Japanese whaling factory ship Nisshin Maru approaches Sea Shepherd's high-speed trimaran Gojira while using water cannons during their encounter in Southern Ocean, Antarctica. Japan has temporarily suspended its annual Antarctic whaling after repeated harassment by the conservationist group, a government official said Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011. (AP Photo/Sea Shepherd, Simon Ager)
A Weddell Sea finds a human-made hole in the annual sea ice a convenient opportunity to catch her breath on November 7, 2009. (National Science Foundation/Robyn Waserman)


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