World renowned award-winning National Geographic photographer James Balog aims to combine art and science to produce some of the most innovative work to show the relationship between humans and their environment. “I’ve basically devoted my career to looking at the relationship between humans and nature,” said Balog in an interview he did with Photo District News. “I want to do what I can to shift human understanding of who we are and what we are and how we should relate to all the rest of what’s on this planet. I want to crack through the veneer of the illusions that surround us and see inside reality more purely than you normally get to see. That’s the real witchcraft and voodoo of this artistic process we’re in. I hope that the work helps people to think and see differently—and ultimately, we can only hope, behave differently.”
Since the early 1980s Balog’s environmental photography has covered such topics as endangered animals, North America’s old-growth forests and polar ice. As a global leader in environmental photography, his best-known project explores the impact of climate change on the world’s glaciers. He has devoted his career to looking at the relationship between humans and nature and hopes his work helps people to think and look at our problems in new ways.
In the spring of 2005, Balog headed to the Arctic on a tricky and rather dangerous assignment. He set out to capture images to help tell the story of the Earth’s changing climate. Even with his scientific upbringing and background, Balog originally had been a bit of a skeptic about climate change and a cynic about the nature of academic research. But that first trip north opened his eyes to one of the biggest stories in human history and sparked a challenge within him that would put his career and his very well-being at risk.
Within months of his first trip to Iceland, Balog conceived of the boldest expedition of his life, which would become The Extreme Ice Survey (EIS). Accompanied by a band of young adventurers, Balog initiated the EIS, the most wide-ranging and intense photographic study of glaciers ever to be done. He began by deploying cutting-edge time-lapse cameras across the brutal Arctic to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers. The glacier work had presentations in National Geographic in June 2007 and June 2010 and was also presented in the 2009 NOVA documentary Extreme Ice.
© EIS/Greenland Ice Sheet.
Chasing Ice, directed and produced by Jeff Orlowski, is the story of one man’s mission to change the tide of history by gathering undeniable evidence of our changing planet. e get to see an exciting but dangerous journey as Balog and his team scale ice-faces and cliffs, trying to reach the most ideal places to install camera equipment. As of January 2012, 27 cameras have been shooting at 18 glaciers in Greenland, Iceland, Alaska, Canada, the Nepalese Himalaya by Mount Everest and the Rocky Mountains of the U.S.
Chasing Ice features Balog as he comes face to face with his own mortality in subzero conditions. It has taken him years to be able to show the visual evidence and vital insights of glacier dynamics, and he does it in this film with haunting imagery that compresses years into seconds. Ancient mountains of ice are captured in motion as they retreat and disappear at an alarming rate. The film is a spectacular adventure of one man’s quest to present hard evidence, but it is also a testament for hope and a chance to behave differently for a planet in flux.
© EIS/ Greenland Ice Sheet- James Balog rappels into Survey Canyon.
Chasing Ice premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah on January 23, 2012 and has been recognized with countless honors and awards. Balog’s upcoming book Ice: Portraits of the World’s Vanishing Glaciers (Rizzoli, Fall 2012) will summarize the work of EIS to date.
Chasing Ice will be shown in New York City at the PDN PhotoPlus International Conference + Expo brought to you by The Nielsen Photo Group on Saturday, October 27 from 12:00 – 3:30 p.m. as a keynote presentation, sponsored by Nikon. Tickets can be purchased for $10 or free with the purchase of any seminar or Gold Expo Pass. The Chasing Ice trailer is out and can be viewed here.
A schedule of additional screenings can be found here.
Credits for Chasing Ice
Submarine Deluxe Presents
An Exposure Production
In Association with Diamond Docs
Directed and Produced by Jeff Orlowski
Produced by Paula Dupre’ Pesman, Jerry Aronson
Executive Producers – David J. Cornfield, Linda A. Cornfield
Associate Producers – Stacy Sherman, Billy Ray, James Billmaier
Edited by Davis Coombe
Written by Mark Monroe
Music by J. Ralph
Original Song: “Before My Time,” Music and Lyrics by J. Ralph, Performed by Scarlett Johansson and Joshua Bell
Director of Photography – Jeff Orlowski
Time-Lapse Direction and Still Photography By James Balog