I have spent a significant part of my life traveling the largest bodies of ice in the world. With 8,000 kilometers under my skis, I have been beaten by gales, charged by polar bears, blinded by total white outs—and everything in between.
To the casual observer, the ice may look like a lifeless world of white. With a limited color spectrum and the absence of organic life, the visual monotony can appear underwhelming. But I can honestly say that no two days have looked alike. Like all landscape photography, details reveal themselves to the committed and patient traveler. An ice sheet is a powerful entity, alive and dynamic. It is up to 3 million years old and its mass is constantly and unperceptively moving, finally calving to the sea.
It is the variations in cloud cover or the details of the terrain that provide the ice’s unique photographic opportunities. Most notable features are ones left by the wind on the ice, or the clouds in the sky; or the fleeting shapes of ice monoliths headed to their inevitable dwindling fate. The sun’s low angle combined with a striped down color spectrum creates monochromatic displays of hard cold light and shadows. Near the coast, the water’s high mass and density will create near perfect mirror reflections.
The abstract shapes, reminiscent of sculptures or graphic art, all but blur the gap between natural and human art. Ethereal and stark forms are etched in the ice or painted in the sky. Who is imitating whom? The two are in fact profoundly symbiotic: these images remind us of a human spirit in the deepest and most desolate areas of the world.
The research I have done in the northernmost regions of the our world gave me a deeper perspective of the subtle variations taking place at the hands of climate change. The images I bring back tell the story of a changing environment which, the more I got to know it, looks a lot like us: defiant, fragile and fleeting.
Sebastian Copeland is an award-winning photographer, explorer, author, and environmental advocate.
Sebastian has led expeditions across the Arctic sea, Greenland and Antarctica, covering over 8,000 kilometers on skis over the ice and earning multiple records in the process.
An international speaker on the climate crisis for more than a decade, Sebastian has addressed audiences at the UN, at universities and museums worldwide, and many fortune 500 companies warning of the systemic transformations taking place in the polar regions from anthropogenic activities, and their geopolitical consequences. Sebastian is a member of the Explorers Club. He sits on the board of directors of President Gorbachev’s Global Green USA.
Sebastian’s mission is to bring the poles to the milder latitudes and help people appreciate its beauty and relevance to engage a program of global action on climate. Noted as a photographer “who has produced works that are of outstanding artistic merit and communicates messages of urgent global significance,” Sebastian has produced two monograms on Antarctica. His latest book, Actica: The Vanishing North was awarded at the prestigious ITB book award. Sebastian has directed two films covering his North Pole mission and record setting Greenland crossing. In 2015, Sebastian was named one of the world’s top 50 adventurers.