Friday, January 20, 2017
Global warning ‘What should be pristine white is littered with blue’ – Timo Lieber’s Arctic photography
I’ve always had a passion for the ice. I’d been to Iceland seven or eight times, to Arctic Norway and to Greenland. Greenland’s contribution to global sea-level rise is about three times that of Antarctica. I saw how fast the landscape was changing and wanted to put it into a body of work.
I teamed up with the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge. They told me these deep blue lakes were appearing every summer in increasing numbers, higher and higher up on the ice cap. They provided me with satellite images highlighting where they tend to be. But frankly, the second I got up there I could have thrown all the maps away: there are so many lakes, it’s scary. A landscape you’d expect to be pristine white is just littered with blue.
I was on the ice cap for about a week last summer, and I flew whenever the weather permitted. You get massive storms, fog cover – and then suddenly it’s clear again. But at that time of year the sun never really sets, so you can go flying at three or four in the morning and the light is perfect.
Imagine sitting in a helicopter without any doors, strapped into a harness and leaning out over the Arctic ice cap. It’s not particularly comfortable. The helicopter also costs around £2,000 an hour to fly, so I ended up shooting mostly from a twin-engine plane, which only had a tiny hole in the window. That meant the pilot needed to tilt the plane at an almost 60-degree angle for me to be able to shoot vertically down. He was swearing at me a lot.
The images are deliberately abstract. I didn’t want them to be documentary photographs. You have to get close to find the small, hidden details that help you to understand what you’re seeing. They’re beautiful, but what you’re looking at is climate change at its worst. My favourite is the one that looks like an eye. It’s a half-circle of concentric blues at the top of the image – it’s almost as if global warming is looking right back at you... see photos: