6 months ago
Despite the beauty of a melting iceberg, the natural phenomenon is leaving a message that’s chilling.
Photographer Diane Tuft’s stunning images of the Arctic Circle area visual record that capture the beauty of a region before climate change alters it forever.
“My focus is really to show you how beautiful things are, how fragile they are, and how they change so quickly,” the photographer told RealClearLife. “It’s really rapid and very scary.”
Her abstract photographs of ice and water are on display this summer at the Marlborough Museum in an exhibition called The Arctic Melt, opening on Wednesday June 21 and closing on July 20, 2017.
Rising temperatures are affecting the environment in unprecedented ways around the world, but the volume of ice in the Arctic makes it the most vulnerable of all. Because of this, Tuft felt compelled to document the region while it experienced such rapid change.
To provide a comprehensive scope of the problem, Tuft photographed three hard-to-reach locations: the mountain glaciers in Svalbard, Norway; the Artic Ocean’s sea ice, and Greenland’s ice sheet.
The photographer was “shocked” to witness the state she found at each location, she said. At the North Pole, for example, the ice was too thin to walk on and it was 32ºF—both highly unusual developments for the area. The Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker that brought her there had made easy progress through what would normally be thick, icy waters.
Tuft says Greenland was the most surprising for her personally because she had visited the same area just nine years earlier. Since 2007, the icebergs had shrunk by as much as 60 feet. “The ice sheet was no longer this powdery snow,” the photographer said. “It was now ridges of filth and ice, escaping from ponds and lakes of meltwater.”
To the uninformed, her work is simply a stunning background but the visuals become more troubling with more education on the scientific observations involved. “Most of my images are just really beautiful images. So, on their own, they probably don’t say very much,” she said.
‘Broken Arches,’ for example, is a dazzling photograph with a darker meaning. It features an iceberg in Svalbard with a hole through it and meltwater raining down on the other side. “If you look beyond the image,” Tuft explains “it’s not so beautiful.”
In addition to photography, Tuft also paints and sculpts. Her attraction to nature is something that always seems to seep into her work, having grown up playing outdoors. Whether hiking in the wilderness or building sculptures with twigs in the vast field behind her house, “I was always attracted to nature,” she said.
“When I pick up an art project, I might not necessarily think that’s what going to happen but it happens subconsciously no matter what,” she added.
Through her work, Tuft hopes to start a dialogue to “hopefully influence policy,” stressing the need for renewable energy. “It’s impossible to stop the process, but we can slow it down,” she says.
In addition to the Marlborough Gallery, her Arctic Melt project is available in a book published by Assouline. Tuft’s other photography has been displayed at the Whitney Museum of Art and the International Center of Photography, among other institutions.