1st Place 2016 Book

Arctica: The Vanishing North

  • Photographer
    Sebastian Copeland

Arctica: The Vanishing North is a book retracing ten years of intense travel in the high North. With over 8,000km under my skis in the polar regions, I have caught by hurricane strength storms, attacked by polar bears, and anything in between. To the casual observer, the ice may look like a lifeless world of white. With nothing but sky and frozen matter for months, the visual monotony can appear underwhelming. But I can honestly say that no two days have looked alike. An ice sheet is a powerful entity, alive and dynamic. It is up to 3 million years old and its mass is constantly and unperceptively moving, finally calving to the sea, forming impermanent and ephemeral forms. In the heart of the ice, deep and away from civilization, it is the variations in cloud cover or the details of the terrain that provide the Arctic's unique photographic opportunities. The only features are ones left by the wind on the ice, or the clouds in the sky. The sun’s low angle combined with a striped down color spectrum creates monochromatic displays of hard cold light and shadows. High on the plateau, the ice will occasionally take on systematic patterns aligned with the dominant winds. These abstract organic shapes, reminiscent of paintings or graphic art, all but blur the gap between natural and human art. Ethereal and stark forms are etched in the ice or painted on the ground. Who is imitating whom? The two are in fact profoundly symbiotic: these images remind us of a human spirit in the deepest and most desolate areas of Antarctica, places which had, until mine, never seen a human footprint. That research gave me a deeper perspective of the subtle variations taking place at the hands of climate change. The images I bring back tell the story of a changing environment which looks a lot like us: defiant, fragile and fleeting.