Sunday, December 23, 2012

Chasing Ice (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Chasing Ice

Jeff Orlowski's excellent documentary "Chasing Ice" portrays National Geographic photographer James Balog as a glacial astronaut and a hero. Indeed, he is both. Balog's lifetime work up to this point, has been to analyze man's interaction with Nature, including how we are interconnected and our supposed desire to be separate from Nature, in pursuit of material concerns.

Most recently, starting at year 2001, Balog has been concerned with the melting of the ice shelf, specifically the glaciers in Iceland and Greenland.

Balog sees glaciers as eccentric and colorful as diverse as a Richard Avedon photograph and his work shows this sensibility. Under Balog's lens these magnificent ice castles are frozen leviathans, dripping with life. They are also numinous curves into infinity, resembling spectral nautilus shells or giraffes in crystal. These photographs also have a unique human quality possessing ridges, wrinkles and rings that are as storied as Nico, Editta Sherman or Andy Warhol.

Balog has been up against the wall of Ignorance, and those who protest that global warming is an elaborate hoax ignoring the hard science that our CO2 levels have reached 391 parts per million, while scientists universally agree that acceptable levels would be 350 parts per million for those of us that recall the intriguing documentary "The Island President" centering on The Maldives.

Balog spent countless months rappelling along icy monoliths to set up timed cameras in the hopes of getting time lapse photographs of glaciers calving. He risks life and limb in his quest which is for art as well as survival. He has blown both knees and has been operated on three times. Like The Dark Knight of a Polar planet, Balog trudges on, climb after climb. He has gathered a great abundance of evidence that points humankind to a watery fate but those at Foxnews seem like Lex Luther offering shared Orwellian denial delivered with sarcasm.

Balog is almost a double agent. His wife cringes when he goes out to gather photographic evidence. He invariably travels far and is known to break down and cry if his cameras crack under pressure, no matter if it is by chance or predetermined.

Balog is driven. If the preternatural imagery of "Chasing Ice" doesn't get you, in its depictions of glaciers as sentient beings who rival the crystal skulls of Indiana Jones, James  Balog  the man will. When he looks into the camera with frost in his eyes, he is counting on us to be rational, adapt and move forward.

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