© 2019 Anna Van Lenten

Melting Away / Camille Seaman

December 2014

Exhibit opening, screening, & talk
Tuesday December 16, 2014, 7:30 PM
Moderated by Gavin Schmidt, Director of Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Camille Seaman has spent ten years making expeditions to the Arctic regions of Svalbarg, Greenland and Antarctica in order to photograph the history of human explorations, and the communities that work and live there. Taking center stage in her focus on these landscapes are icebergs—their mega personalities, behaviors, and shapes.

 

Melting Away is both document and elegy. Born as distinct sculptures, icebergs' crags, grooves, faces, mesas, and valleys seem to insist I am here. "I approach the images of icebergs as portraits of individuals, much like family photos of my ancestors," Camille says. Like animals, they begin their journey by calving—breaking off from an ice mass. Some at birth are inconquerably dominant, some not, but all share the same fate: accelerated by climate change, their singular angularity will ultimately meld with the waters that hold them, all the while releasing mineral-rich nutrients locked within.

 

As Camille notes, icebergs respond to the conditions in their worlds in different ways. "Some go the distance traveling for many years slowly being eroded by time and the elements; others get snagged on the rocks and are whittled away by persistent currents. Still others dramatically collapse in fits of passion and fury."

 

In tracing their breakdowns, Camille too has evolved. She may have begun as a photographer—she studied with such masters as Steve McCurry, Sebastiao Salgado, and Paul Fusco—but the skills she brings to bear in this context are those of formal artist crossed with arctic safari expeditioner crossed with natural scientist.

 

Because of the larger plot icebergs are caught up in, our awe is bittersweet. Global warming will in the end play the biggest part. It will give icebergs increasingly minor roles until at some point in the future, they are experienced solely via images. Not one of the icebergs in Camille's Half King pictures remain. In capturing their fragile splendor Camille evoked the voices of these silent giants. They still speak volumes.

~ Anna Van Lenten

 

 

CAMILLE SEAMAN was born in 1969 to a Native American (Shinnecock tribe) father and African American mother. Her photographs have received many awards including: a National Geographic Award, 2006; and the Critical Mass Top Monograph Award, 2007. In 2008 she was honored with a one-person exhibition, “The Last Iceberg” at the National Academy of Sciences, Washington DC. 

 

Among many other publications, her work has appeared in National Geographic Magazine, Italian Geo, German GEO, TIME, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Newsweek, Outside, Zeit Wissen, Men's Journal, Seed, Camera Arts, Issues, PDN, and American Photo. She frequently leads photographic and self-publishing workshops. Camille Seaman lives in Emeryville, California, and takes photographs all over the world using digital and film cameras in multiple formats. She works in a documentary/fine art tradition and since 2003 has concentrated on the fragile environment of the polar regions.