Six of my images are included in a show during this year's Art Prize at The Grand Rapids Art Museum: "Reimagining the Landscape and the Future of Nature." The work I have featured there is part of my on-going series "True North: Landscape in the Anthropocene." Almost every autumn for the last eight years I have traveled to either the Yukon Territory, the Northwest Territories, or far northwestern arctic Alaska in pursuit of the most glorious and elusive light I've ever witnessed. For just a few months of the year the tundra is a feast, both in terms of the lushness of the plant life growing above the permafrost as well as the light itself which is supersaturated by the sharply angled sun. Arctic light, like the famous Dutch Light, truly has transcendent qualities that evoke at times an otherworldliness or in some cases a lost world--some deep part of our past. There is a scientific basis for this of course, firstly the fact that light strikes the earth's polar regions at a much sharper angle. It has to travel farther from the sun than equatorial light and though it therefore carries less energy the long angles intensify hues and elongates shadows. Climate change has added to the natural drama in that the permafrost is melting at an accelerating rate and as the ice melts in the summer the whole region is filled with low clouds that rise up out of the earth and hang low for hours on end, a process that only accelerates the warming of the region. Climate change is thought to now be occurring at twice the speed in the arctic as it is at the earth's middle latitudes.
The far north is the only place I have been where no one doubts that change is occurring and rapidly--there's no partisanship on this matter whatsoever, and that may well have to do with the fact that people living in the northern latitudes are dealing with the advent of dramatic changes right now. The images included in the GRAM show are almost all shot at night, any where from early evening to well past mid-night. They look like daylight images, in some cases, and yet they have for me the feeling of evening, an effect intensified by the clouds. Seasonal transitions like autumn in the arctic are brief, but very dramatic. The summer, for all its light, is terribly brief and seemingly no rival to the seven months of winter that will soon follow--but for those langourously long days in which every living thing seems to pack a year's worth of activity those seemingly elongated hours. Even as autumn begins in mid to late August the brief nights are streaked with color--the remains of the day mixing with the return of a visible aurora. The arctic is the only place on earth I've been able to photograph a sunset and a sunrise the same moment, both events captured in a single frame. If you can make it to Grand Rapids to see Art Prize this year you won't be disappointed: the city turns itself upside down for and with art. I will also be making posts from there as I venture to town for various events this year.