Icebergs aren’t technically alive, but their transient, mutable quality means that each has a most interesting existence. Camille Seaman, photographer of icebergs and other natural phenomena, described her first experience in the presence of an iceberg as dizzying, as she tried to comprehend that the colossal structure was just one snowflake on top of another, standing up to 200 feet out of the water. She began to imagine how these icebergs were created thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of years ago, the snow piling up to form a glacier that slowly moved outward. The broken masses of ice float in the water melting, and their transformation quickens. In her brief segment on TED, Seaman says, “It is not a death when they melt. It is not an end, but a continuation of their path through the cycle of life.” She sees everything as interconnected and through her photographs of icebergs she reminds us of that ancient philosophy.
Her images also shed light on the important issue of climate change. Although her photographs are not political, the title of her exhibition, The Last Iceberg and the larger piece of which it is a part, Melting Away, allude to a bigger matter at stake. She says she doesn’t want people to see her photographs as funereal, but she hopes that when people get a glimpse of what she saw they might say ‘that’s something worth saving.’ She says she sees her work as “affirmative”, but that she doesn’t want to say “this is what you should think,” she just shows her icebergs and lets the viewer respond. Although it may not be as awe-inspiring as the real thing, Seaman’s photographs capture the essence of the icebergs. She considers her photographs as portraits rather than landscapes, depicting moments in their lives in which they display their unique personalities. She always shoots on overcast days when the neon blue color of the ice stands out against the otherwise monotone landscape. She says, “when the sun comes out, the icebergs just go white and lose their personality.” The stark blues and whites of the massive icebergs and their reflections against the deep grays and blacks of the ocean come together in an image with striking and eerie features. With a cool color palette and weathered icebergs, she captures both beauty and sadness, and it would be difficult, as a viewer, not to respond.
Seaman is not necessarily trying to convince the global warming non-believers, but for those who are prompted to gain awareness of life and nature in these icy regions, she is extremely forth coming about her first hand experiences in the lands of polar bears and penguins, and we will discover that she has seen the animals in dismal circumstances. She may not change minds or behavior but she says she hopes when people look at her work they feel something: “You need to have some kind of visceral response to art, to life, to acknowledge that every second we have breathing is a gift and we should really take advantage of it.”*
The Last Iceberg will be on view to the public at the World Affairs Council June 5 – August 2. Register today to attend a June 5 artist reception with Camille Seaman as well as her June 19 program, Behind ‘The Last Iceberg’.
Our thanks to Shereen Adel, Social Media Intern at the World Affairs Council, for this guest blog post.
*Quotes taken from James Rhem’s interview in FOCUS: Fine Arts Photography Magazine, August 2008 issue, “Melting Beauty”.