Photographing Through The Frostbite



Different environments can provide colorful backdrops for field photographers, or they can put in place a layer of white. But what has truly drawn Chris Linder to take photographs in the arctic and other locales is the human subjects, namely scientists engaging in critical thinking and problem solving during the arduous journey toward discovery. Linder will describe his experiences when he attends PINC Sarasota on Dec. 10 as a guest lecturer. We spoke to him in advance of the event.

Do you consider your photographs of scientific experiments most valuable as documentation of what was happening or as an artistic work capturing what happens?  The short answer is: both. First and foremost, I want my photographs to tell a story. But if an image doesn’t resonate on an emotional level with the viewer, its power is lost.  My goal is to craft storytelling photographs with an artist’s aesthetic.

More than half of the scientific expeditions you have accompanied have been in polar areas. What draws you to work in this environment?My first trip to the Arctic, in 2002, was aboard the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star. I documented a month-long oceanography expedition to the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas north of Alaska. Tales of Arctic exploration had always fascinated me, but I still remember the visceral reaction I had when we first entered the pack ice. The air was utterly still, and the jumbled ice chunks were perfectly mirrored on the sea surface.  As our huge ship glided through this alien world, I spent hours on the foredeck, hypnotized by the parade of ice floes. Thirteen years and 25 polar expeditions later, I still feel the same fluttering in my chest every time I travel to the poles. I call it ‘polar fever.’

What impact do you think nature photography has on people’s understanding of the world? Nature photography isn’t just about taking pretty pictures—it can also be a powerful tool to educate and inspire. When I’m photographing in a remote location like the Greenland ice sheet or a penguin colony, I am humbled knowing only a tiny fraction of the world’s population will ever see what I’m seeing. I feel a great responsibility to share these photographs and the stories behind them, because people will only care about what they can see.

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